Friday with Friends: Timeless Stories of Remarkable Women

Welcome to a new series on Meeting the Authors …. Friday with Friends. On select Fridays we will feature a unique guest post/interview with an author that has previously been interviewed on MTA. Welcome to Wendy Holden to kick off this new series.

Counting My Lockdown Blessings

It’s not every day that an author finds herself with not one but two books coming out within the space of two weeks, but that’s exactly what is about to happen with me. One is the paperback of One Hundred Miracles, released this week (May 14, 2020), and the other is a special new edition of my international bestseller Born Survivors to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.

What should have been a double celebration of this momentous milestone in a writing career spanning four decades has turned into something of a nightmare. The coronavirus pandemic has closed all bookshops and massively disrupted distribution, marketing and sales. Up until ten days ago I had a European and Brazilian tour lined up, a television interview, book launch parties, literary festival appearances, radio slots, public speaking engagements and fully booked creative writing courses. Instead, as publishers and publicists, the media and festival organisers decamp to their homes to juggle schooling with the day-to-day running of the business we all earn our crust from, everything has fallen away. To add insult to injury, Amazon has decreed that books are ‘non-essential’ items and are stocking only limited supplies of new titles.

At a time when it seems to this author that books have never been more essential, the systematic amputation of almost every limb that moves the publishing process forward is potentially devastating. No matter how much I try to promote my two new ‘babies,’ the bottom line is that even the most loyal of my readers are likely to experience difficulties in buying them. And by the time the virus has finally burned itself out, those outlets that have survived will be inundated with a tsunami of new titles that will have been held back for that very moment.

I realise that this is a ‘First World problem’ and appreciate that I am far more fortunate than most. Nobody I love has caught the virus or died from it, thankfully. I live in a beautiful part of Suffolk, England, where we grow our own vegetables and can walk the dogs every day. I have worked from home for over twenty years so the concept is both familiar and comfortable, plus I don’t have young children to home-school. My husband is a capable smallholder and occasional builder and can keep us warm, fed and safe. But we still do rely on my income for what we have and after poor health kept me off work, what was going to be my bumper comeback year has the potential to be our worst in decades.

When my friends ask me how I can remain so cheerful in the face of this latest catastrophe, I tell them that the answer lies within the pages of the very books I’m talking about. They are both Holocaust memoirs in which three young mothers and a teenage girl with everything to look forward to suddenly found themselves in unspeakable circumstances and in daily fear of their lives, having lost everyone they ever loved. It is these singular women I look to now and whose experiences have marked me for life. Writing about them so immersively, I feel that I came to know them well and only hope that some of their courage, wisdom and resilience has rubbed off on me.

If three pregnant women can defy the Nazis and give birth in the camps, and if a young piano prodigy with hands broken by slave labour can go on to become one of the world’s foremost musicians, then who am I to complain? The stories of these women are timeless. They will not disappear and both chronicle remarkable lives that are waiting to inspire future readers. As I embark on virtual launches, blog tours, podcasts and whatever I can to tell the world about them, I am confident that the light these courageous women shine on our troubled world will not go unnoticed.

What drew you to help Holocaust survivors write their stories? Why is this important to you?

I feel as if my whole life has been moving me towards writing about war. My father fought the Japanese in Burma and my mother lived through the London Blitz. She also lost her 19-year-old fiancé parachuting into Holland. When I worked for the Daily Telegraph I was a foreign and war correspondent for a while so I saw first hand the cruelty and brutality of war. As a journalist I was always looking for the humanity in the inhumanity and when I gave that up to write books full time, I looked for the same.

Born Survivors came to me by chance after I’d written two other books about war, Behind Enemy Lines, the memoir of a diminutive female Jewish spy, and Tomorrow to be Brave, the true story of the only woman in the French Foreign Legion (soon to be a film). Through these remarkable stories, I became even more obsessed with the subject of war, the Holocaust, and especially the way women had to step up and become something far more than they might have been because of terrible circumstances. This is endlessly fascinating to me.

Have you met the subjects of these memoirs in person, or any of their relatives?

Yes, almost all of them. Sadly, all three mothers in Born Survivors had died by the time I came to their stories, but I worked very closely with the three surviving ‘babies’ and other relatives, one of whom I flew to Nashville, Tennessee to meet. Their gracious contributions to my research made all the difference to that book and helped bring these stories to life.

With One Hundred Miracles, I met Zuzana Ruzickova in Prague and worked with her closely right up until a week before her death at the age of ninety. She was a tiny powerhouse of a woman with twinkly grey eyes and an infectious smile. She was such an inspiration after all she had been through and remained surprisingly positive, thanks to her passion for music. She taught me so much about resilience.

How can those reading this post help you to spread the word about these powerful books?

I spend much of my time talking to children in schools in the hope of educating the next generation about the important values of tolerance, compassion and understanding. Born Survivors has been widely adopted into the curriculum in the UK and the US for Year 9 and above. One Hundred Miracles is also being used widely in classrooms. People can’t possibly identify with 6 million dead but they can identify with three young mothers.

