Skip to content

A Journey Through History & Heritage: An Interview with Karl von Loewe, author of Lost Roots

von Loewe 1

My wife and I have resided and traveled extensively in Russia and Eastern Europe, which provided valuable cultural context for Lost Roots. We now live in New Jersey with our mouthy cat, but I was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I graduated from Macalester College in St. Paul and earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Kansas. For ten years I taught history at the university level and published many academic articles and one book.

You can buy Lost Roots here.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

There were many versions as I sought to pique the interest of agents in the project. Originating as a family genealogy project, Lost Roots changed in flavor from semi-academic (ugh!) to its current iteration intended to have broader appeal (less ugh). Early titles included Sigmund’s Brothers, and there was Iron Cross to Iron Curtain, then Six Brothers, Three Nationalities and One Forsaken Heritage, not to mention Unwilling Immigrants. All catchy, right?

How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?

I was delighted with what Ronaldo did with the cover. I had a definite idea initially—a 1923 studio photo of four of the brothers—but Alex Kale (if I recall correctly) proposed something that turned out to be far superior to what I had in mind. There is some subtlety in the final cover—even what might be called an “Easter egg.” Ronaldo was incredibly patient and responsive to my meddling. When I held Lost Roots for the first time I was satisfied that it suggested well the story I told between the covers—shouldn’t that be the role of the cover?

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

Writing is probably congenital in my case. My sister shared the same disorder: history Ph.D., academic, writer, etc. Our father was an immigrant, our mother a second generation American, and neither had a college degree. They wrote down little of their own stories and some proved definitely worthy. My father’s few writings were in German, and in one notable instance enciphered and encoded (deciphered and decoded in the book). I tried my best to bring them to print in Lost Roots.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

After a brief wander in the groves of academe, I became a real estate agent—salesperson and sales manager, filling volunteer positions in leadership and governance in the state Realtor® association. I was also an arbitrator and mediator for the association, resolving conflicts between Realtors® (usually monetary) and the public (usually matters of ethics). Conflict resolution was the most satisfying aspect of my career, a valued plus to the gratification I got from helping people find homes.

What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?

What was most meaningful for me was the opportunity to apply the knowledge and research skills of the historian to create a tapestry for an extraordinary and complex family saga. This was a family whose members were scattered by war, race, and politics in a staggering tale of loss and courage. In the long process I discovered cousins, aunts, and uncles whose lives added incredible depth to my historian’s understanding of the period—and, most importantly, the family.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

Some (not exactly “songs”) come to mind—Richard Strauss’s “Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks,” Beethoven’s Ninth, the “Choral Symphony” (for the overwhelming role of vocal music in my family). But there are some others, more song-like:

Over There – a song of WWI

Pink Floyd’s Learning to Fly

Theme from The Third Man

Also, some Kashubian and Polish folk songs too obscure to mention here.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

It is important that readers grasp how families were devastated and separated by the twin horrors of tribalism and eugenics, not just in Nazi Germany and occupied Poland, but in the U.S. as well, through quota-driven immigration policies that persisted to 1965.

My perfect reader is one somewhat familiar with the dreary history of the first half of the twentieth century and able to look beyond Western Europe for further understanding of the second half.

What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?

I’m struggling with a memoir of my travel and residence in the Soviet Union in the 1960s as I prepared for an academic career, truncated though it was.

Also in the works is the editing of a late cousin’s memoir of World War II as a bomber pilot trainer.

How was working with Atmosphere Press? What would you tell other writers who want to publish?

I was very pleased with all the editing and design work by the folks at Atmosphere Press. They were always responsive to my requests—however foolish—and offered good advice, most of which I took.

It is important that all writers understand that writing the book is only half the job. Marketing and promotion constitute the other half, a reality rarely accepted. Of course, it helps if the book has broad appeal to begin with.

You can buy Lost Roots here.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

atmosphere press

Atmosphere Press is a selective hybrid publisher founded in 2015 on the principles of Honesty, Transparency, Professionalism, Kindness, and Making Your Book Awesome. Our books have won dozens of awards and sold tens of thousands of copies. If you’re interested in learning more, or seeking publication for your own work, please explore the links below.