I would like to introduce my Swiss friend, Karin Bachmann, who has agreed to be interviewed. I met her at Swanwick Summer Writing School in Derbyshire and we have become good friends. She is an avid writer and you can learn more about her on her blog http://stories47277.blogspot.com
1. Has your book been published?
Thanks for inviting me to this interview, Sarah. I’ve had nine children’s whodunits published by SJW-Verlag, in Zurich, Switzerland. Those were rather short stories in a series designed to encourage children to read. The last one was called “Gefährliches Schweigen” (Dangerous Silence). And I was very proud to have been asked to participate in a crime anthology called “Mord (Murder) in Switzerland” that came out in February 2013. I’m working on another children’s whodunit set in the Isles of Scilly that I want to publish myself some time in 2014. Two Swanwick friends are helping me bring it up to scratch.
2. What are you writing at present?
Apart from my “Scilly Whodunit”, I’m working on a short story for children set in the 15th century and a short story which I’m going to enter for one of the “Win Your Way to Swanwick” competitions. I hope to finish them before my mentor(s) send in the next round of corrections.
3. Do you think you may change to another genre at a later date?
History has always fascinated me. So I might well change into that genre. I’ve also dabbled in Fantasy – without much success I have to admit.
4. Did you always want to be a writer?
I’ve made up stories even before I could read or write. Later, I began to write them into a notebook my music teacher gave me. At that time, I never thought I’d actually finish a longer piece of writing, let alone have it published. My mother first asked me why I didn’t try that. It was a miracle and a great piece of luck that my writing finally saw the light of day because I plunged into trying to find a publisher without the slightest idea about research (at that time I was sixteen). But I did eventually find SJW and they accepted the second story I sent them.
5. Before you start your novel, is it the plot or a character that comes to mind?
Sometimes it’s a character but much more often something I hear that sparks my interest and I think, “Hmm, that might give an interesting story”. An advertisement in which the police warned people about thefts in underground garages, for example, sparked a whodunit published in 2006. So I’ll start with an event and then begin to think about what problem might arise. Only then will I consider what kind of character I need to solve the riddle.
6. How important is the setting?
That varies. I have stories that are only possible in a certain setting (in one story, a school class have to extend their skiing camp in a mountain village because of avalanche danger), others take place in fictitious villages that could be anywhere. I’m not one of those writers who use the setting as an additional character, so to speak, however much I’d like to be able to do that.
7. In your novel, do you have a favourite character?
I don’t have one favourite character but several that were truly fun inventing. There’s a circus boy, Franco, who’s got a great sense of humour and can do all those cool acrobatic tricks I always wanted to be able to perform. And in my Scilly project I’ve grown very fond of Daniel, who’s lost a leg in a car crash but will not allow that handicap to hamper him in any way. And in “Gefährliches Schweigen” I have two characters, a boy and a girl, who share a great many character traits with me (poor things).
8. Do you have a regular time for writing?
As I work 80%, I try to write as much as I can at weekends and on my free day. I also snatch a few moments here and there. It takes a while for me to get into gear, so I only sit down at the computer when I know I have at least an hour to do so. Commuting, lunch breaks, household chores and so on are my “thinking time”. This system enables me to be ready as soon as I’ve fired up the computer.
9. Are you a member of a writing club?
Not a writing club but I belong to several writing related associations in Switzerland. Since January 2013 I’m also a committee member for AUTILLUS, the association of children’s book writers and illustrators of Switzerland. And, of course, I’m a fervent Swanwicker.
10. What events do you attend relating to writing?
Whenever I can, I visit the literary festival in Solothurn (Solothurner Lieteraturtage). Solothurn is a lovely city and not far from where I live. And a year without the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in Derbyshire wouldn’t be a complete one for me. Then I go to all kinds of dos organised by the associations I belong to like AGMs and Christmas get-togethers if I can.
11. How do you envisage getting feedback and how important is it?
Feedback is crucial. Sometimes, I do school readings. The children there are great at giving brutally honest feedback. I also like to hear from my readers via Google+, Twitter and my blog http://stories47277.blogspot.com. Also, I’ve reached a stage in my writing life where I can take honest critique from peers without falling into a depression afterwards.
12. Is there any book or author that inspired you to write in your chosen genre?
Dozens! When I started off, my absolute heroine was Agatha Christie and yes, I admit it, Enid Blyton. Later, I discovered Dick Francis. And many more over the years. I’ve also read a few writers that definitely made me want not to write like them, which was helpful in its own way.
13. Do you have a favourite book that left an indelible mark?
Until a few weeks ago, I always answered “The Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco. But one of the books I’m reading at the moment is (I’m not sure if this is the correct title in English because I’m reading it in the German translation) “The One-Hundred-Year-Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared” by Swedish author Jonas Jonasson. A gripping, touching, life-endorsing and absolutely hilarious tale – a must read if ever there was one.
14. What book are you reading at present?
Apart from the one mentioned above I’m reading “The Ladder Dancer” by Roz Southey, “A Wiser Man” by Michael O’Byrne and the short story collection “Swings and Roundabouts” by Maggie Cobbett. I’m also reading “The Complete Guide to Science” by Asimov on and off. It might sound strange that I’m reading several books at once but as time management is an issue, I read one book before bed time, one in my lunch break, one while commuting and one when I have a few minutes in between chores. And as they’re all so different, nothing mixes or clashes.
15. Have you found a book or a situation that will spark off an idea for your next novel?
A few weeks ago, a client in my day job ordered a new pair of binoculars. He’d kept his old one on his boat moored at a jetty and the boat was burgled. That might appear in my next children’s whodunit.
Thank-you Karin for your detailed an interesting answers to my questions. I’m sure many people will want to go over your answers again to catch sight of the person who is the reader and the writer.
Thank-you again and best wishes for the future.