Monday, November 26, 2012

Blog Tour: Breaking the Code by Karen Fisher-Alaniz



Breaking the Code: A Daughter's Journey into Her Father's Secret War

On his 81st birthday, without explanation, Karen Alaniz's father placed two weathered notebooks on her lap. Inside were more than 400 pages of letters he'd written to his parents during WWII. She began reading them, and the more she read, the more she discovered about the man she never knew and the secret role he played in WWII.

They began to meet for lunch every week, for her to ask him questions, and him to provide the answers. And with painful memories now at the forefront of his thoughts, her father began to suffer, making their meetings as much about healing as discovery. Thus began an unintended journey--one taken by a father and daughter who thought they knew each other--as they became newly bound in ways that transcended age and time.
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I’m so glad you’re here. I’m just an ordinary woman who discovered an extraordinary story from the most unlikely of sources – my father.  He was in his 80′s when he gave me more than 400-pages of letters he wrote during WWII. After years of questions, research, and a lot of listening and mulling things over, I knew I had a story that the world needed to hear. Writing my father’s story resulted in my first published book. Breaking the Code: a Father’s Secret, a Daughter’s Journey, and the Question That Changed Everything was published on 11/1/11. It’s the story of the secrets my father swore to keep during WWII and what happened when he finally began to talk. Secrets have a way of taking a toll on their keeper. That’s what happened to my father. Shortly after 9/11/2001, he began having terrible nightmares and vivid flashbacks. And I simply wanted to help him, but first I had to know the truth. So we set out on an unintended journey.
Breaking the Code is available at bookstores near you, or you can order it online. Thank you for visiting my website. I’m so glad you’re here and I hope you come back often. If you’d like to know a little more about me, a good place to start is by clicking on the My Story tab. There you will learn more about the story-behind-the-story. You will also find a welcome video made especially with you in mind! ~Karen


Q.  What inspires your writing?

A. Inspiration is an interesting word. I'm a spiritual person, so belief in a power greater than me serves as an internal inspiration. The way that my memoir came about - my WWII father giving me letters he wrote during the war - definitely has a spiritual or "meant to be" sense to it. My next two books are the same. I feel like the stories I was meant to write, make themselves know in my life.

Q.  What is your favorite thing about being an author?

A. Taking a tiny grain of an idea, and feeling it take shape into something meaningful.

Q.  What is the toughest part of being an author?

A. The hardest part for me is not having a boss, not having someone who expects something by a certain time or day. It was so much easier working an 8 to 4 job. Being your own boss sounds wonderful but in reality, you really have to set your own deadlines, your own goals, and then get them done. That's hard for me - I'm getting better at it, but it's still hard. 

Q.  If you could not be author, what would you do/be?

A. If I had a choice, I'd go back to teaching special education. It was a job I loved. I only left because of health problems. And then way on the other end, I've thought how fun it would be to work in a little, independent bookstore, or a candy shop. What could be better than giving people candy? Everyone is happy in a candy store.

Q.  What would the story of your life be entitled?

A. My Life in Chapters. Before losing my beloved teaching job, I thought of my life as a book. I didn't realize that it was really a book of chapters. When one chapter (teaching) ended, there was another waiting for me (writing).

Q.  What is your favorite book of all time?

A. Oh boy! Of all time? That's almost impossible. Let me say this, as a child, I loved The Boxcar Children series - I imagined what I would do if I was suddenly on my own as a child. As a teen, books by special education teacher Mary McCracken touched me and were influential in steering my sites on a career in teaching. Tom Brokaw's, The Greatest Generation was important because my father took that book, pointed to a couple of paragraphs and had me read them, so he could tell me vicariously, how he was feeling about surviving the war, when so many didn't. Books have touched me differently at different times.

Q.  Which character from ANY book are you most like?

A.  I love memoir. It's really my favorite genre. I think the great thing about reading life stories is that no matter how far the experience is from your own, there is always something relate-able. We put ourselves in the story and imagine what we would do. We find something within us that connects with the author's experience.

