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Frequently asked questions

What made you start writing books?

Although I realize I’m at the risk of using a cliche, I must honestly say that I have carried this desire to write around with me since my childhood days.  I have always read a great deal  ( I remember going to the local library one day and realizing there were no new titles) and under the bed covers,  I would go on my journeys  through the world of literature.  It was at school, where I discovered my faible  for writing.  Essay writing was no problem, though I was pretty hopeless at dictation.  For many years I wrote short stories and then in 2008 I took part in my first writing competition.  To my  great surprise  my story was chosen to be printed in an anthology.  The following year I even won a prize.  Fired up by this achievement,  I decided to embark on writing a book, which  is when the idea for Midsummer Murder came about.
This murder mystery is in actual fact my very first novel.

 Why crime stories?

A few years ago I came across a well- known quotation by an author named Henry Miller, which goes as follows:-
“I decided to write through the eyes of my own experience, from what I knew and felt.  And that was my salvation”.
This made sense to me and I took it to heart.  My career as a police officer has allowed me to gain a lot of insight into many fields of activity within the police force.
Besides that,  I love literature that captivates me; especially mysteries and thrillers.  So it seemed natural to apply myself to this genre.
In the meantime I have become totally convinced that an author should leave well alone things he has no real knowledge about.  However much research you do, the story will lack authenticity.
The reader will be aware of this and the story will never come across as real and true.

 Are you at an advantage in this genre, being a policeman yourself?

Absolutely.  Author colleagues of mine envy me for my personal experience and background knowledge.  Understandably, they approach me for advice and inside information.
Non-specialists have to do a lot of research in order to gain some idea of the daily work routine of the police force.
For example, a while ago I arranged for a Swiss author colleague of mine to spend a day with the Zürich police. She was so enthused about it and said how she wished she had known about these things before writing both her books.

My personal experience was even more significant for my second book, a political thriller, which is due to come out in 2014.
The plot is about an attack on a summit meeting involving leading politicians.  For this scenario, I was obviously able to draw abundantly from my well of experience acquired throughout my years with the special task force.
There is one disadvantage though, that I wouldn’t  want  to keep from you.  A typical working day in the life of a police officer isn’t always as exciting as portrayed in books or the movies.
For instance, a special murder case might involve about 100 people with each person painstakingly investigating his own small puzzle piece,  in the hope that everything would finally fall into place and lead to  the case being solved.  This wouldn’t hold anyone in suspense at all , but would more likely prove rather boring to the reader.
The challenge facing the author therefore , as is so often the case, is finding the golden mean.  At the end of the day, it is all about entertaining the reader.

 How long does it take you to write a book?

Difficult to say.  It is hard to define the time frame from the first idea to completion.  Within this time frame a lot of thought processing takes place.  In my case, when I have an idea, I make a note of it and then let it rest.  The idea can then germinate and develop somewhere deep down in my subconscience .  Good ideas take care of themselves.   Gradually, more events, characters and levels of action fill the invisible files.  At some point the story emerges and is in need of a rough outline.
So a rough outline of the plot is drafted, followed up by detailed research.  When the time is right, I am ready to put pen to paper.  During the whole writing procedure, I try to be very disciplined and write at least three pages a day.  This way it is easy to calculate the length of time it takes to write, for example, a three hundred page book.  Next, revision work is necessary before it lands on my agent’s desk in Berlin. A second review is then needed before it finally makes it to my publisher’s desk.  After this, text editing follows regarding story line and characters, before eventually, the final edition is complete.  I think I need about one and a half years to write a book.

 Do you have any favourite authors or authoresses?

As I have already mentioned, I read a great deal myself and as I read my way through most all genres, I come across a lot of writers who appeal to me very much.  To list them all would presumably go beyond the scope of this interview, but just to select a few :- Stefan Zweig, Hermann Hesse, Siegfried Lenz, Ernest Hemingway and their literary relatives, because they use a language which “melts on my tongue” and I just have to read a sentence a hundred times over.
Maj Sjöwall und Per Wahlöö, Henning Mankell, Hakan Nesser, Ake Edwardson  and many other crime authors, because their success has contributed  to Germany becoming a nation of mystery novel  lovers.
Stephen King, who has tirelessly been producing books for over 40 years, and according to his own words, writes 2000 words a day.  Even at Christmas and on his birthday.
Simon Mawer, Dennis Lehane and lots of good ‚young‘ crime- and thriller authors , from whom I learn  tremendously.

 How do you come up with ideas?  What inspires you?

Well, if I may say so, that is the most difficult question you can put to an author and I am not sure I can answer it fully.  I believe that everyone carries these creative seeds of thought within them.  I am always aware of this when I talk to non-authors.  Someone might tell me about an enthralling holiday experience and then casually comment that he or she could write a book about it.  Another imagines how a story might continue, for example, if they witnessed an incident on a train and so on.  I also think an author is a highly intuitive person.  In her book  “SUSPENSE“  Patricia Highsmith compares this gift to an invisible antennae with which the author picks up on certain frequencies in the air around him – signals for a good story.  I believe I share this gift with many other authors.

 Who gets to read your books first?

I have a group of proof readers. I can give them my texts to read  when I get to a stage where I feel that I am no longer making progress on own.  This is usually after the second or third review.  At a certain stage, I am so involved in the text that I can no longer judge whether the story  is exciting or boring.  At this point it is absolutely critical to have an unbiased opinion from someone who hasn’t yet been exposed to the text.  I take all feedback seriously .  If there are any contradictions ( eg. someone finds scene XY good while another puts it aside),   then I collect more opinions.  I normally write in favour of the majority or use my red pen and delete.
Things get really interesting when my literary agent goes over the text for the first time, because she is obviously well informed regarding language, construction and content and knows what chances the book will have on the market.  There just are a few regulations that no author can avoid.  Finally, the moment of truth arrives:  the publishing editor’s first comments.

What lies ahead for you?

My debut novel Midsummer Murder is the first in a series of at least eight novels.  The protagonist Moritz Kepplinger is a comparatively young chap who has just finished his Police Academy Training and has just started work as a commissioner with the crime department.  Hence there is plenty of room for development, both career wise and personality wise.
Kepplinger’s second mystery case is in the making and will hopefully be on the bookshelves very soon.  That all depends on how successful the first book is, of course.  As I mentioned earlier, my first thriller is due out in May 2014. I already have ideas for a trilogy, a mystery about a very interesting female character.
I have also already completed my third thriller, so, with these things in mind, I am certainly looking forward to some exciting times ahead.