When and why did you begin writing?
When I was thirteen and after I had seen the movie Easy Rider, it gave me a strong feeling of freedom and loneliness. In this mood, I wrote my first poem.
What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about your subject/genre that isn’t so?
Many people believe that one could go to war and stay a thoroughly decent person. My experiences and research for Stalingrad left me with the certainty that this is not true. War changes our behavior, our thinking, and our feelings, irreparably. Even after a short time, sadomasochistic behavior patterns emerge.
What have you written so far?
I’ve written three novels: Die Macht des Geldes (The Power of Cash), a political thriller; Stalingrad: The Loneliest Death, a historical fiction novel about the Second World War; Amoklauf im Paradies (Running Amok in Paradise), a satire about a man who wants to live close to nature but lacks every prerequisite to do so. Stalingrad is so far my only novel to be translated into English.
Is there any marketing technique you used that had an immediate impact on your sales figures?
When I began to sell my novel Stalingrad as an eBook too (the original German one), I had a lot more sales which also impacted the sale of the hard copy. Promoting the English eBook on Goodreads also bolstered up sales.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Give yourselves the chance to learn and make mistakes. Almost no one writes a masterpiece at the first attempt. Those who do usually have great problems with their second book. Read your literary idols again and again. Inhale them. Great authors started with transcribing chapters from the works of other great authors in order to acquire their style of writing.
Observe your environment and the people around you closely. Write with love for details. Be mercilessly honest. Don’t leave anything out.
Can you share with readers a little bit about your latest book?
Stalingrad: The Loneliest Death describes events which happened during the Battle of Stalingrad in a fictionalised from. The novel is told from the perspective of young front line officer Lieutenant Hans von Wetzland. The main plot is concerned with his development from a naive war romantic to a brave officer, then his transformation into a no less brave deserter who, in the face of the atrocities of Stalingrad, has only one way left, the descent into madness and agony.
Tell us more about your main character. What makes him or her unique?
Hans von Wetzland is typical for many young men who are at first thrilled to go to war. Those for whom war is a great adventure. At some point, he finds the courage to decide against war and honor. The courage to desert.
Who or what inspires your writing?
That varies. Mostly I meet people who are so interesting to me that I use them as models for my fiction. Research is hugely important to me. When I have time I ride the subway and roam the city. Time and time again you meet people who you would have never been able to conjure up only from your imagination.
Sometimes I’m also inspired by newspaper articles or books. I’m very interested in economic interdependencies. My novel Die Macht des Geldes deals with these contexts.
The Battle of Stalingrad has determined years of my life. The question how far people can be pushed to the limit in an extreme situation gripped my imagination and occupied me for years.
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
That the events of Stalingrad pursued me even into my dreams.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
The conversations between the young lieutenant and an older soldier, with whom he has sort of a love-hate relationship. Gross has already been in the penalty corps, but because the front was lacking soldiers, he was rehabilitated. He tells Hands everything about the war which he does not want to know. But the longer the lieutenant is listening to the ex-prisoner, the more he understands that he is right.
How can you connect with Christoph?