I’m really excited to welcome Daniel Kalla today to Literary, etc! His book, Rising Sun, Falling Shadow is already available. If you’re a fan of historical fiction or the Second World War then this a MUST read for you. Walk…no make that run to your nearest book retailer and purchase it. I can’t stress enough how much I enjoyed this book. I reviewed it here.
Giveaway details are located at the end of the interview along with a synopsis of Rising Sun, Falling Shadow (US/CAN only).
Q. Tell me something about Daniel Kalla other than the standard bio on your website.
I have never lived in a house without a dog. Our current pet is Lola, an adorable six-year-old black lab who can charm you with a glance and will rob your kitchen blind in the blink of an eye.
Q. You’ve written several contemporary medical thrillers as well as two historical fiction novels. Is there a genre you prefer?
No. I love a good story, and that’s all I’m trying to write.
Q. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I write naked except for a top hat and cape. Not really. I guess my quirk is that I’m paranoid about losing my work, so I back it up on tons of devices and multiple “icloud” type storage places. I’ve never actually lost my work, so I’m not sure why I go to this trouble.
Q. Historical fiction focuses on the lives people lived and imagining what their life was like. What type of responsibility do you feel you owe them when writing about them?
That’s a great question. My new novel, like the last one, is set in WWII Shanghai and largely tells the story of the 20,000 Germans who escaped there right before war broke out. These people, who suffered so much at home, had to endure even more hardships under surreal circumstances during war-time Shanghai. They did so with great dignity. I felt huge obligation to be historically accurate to this community and those people, whom I consider heroic.
Q. If you could describe Rising Sun, Falling Shadow in 3 words, what would they be?
Ordinary people overcoming
Q. We often hear of the plight of German Jews in Europe during the Second World War, but not much is said about those that fled to Shanghai. There were many notable refugees who lived in the Shanghai Ghetto including Peter Max, Otto Jaochim, and W. Michael Blumenthal (who would later serve as U.S. Treasury Secretary). How did you hear about it and what drew you to write about them?
My parents are Jewish and their families both escaped the Holocaust under harrowing circumstances. I’ve always been a WWII buff. But I hadn’t heard about the Shanghai Jews until I was being interviewed for by a journalist whose parents had lived there during the war. I was so astounded by this incredible story—one of the few actually uplifting anecdotes of the Holocaust—and how it was still a relative secret to me and, as I have since discovered, most others. I couldn’t dream of rich dramatic setting in one place at one time than Second World War Shanghai. I had to write about it.
Q. What are some of the challenges you faced while writing Rising Sun, Falling Shadow?
The research. There was almost too much information when I first start to look into it. That, and balancing a character-driven drama against all of that rich and diverse history.
Q. You conducted extensive research for Rising Sun, Falling Shadow as well as The Far Side of the Sky. Was there anything that surprised you in the research and writing of both books? Did you make any discoveries that changed your perspective?
So much surprised me, it’s hard to know where to begin. One thing that stands out—not sure it changed my perspective—was the Japanese attitude toward the Jews in Shanghai. The Japanese soldiers were capable of such extreme cruelty to the indigenous Chinese population. And, while the Japanese certainly treated the Jews as hostile aliens (eventually ghettoizing them), in some senses they were also relatively easy on the Jews, despite the pleas of their German allies.
Q. Jewish surgeon Franz Adler is your protagonist in both novels. In Rising Sun, Falling Shadow he’s confronted with a shortage of medical supplies, which no surgeon wants to face. As a physician, how much of your own medical knowledge did you incorporate and was it difficult to put aside your own experiences based on Adler’s time period?
A huge amount of my own medical knowledge went into the book, but I did have to put some of it aside. Not only did I have to research what was available historically at the time in terms of medication and surgical procedures, I also had to factor in war-time deprivation and how it would affect the way Franz, Sunny and the other doctors could practice.
Q. One of the most intriguing characters in Rising Sun, Falling Shadow is Sunny. What character have readers asked you the most about? Which left an impression on them and does it surprise you?
Sunny is certainly a favorite for the most readers I hear from but one other character who stands out is Ernst Muhler. Ernst is an avant-garde gay artist from Vienna who is a friend of the hero’s family. He helps protect them in Vienna and eventually joins them in Shanghai. He has a caustic and sarcastic view of the world, and readers seem to gravitate toward him. It doesn’t surprise me. I never planned to have him in the novel but when he appeared, he became a real scene stealer.
Q. If a reader wanted more information on what happened to the Jewish refugees, what book(s) would you recommend?
Ten Green Bottles
Q. You’ve been given the task to host a last minute dinner party. Which authors are on your ultimate dinner invitation list? Alive or Dead.
Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, John Irving, Tom Robbins, Charles Dickens and Voltaire… oh, and that woman who wrote Fifty Shades of Gray (I would like to see her explain its success to Dickens and Twain!)
Q. Finally, and on an entirely unrelated note, who would play you in a film of your life?
I would like it to be George Clooney but I think it would ultimately be Charlie Sheen.
01. Superpower you wish you had?
02. Dream city vacation?
03. Favorite Old Hollywood movie?
The Philadelphia Story
04. Favorite sport to watch?
05. Favorite season?
06. Beach or Mountain?
Both (I live in Vancouver, where we have both!)
07. Favorite TV show?
The idea for his first medical thriller, PANDEMIC, sprang from his clinical experience in facing the SARS crisis of 2003. He has written five science thrillers and or medical mysteries, delving into themes and topics as diverse as superbugs, drug addiction, prions, DNA evidence, pandemics and patient abuse.
Kalla’s last book, THE FARS SIDE OF THE SKY, is a historical novel set in Second World War Shanghai against the dramatic backdrop of converging cultures and ideologies. His latest, RISING SUN, FALLING SHADOW continues the story of the Adler family through 1943, the bleakest year in war-torn Shanghai.
His books have been translated into eleven languages, and two have been optioned for feature films.
Daniel received his MD from the University of British Columbia. He is married and the proud father of two girls in a home predominated by the XX chromosome (even his beloved Labrador retriever, Lola, is female.)
Connect with Daniel
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
I have a copy of Daniel Kalla’s Rising Sun, Falling Shadow up for grabs courtesy of the Saima Agency for US/CAN residents. Giveaway ends on October 8th at Midnight MST (2 am EST). Good luck!
It’s 1943 and the Japanese juggernaut has swallowed Shanghai and the rest of eastern China, snaring droves of American and British along with thousands of “stateless” German Jewish refugees. Despite the hostile environs, newlyweds Dr. Franz Adler and his wife, Sunny, adjust to life running the city’s only hospital for refugee Jews.
Bowing to Nazi pressure, the Japanese force twenty thousand Jewish refugees, including the Adlers, to relocate to a one-square-kilometer “Shanghai Ghetto.” Heat, hunger, and tropical diseases are constant threats. But the ghetto also breeds miraculous resilience. Music, theater, sports, and Jewish culture thrive despite what are at times subhuman conditions.
Navigating subversion and espionage, Nazi treachery and ever-worsening conditions while living under the heel of the Japanese military, the Adlers struggle to keep the hospital open and their family safe and united.