Alumni cover stories: Mark deMeza

In the first of a semi-regular feature looking at books published by Nottingham alumni, we catch up with Mark deMeza (French and German, 1986) who has recently published his first novel.

Titled "The Thirteenth Child", the novel set during World War II, was inspired by Mark's discovery of his family's own Holocaust history soon after the unveiling of a new memorial in Amsterdam.

We asked Mark to share a little more about his new book and how his time at Nottingham shaped his early forays into the written word.

deMeza web

"I lived in Sherwood Hall for a couple of years, the second of which was as Hall President. At Nottingham I wrote some poetry and completed a draft novel during one of the summer breaks.

"I left to join KPMG to qualify as a chartered accountant and that strangled my writing urge for 20 years. Then I found the time to write a number of short stories with reasonable success. It was only a change in career (working as a freelancer, rather than on the treadmill) that gave me the time to write a full novel in the second half of 2022."

Tragic inspiration

It was only thanks to the Dutch Holocaust Memorial of Names in Amsterdam, which opened in 2021 as the first memorial in the Netherlands to the more than 102,000 victims of the Holocaust, that Mark uncovered a motivation for his novel.

A tremendously poignant moment followed as I entered the name 'deMeza' into a search engine provided by the memorial, revealing the names of 11 of my ancestors who were murdered in Auschwitz and Sobibor which served as the catalyst for my journey into storytelling.

"This dreadful discovery prompted me to research the Netherlands of that time and write the novel. To a certain extent, I was fortunate that the discovery more or less coincided with my career change.

"Writing this novel was a deeply personal and emotional journey. The discovery of my ancestors' names and the impact of their tragic stories fueled my commitment to tell a tale of survival, resistance, and the enduring impact of the Holocaust.

Writing with ADHD

"I have been formally diagnosed with Adult ADHD. The lack of concentration characterized by ADHD does make it very hard to organize and structure a full length novel. It can be frustrating writing and then not recalling what I’ve written.

"My main piece of advice would be to just stick at it, don’t give up because at some point (for me it was around 30,000 words), you realize that something you thought was impossible is almost half complete!"

About the novel

“The Thirteenth Child" takes readers on a journey through the harrowing experiences of Dutch Jews, a narrative often overlooked in Holocaust literature.

As the Nazis tighten their grip, siblings Rachael and Henrik Kisch join the Dutch Resistance, while their parents, Franck and Elizabeth, strive to protect their younger brother, Hannes.

With each passing day, the family faces the increasing threat of deportation to unknown camps in Eastern Europe, raising the question: can they stay together and survive?

The novel was launched in January and has already become a bestseller in two of its three categories on Amazon.

Read more about Mark's novel and his writing on his website: