Interview 2

(First published in the “15 Questions” section of the German online magazine Geisterspiegel.de in September 2009)

What three adjectives would you use to describe your profession? Compelling, magical, exhausting.

What book written by another author would you like to have written yourself? Many, but “Scoop” by Evelyn Waugh is certainly one of them.

What have been the three worst mistakes of your career? Failing to persevere; wasting time; and becoming discouraged.

Please list three of your novels I ought to take with me on a desert island? “The Malice Box (Daemonium)”; “The Secret Fire (Maleficus)”; and the next one, as yet unnamed.

Where will your career be in ten years time? What do you think or what is your wish? If I’m still able to write and find an audience, while providing for my family, I’ll consider myself very fortunate.

What was the latest book you have read? How did you like it? “Making Up The Mind”, by Chris Frith, a neuroscientist. It’s a great book.

What was the latest CD you have bought yourself? How do you like it? “Symphonic Works”, by Hidayat Inayat Khan. He is the brother of Noor Inayat Khan, a radio operator for British intelligence in Paris during World War Two who was one of the models for my character Rose Arden in “The Secret Fire”. The piece “La Monotonia” was written in her memory – she was captured in 1943 and executed at Dachau the following year. I like the CD very much.

If you won 20 million euros in the lottery would you still carry on working as an author? If your answer is ‘yes’ please tell us why and if it is ‘no’ why not? Yes, I’m sure I would. I have done it for 25 years, on and off, whether there was money in it or not, published or not, and I’ve come to the conclusion I’m just one of those sad cases who is compelled to do it.

What are the worst mistakes made by a newcomer author when she/he starts his writing career? I’m probably still right in the middle of making them.

What are the worst mistakes made by a newcomer author concerning her/his approach towards potential publishing houses for her/his own work? I think approaching publishing houses directly is often a mistake, and I’d urge anyone looking to get published to find a good agent first – someone who already represents authors writing the kind of work you want to write.

What literary protagonists would you like to have an intensive conversation with? Scheherezade; Jean Tarrou from Camus’ “The Plague”; Oliveira from Julio Cortazar’s “Rayuela” (Hopscotch), George Smiley and Karla from the spy novels of John Le Carre; Molly from William Gibson’s “Neuromancer”; Prospero from “The Tempest”; Lady Macbeth (and her husband, if available).

Please name the author (apart from youself) who you would personally wish that she/he became more famous than she/he is in Germany at the moment. Julio Cortazar and also Irene Hillel-Erlanger, author of the strange Dadaist-alchemical novel “Un Voyage en Kaleidoscope”.

A fairy comes to you and orders you to write a novel. She guarantees you that this novel will become a bestseller. Which genre would you choose for this book? Not a single genre but several jammed together – something involving mystery, neuroscience, mysticism, and current affairs, for example.

What would you tell your child if she/he wanted to follow in your footsteps and become an author herself/himself? I’d say I was very proud, and add: get up early, write every day, and make sure you can get a day job if you need one.

What are the three novels one should have read in one’s life? Impossible to decide. I’ll just list three that I’ve found spellbinding at different times in my life: “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien, “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte; “The Plague” by Albert Camus.

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