Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Last Waltz: A World War 1 Novel by G.G. Vandagriff

The heroine of The Last Waltz, Amalia Faulhaber, comes onstage as an innocent socialite with a strong personality in the nervous splendor of the last days of the Hapsburg Empire. It is the "Golden Age" of music, art, fashion, cuisine, and drama.

Amidst the sparkle and neuroses of Vienna, Amalia has been educated in the fine art of flirtation by her aristocratic grandmother and in matters of conscience by her socialist uncle.   She shapes and is shaped by her relationships with the men in her life—a Prussian soldier, a Polish doctor, and an Austrian baron--always remaining faithful to her own growing ideals.  The story of Austria's descent into fascism is counterbalanced by the developing love that she feels for her husband with whom she has a "marriage of convenience."  As flawed characters are transformed, the theme of the piece emerges as the redemptive power of love.

The book is a virtual journey into the events before, during, and after World War I.  An understanding of this period is critical for us to comprehend why democracy failed in Germany and Austria.  This understanding lays the foundation for a true perspective of present domestic politics and international relations with the Western and Eastern European Countries.

G.G. Vandagriff has lived with this story for half her life. It began in the Alps above Vienna where she studied Austrian music, art, politics, and history from Austrian professors. At her young age, her fascination with the country actually became part of who she was.  Returning to Stanford to finish her BA, she majored in an interdepartmental study of Central Europe's politics, history, and economics.  Upon graduation, she worked for the Hoover Institution at Stanford as a researcher and editor for the Yearbook of International Communist Affairs.

Following a two year stint in the world of finance, she attended graduate school at George Washington University, where she received her Master's Degree from distinguished émigrés of Central Europe. Once again, she studied politics, history, and economics of the region.  Her master's thesis, Comecon: Asset or Liability, foretold the disintegration of the Soviet Bloc nearly two decades before the Wall fell.
She married David Vandagriff, and put him through law school while she worked as an International Banker in Chicago and L.A. At this time, while commuting by bus, she sketched out the plot for the novel.  Until her first child was born, she researched the period of The Last Waltz until she had a file box completely filled with notes. When her three children were born, she wrote during naps, and later, during school. However, she was never satisfied with her ability to tell this tale. She was too aware of her youth and inexperience. Finally, she put it on the back burner, and concentrated on honing her writing skills. She knew she needed more experience with real life before she could understand the psyche of people living in such turbulent, tragic times.

Eventually, she became the author of a book on genealogy, Voices in Your Blood, and an off-beat genealogical mystery series: Cankered RootsOf Deadly DescentTangled RootsPoisoned Pedigree, and The Hidden Branch (coming in Fall, 09).  She also indulged her love of King Arthur and Wales in a novel of suspense, The Arthurian Omen.

Beginning with the birth of her daughter, GG suffered a twenty-five year bout with depression. After her miraculous recovery in 2006, she began working on Waltz again, knowing that she finally had the experience necessary to write about people who survived tragic times that completely altered their lives. She also co-authored a book on depression with her husband and son.

The Last Waltz was finally published in Spring of 2009 to wonderful reviews.

MEET THE AUTHOR: Get to know G.G. Vandagriff and her epic novel The Last Waltz at the I Love Authors Blog Talk Radio Show Thursday, February 17th at 9:00pm(est). Join us as we step back in time with G.G. Vandagriff and learn more about her and her book!!

Facebook: G.G. Vandagriff
Twitter: @GGVandagriff

BUY THE BOOK: The Last Waltz, Paperback, $13.57, 608 pages.


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