Q.  What character from all of your book are you most like?

A.  Well, since my book is a memoir, I'd have to say, I'm most like myself. Ha! And believe me, that's a hard thing to share. It's actually the hardest part about writing a memoir. I couldn't make myself into a perfect person, because I'm not. I had to admit to things that aren't favorable. That was hard.

Q.  What is your favorite season?

A.  Autumn. School starts in the fall. My birthday is in the fall. I have always felt like it's more of a beginning than January 1st. I make my resolutions for my birthday year, rather than the calendar year. I also am lucky enough to live in Southeastern Washington state. It's absolutely a stunning time of year - just beautiful.

Q.  What inspired your book cover(s)?  Or what is your favorite book cover and why?

A. The design department at Sourcebooks did my cover art. I can't take any credit at all. I cried when I saw it. They took all of the pieces and put them together in a way that was just beautiful. They included my father's actual letter in the background, a bunch of letters tied together and a Plumeria, which represents his time stationed in Hawaii. It's just amazing!

Q.  Tell me something funny that happened while on a book tour or while promoting your book.

A. I love my readers! I suppose every author says that, but I really mean it. I have the most interesting people come to events. They tend to be around my age (49) and up and have fascinating stories to tell. I'm going to tell you about a fascinating thing that happened - not really very funny. At one event, there was a woman at the back of the room. She used a walker, was nicely dressed, and from the comments she made and questions she asked, she was obviously well-educated. In fact, when she started asking about how exactly my father broke the Japanese code, she was over my head. Well, after the event, which was at a public library, she approached me. She said she didn't have a car and wondered if I could give her a ride home. I supposed it was OK, so after loading up my book event supplies, I folded her walker and put it in the trunk, and then got her settled in the front seat. I was on vacation, so didn't know the area. She directed me, and when she said to pull over, I kept stupidly saying, "What do you mean? Right here?" And, "Are you sure?" The thing is that this place looked more like a business than a home. I had imagined her cute little beach bungalow. But as I pulled up, and read the sign, I realized she lived at a homeless shelter. I felt so badly as I drove away. You just never know where people are from or where they're headed when you meet them.
Now for the funny story - I was at a book event at a tiny independent bookstore. Everyone who came in the store got a little card. In order to be entered into a raffle to win $20 of free books, they had to go to each of the five author tables and ask about the book. After telling about our own book, we stamped their card. When the card was full, they put it in the drawing box. Well, a woman brought a baby with her. She was probably about three months old and howling from the moment Mommy stepped in the door. Juggling the baby, a baby carrier, blankets and so forth, she bounced her while I tried to talk over the screaming baby.The woman was clearly running out of patience. She handed me the baby, and what was I supposed to do? I took the baby, swaying from side to side as I talked about my book. It was a ridiculous scene. But guess what? The baby quit crying! The woman got her card stamped. I handed the baby back and Baby Girl started howling again. She screamed all the way through the store and we all breathed a sigh of relief when they left. Oh my! What people will do for a free book or two. 

Q.  Are you working on something new?

A. Yes. I have two new books in the works. One is a humorous memoir about all those things we mothers swear we'll never do. When I had my son, who was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, the rules changed drastically, and so did I. The second book is about an amazing man, a talented portrait artist and Vietnam Veteran, who gave up everything he worked so hard for; prestige, influence, money - in order to draw portraits of fallen soldiers for their families, at no charge and with no strings attached. Miracles abound! 

Q.  Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by?

A.  The holidays are the perfect time to begin getting those family stories recorded. We all think we'll have more time - when the kids are grown, or when things settle down at work. But truth is, sometimes time just runs out and those stories are gone forever. I hear that a lot. So, take advantage of the holidays to learn something about your family. You'll be glad you did!
Thank you for stopping by. I truly appreciate it. If you'd like to ask questions or comment below, I'd be happy to come back and have a conversation with you. If you'd like more information, you can visit my website at http://www.storymatters2.com, or stop by my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/breakingthecode . 





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