The only way we can combat hate speech and the rise in nationalism is by learning more about these dark times, reading these kinds of books, talking about them, sharing them with our friends and – perhaps most importantly of all – teaching the next generation, especially in this special 75th anniversary of the end of WWII. The events within these pages books happened within living memory and there are still a few survivors left who bear witness to what happens when good men and women do nothing. Within a few years, the three babies from Born Survivors will be the only living Holocaust survivors walking on this earth and that is a very salutary thought. We must never forget.

Thank you Wendy for sharing a powerful post and books with us. I’m thrilled to hear that Tomorrow to be Brave will be made into a movie! I thought it an incredibly moving story. I’ve also read Born Survivors and found it to be emotional, moving, and deeply powerful. – Camilla

Wendy Holden has moved her creative writing courses online and the next one is June 9. See or for more information.


One Hundred Miracles: Music, Auschwitz, Survival and Love by Zuzana Ružičková with Wendy Holden. Bloomsbury £9.99

o “[An] extraordinary memoir … A moving record of a life well lived in the face of appalling obstacles” – Nick Rennison, Sunday Times
o “A compelling story of terrible suffering surmounted by incredible bravery” – Anne de Courcy, Daily Telegraph
o “Zuzana’s humanity shines through all the inhumanity …Vivid and moving” – The Jewish Chronicle
o “Through Auschwitz and the brutalities of the early Soviet era, the music of Bach shines like a beacon of hope” – Financial Times, Books of the Year

Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance and Survival by Wendy Holden, Sphere £8.99 (special WWII 75 th anniversary edition with a conversation with miracle ‘baby’ Eva Clarke added to the audiobook)

o “An exceptionally fresh history, a work of prodigious original research, written with zealous empathy.” New York Times
o “A work of quite extraordinary investigative dedication. Born Survivors is a moving testament of faith.” Sir Harold Evans
o “A sensitive, brave, disturbing book that everyone should read.” Rabbi Baroness Neuberger DBE
o “Packed with harrowing detail and impressively well researched…. intense, powerful and moving… a worthy testament to these three women and the miraculous survival of the children.” Jewish Chronicle

About Wendy:

Wendy Holden is a British author, originally from London but now living in Suffolk, three hours north east of London, near the sea. She was a journalist for almost 20 years, including time as a war correspondent, and has been writing books full time for 22 years. She has more than thirty titles published, ten of which are bestsellers.

Follow the link below to read Wendy’s interview of last year …

Meet the Author: One Hundred Miracles by Wendy Holden


Here are a few suggestions on how to further support this author:

  • Comment on the interview
  • Share the interview using the social media buttons
  • Click through to learn more about the author and their book(s)
  • If interested, buy the book and leave a review

To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla, Founder and Host

Meet the Author: One Hundred Miracles by Wendy Holden

Today we welcome Wendy Holden as we travel to Suffolk and learn what dogs, Goldie Hawn, Ganesh, a woodland cemetery, and The Wacky Races mean to Wendy. Slip on your gardening gloves. Let’s go …

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a British author, originally from London but now living in Suffolk, three hours north east of London, near the sea. I was a journalist for almost 20 years, including time as a war correspondent, and have been writing books full time for 22 years. Have more than thirty titles published, ten of which are bestsellers.

In which genre do you write?

Non-fiction historical and war biographies mostly but also fiction, humour, celebrity memoirs and novellas. I have written two bestselling books with the actress Goldie Hawn and I wrote Lady Blue Eyes with Frank Sinatra’s widow Barbara.

I also love to write about dogs, who are one of my great passions. I wrote the number one bestseller Haatchi & Little B, about a disabled boy and his three-legged dog, and Uggie: My Story, about the canine star of the Oscar winning movie The Artist. I also wrote Mr Scraps, the little dog with the big heart, a novella about a dog caught up in the London Blitz –

How many published books do you have?

Thirty-two, most of which are listed on my website –


When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

I always wrote poems and kept a diary but wrote my first school play when I was six years old. It was called The Queen’s Birthday Cake and featured a naughty knave who switched the baker’s flour for cement so that the Queen broke a tooth when she bit into it.

The play won a schools’ competition and was put on by the drama students so my career path was set. It was not as if I ever had a choice. Writing comes as naturally to me as breathing.

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?

I’ve worked with Goldie Hawn who introduced me to meditation and to the Indian elephant god Ganesh, who is said to remove obstacles on your life’s path.

Twice a day, I stop writing and meditate for 10 minutes, slowing my breathing (and my thoughts) and then I rub my little Ganesh’s feet for good luck.

What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?

My two adorable German wire-haired pointers, Eli and Huxley.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

The one I work in now – upstairs in our 17th century oak-beamed cottage with green-painted walls. I write at my grandfather’s leather-topped desk with my father’s oak desk to one side and am surrounded by the framed book jackets, photos, cartoons and art that mean the most to me.

