Kathryn Gauci was kind enough to interview me on her wonderful blog today.
Please head over and check it out.
Here is a little taster:
Welcome to A Literary World, Christoph. Please tell us about yourself.
1. Where do you live?
In the beautiful town of Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire, West Wales.
2. Can you tell us what your novels are about and what inspired you to write them?
The majority of my novels are 20th Century historical novels set in Europe. I’m fascinated by the multiple perspectives held by various ethnic groups and countries on both World Wars. “The Luck of the Weissensteiners” was inspired by some of my own family roots in Slovakia; “Ludwika” is based on the life of the Polish mother of a friend of mine.
3. How did you come up with the titles?
At some point during the writing process the titles just seem to fall into place. I re-name the drafts during the process until it feels right.
4. The struggle to survive in a changing political and social landscape is a strong theme in your work. What is it about conflict that a writer is able to work with?
Conflict and challenges tend to bring out the best or the worst in people. Put anyone in extreme circumstances and you can see what they are made of. It also allows to dive deeper into the characters by exploring the reasons behind their choices and behaviour.
5. “The Luck of the Weissensteiners” is set in Bratislava and the narrative follows the rise and fall of the various ethnic divisions in a disintegrating Czechoslovakia. How much does “luck” really play a part in their lives?
Without giving too much away – “luck” plays a big part in all of my character’s lives. Being in the right or wrong place at the right or wrong time, having friends or benefactors, the timing of political changes and personal decisions…even for far-sighted people there is always an element of luck.
6. Your second book in The Three Nations Trilogy, “Sebastian”, is set in Vienna in 1910, a period of intellectually conflicting ideals which would erupt into the Great War and influence the political landscape for years to come. What was it about Vienna at this time that made you want to set the novel in this city?
Vienna was a modern city, ahead of its time and sadly out of touch with the rest of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was the perfect location to introduce characters from different ethnic backgrounds and show a personal micro-cosmos of the bigger picture. While “The Luck of the Weissensteiners” explored the dark side of Nationalism, in “Sebastian” I tried to show how the foundations for this were laid.
7. Your latest novel, “Ludwika: A Polish Woman’s Struggle to survive in Nazi Germany”, is about a real person. What is it that made you want to write her story?
When we think about Nazi Germany we tend to think primarily about the Concentration Camps and forget the millions of other people whose lives were also disrupted or destroyed by Hitler’s policies, such as the life of Ludwika Gierz. I felt her story needed to be told. I assisted Ludwika’s family in finding out more about their mother’s years in Germany. I hope the book and the publicity around it can help connect her descendants with the family she left behind in Poland. The images I used are of Ludwika and her family.
8. The Black Eagle Inn, set in Bavaria, takes us through WWII and the reconstruction of a new political landscape. What lessons can we learn here?
Hopefully, that restoration has to come from within to be effective and that we need to leave outdated, old models of behaviour behind. Change and innovation can’t be stopped and are usually a good thing. Coming from a country with such a dark stain on its history I grew up being ashamed of it. Writing and researching this book was my way of seeing and showing how Germany has healed and evolved since.
9. Do you have a book that is particularly close to your heart?
“In Search of A Revolution”. As people grow up, they often find their naive beliefs challenged by real life. Finland’s Civil War is the perfect location to show both, the dangers of ideology and the honourable intentions behind them. I chose three unlikely friends and a love triangle to make it more complicated and varied.
10. How do you develop your characters? Are they based on real people?
Some were initially inspired by real people but once these are put into the context of the novels they tend to change and become different characters altogether, often a far cry from what I had in mind for them. It’s a little annoying when they don’t fit my plans but also exciting when they come up with new and better ideas how to push the story on.
11. When did you decide to become a writer?
I never did. It started out as hobby that got out of hand.
12. How long did it take you to write each book?
The raw first draft can be as quick as a month of full time writing and researching. After that, at least 2 more months of re-writing and editing.
13. As a writer of historical fiction, what is it that you look for in a story?
Unusual angles or perspectives, stories that explore lesser known areas of history and politics.
14. With Historical Fiction, one of the most difficult things to get right is the voice. How important do you think this is to a novel?
I think it is very important that you enjoy listening to that voice. Whether it is because they are likeable or you love to hate them, they need to be engaging and that can be very difficult to achieve.
15. What are you working on now?
I’m currently in the final stages of editing “African August” an adventure novel set in contemporary Uganda. It will be part of a charity anthology. I’m also working on a rural murder mystery and on a sequel to “The Healer”.
16. What part of the research process do you enjoy the most?
Any part where I learn or find something unusual about the subject I’m researching: Local customs, odd laws and regulations and historical facts that never made the headline.
17. What are your typical working conditions? Do you have a special place to write and can you describe it for us?
I have a tiny corner for writing in my house, overlooking the garden. I try to go there as early as possible when the world is still asleep and everything is quiet. My dogs sleep at my feet until they decide it’s time to stop writing and go for a walk.
18. Can you share with us some of the things you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love exploring the countryside with my dogs, hiking and cycling, yoga, travelling, watching Comedy TV, reading and doing a bit of gardening.
And a few quick questions:
19. Which genre do you prefer to read?
Historical fiction, Literary Fiction, Thrillers and Comedies
20. Who are your favourite authors?
Lionel Shriver, Christos Tsiolkas, Khaled Hosseini, Brett Easton Ellis, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Richard Yates, Robert Irwin
21. Favourite type of music to relax to?
Cheesy pop, soft rock, dance music, ambience, Bossa Nova, Jazz, R&B
22. Favourite film?
Casino Royale (with Woody Allen)
23. Favourite painter?
24. Do you have a philosophy on life?
I’m afraid I don’t have one simple or consistent philosophy. I find a lot of truth in philosophies, from the Classics to Taoism and make it up as I go along.
Where can we buy the book?
Thank you for joining us on A Literary World, Christoph. It’s been a pleasure to talk with you and we wish you continued success.
“A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say”.