Friday, August 24, 2012

Not So Happily Ever After

Today I bring you an interview with author Susan Barnett Braun, about her latest book.
Your latest book, Not So Happily Ever After: The Tale of King Ludwig II, was published earlier this month. Give us a nutshell view of it.

It’s the story of “mad King Ludwig,” who ruled the southern German state of Bavaria from 1865 until his mysterious death in 1886. Ludwig has fascinated folks for years – he was quite an eccentric during his life. His lasting legacies are in the arts (he was composer Richard Wagner’s main patron) and in architecture (his three castles are major money-makers for Germany). Yet even though he was a king, Ludwig was never able to find happiness in life. His truly was a “not so happily ever after” tale.

What prompted you to write this book? King Ludwig II seems a bit obscure to the typical American.

I learned about King Ludwig when I was in high school German classes. He fascinated me, and as the years passed I continued to read and learn more about him. When I was teaching, I applied for a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to study him. In 1993, I visited Germany and saw all three of his castles. I’ve always enjoyed history, but something about Ludwig just appealed to me. I find myself often searching out new articles or books about him – he’s just that interesting!

What are a couple of things about Ludwig that fascinate you?

The biggest fascination has to be his quirks: dining with his horse, staying awake all night and sleeping during the day, refusing to meet with his cabinet and dignitaries even though he was King, etc. But also, the huge legacy he left Bavaria through his castles. His cabinet heartily disliked him for his “foolish” spending of time and money on building, but today, Bavaria has taken in far more from those castles than Ludwig ever spent. His most famous castle, Neuschwanstein, is probably the most iconic and recognizable castle in the world today. Heck, Walt Disney used it as inspiration for his castles. You don’t get much more publicity than that!

This is a book primarily for school children. Why? Why not write it for adults?

There are quite a few books on Ludwig written for adults, so I didn’t see the need there. I began writing this book for kids in the grades 4-6 age group, but I quickly realized that the events of Ludwig’s life (two wars and quite a bit of information on opera composer Richard Wagner) was a bit beyond the scope of that age range. So, I feel the book is more appropriate to middle or high school students. It’s also good for adults who’d like to learn more about Ludwig, but who don’t necessarily want to read a 300-page book about him.

Another consideration was the strong clues that Ludwig was homosexual. I didn’t want to get into a discussion of homosexuality in a children’s book, and so I didn’t include that in my story. Heaven knows there are plenty of interesting things about Mad King Ludwig without going into his possible sexual orientation.

Where can people get this book?

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