About C.F. Yetmen


My mother recalls that one day, when I was in the 6th grade, my teacher called her in for a conference and accused her of doing my work for me. At issue was a story I had written about a gang of talking cats, who, if memory serves, were crimefighters of some kind. I had written the story during a hurricane as a way to distract myself from my fear, but my teacher assumed that the work had not all been my own. My mother loves to tell this story and I have worn that tiny badge of honor ever since.

Despite earning a BA in English from the University of Texas at Austin, the dream of being a writer myself dared not rear its head for a long time. I wanted to hang out with writers, I wanted to work with them, I wanted to be in that world. But me? Write? Oh, no. Instead I worked for a publisher (Prestel Books in Munich Germany) and at a magazine (Texas Architect). I learned what it takes to get words on paper, to make them ready to be read, and what power they have. I loved it. I eventually turned that passion into a successful business writing for architects. I don’t know if you know this, but I have the best job there is.

Then one day in 2008, I was walking around Lady Bird Lake in Austin and was pondering if I really were to write novel, what would it be about? If we are supposed to write what we know, then what is it that I know? The story of my own grandmother’s experiences at the end of World War II had long been a subject I wanted to explore. I was also the working mother of a toddler, so I had some ideas about that. And, I had just seen the documentary The Rape of Europa on TV and had been fascinated by the work of the Monuments Men, many of whom were architects and several of whom went on to become presidents of the American Institute of Architects, an organization I know lots about. And then it hit me: German mother gets job with Monuments Men at the end of the war. Adventure ensues. I still remember where on the trail I was when I had the idea, because I have it again every time I walk past that spot.

Fast-forward five years, and here I am writing this text for the website of my novel. It has been a long journey that took me to Wiesbaden to research the place, the insides of countless books to learn about the time, to fold3.com to read the Monuments Men’s archives, to Iowa several times to learn how to write a novel, and to my desk at 4:30am (almost) daily to hammer out the story of Anna and Cooper. While I was doing this, the most amazing thing happened. George Clooney decided to make a movie about the Monuments Men. So for the last two years, George and I have been secretly working in tandem, although he doesn’t know it, but that’s okay. I am grateful that he is helping to promote my book. Thanks, George.

So here we are. What else can I say? I am a mother, a wife, a mediocre cook and an outspoken complainer about Austin traffic. I will watch virtually any World War II program that comes on the Discovery Channel and am a huge fan of the writings of Philip Kerr who is an incontrovertible genius (free plug for him here). I am still at my desk at 4:30 am (most days) but now I am working on things like this and getting ready to write the next book about Anna Klein and the Monuments Men. I have promised my daughter that there will be characters named Harry and Louis in the book, and if you are perchance the parent of a young girl, you will know exactly what this means. But that’s all I will say for now. I look forward to finding out what happens next.

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