What are you currently reading?

Educated by Tara Westover and The Pianist of Yarmouk

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

Walk the dogs on the beach, read, garden, cook, entertain friends, travel, and paint.

If you could have a fantasy tea date with an author or famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?

Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women whose character Jo I immediately identified with. I have been to her house in Concord, Massachusetts, and see the tiny table where she sat and wrote longhand and I would love to invite her to tea and ask her how a young woman with very little life experience from a rural background was able to conjure up such vital, life-changing characters.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

How much of myself comes out in the books I write, even when they are about other people. There is something of everyone in each of us and when you really focus on someone you often realise that the nature of the human condition is universal.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve done in researching for a book?

I found myself deep in a woodland cemetery in rural Poland on the edge of dark hunting for the grave of someone I was writing about in quiet desperation. I found it just as the light was fading and then had to feel my way back to the car and civilisation.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary?

I did up until my teens but I found that I have such a visual memory so that I no longer needed to.

What is the most inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?

Meeting my husband and accepting his marriage proposal three weeks later. I was 19 and we have been happily married ever since.

You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What song do you listen to before speaking and what do you do to prepare yourself?

I do ten minutes deep breathing to clear my mind of clutter. I remind myself to talk slowly and take deep breaths in the pauses. If I were to listen to any music it would be Paul Simon’s Late in the Evening and I would have a dance to loosen myself up.

What do you miss about being a kid?

My dearly departed parents who were my greatest champions and blessed me with a happy childhood, from which I emerged feeling invincible.

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

The Wacky Races. I wanted to be Penelope Pitstop, but I also loved Mutley.

If you write non-fiction or memories, what fictional character would you invite into your story and why?

Jo from Little Women so that I could spend time with her and tell her how much she inspired me as a girl.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

Tolkien. It was on locally and we went because I love films about writers. I was much more impressed than I’d expected and gave real insight into his life and inspirations without hardly mentioning The Hobbit (of which I am not a great fan). It is a lovely, well-rounded film.

A penguin knocks on your door and is wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he there?

He escaped from the local zoo when his keeper went for ice cream and accidentally left the gate open, so the penguin waddled off down the road looking for something to eat.

At the seaside, he accidentally caused a commotion outside one of those stores that sells everything from joss sticks to water pipes, backed into a hat stand and a sombrero dropped onto his head.

Hardly able to see, he staggered on and – lifting his beak – detected the unmistakable scent of fish. Padding up to my front door, he tapped his beak on it and made his little penguin cry so I opened the door with a fillet of sole in my hand.

Before I knew it, he had snatched it from fingers and gobbled it down in one. He has lived with me ever since. We have called him Charlie because he looks and walks like Charlie Chaplin in his little penguin suit.

Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?

I always have and I always will. Whenever one door closes for me, another opens, often taking me in a direction I never expected and which excites and challenges me.

If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?

Why don’t you ever get a cold?
What do you dream of when you twitch and whimper?
Why can’t you live as long as us?

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

Resilience and fearless optimism

What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?

Suffolk, England, which is why we moved here having had no previous connections. Endless beaches. Huge skies. Fabulous stars. Great seafood. Lovely people. Old-fashioned atmosphere. What’s not to like?

Describe the perfect solo date you’d take yourself on … where, time of day, weather, place, etc.

Umbria, Italy. Early autumn. Watching the sun set over the golden hills and ripened vineyards with a chilled glass of prosecco in my hand.

Tell us about your most recent book.

I have three books out this year:

A relaunch of my novel The Sense of Paper. A Novel of Obsessions, it is set in Suffolk and is full of passion, secrets and lies. Please see the trailer —

One Hundred Miracles, a memoir of music and survival with Zuzana Ruzickova, published by Bloomsbury UK and several European publishers. The remarkable story of a Holocaust survivor and internationally renowned musician who not only lived through the war but under Communist ant-Semitic rule for decades. This is my first Holocaust book since writing my international bestseller Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance and Hope


A Woman of Firsts, the woman who built a hospital and changed the world with Edna Adan Ismail, to be published in this month. The story of the ‘Muslim Mother Teresa’, an indomitable force of nature who survived great hardship and civil war only to return to her ravage country and create something wonderful.

Thank you Wendy for being a part of MTA. It was incredibly interesting to learn more about you, your history, and writing style. I am a Goldie Hawn fan, as well as having a mindfulness and meditation practice. I found your interview to be deeply moving. And, oh my goodness! I LOVE the short story you created with the penguin question! Thanks again! –Camilla

Where to find One Hundred Miracles:

UK Amazon:

US Amazon:

If it feels right and you have the time (and you enjoy the interview) please like or comment or share it. The nature of the online world … the more eyes that see it the more it will spread and benefit the author and the website! Thank you!

And if it feels the thing to do and you are inspired to do so, I would be deeply grateful if you’d like to “Buy Me a Coffee” … Camilla – Host of Meeting the Authors …

Buy Me A Coffee