Till Noever: born last century in Germany; now a citizen of both Australia and New Zealand; resident in Brisbane, Australia. Married, with two adult daughters. Writes novels and screenplays, makes occasional movies and takes a lot of photos. Practices swordcraft derived from traditional Japanese sources.
I was born in Germany into a family of visual artists; surrounded by books and with TV being either unavailable or actively discouraged. I read like it was going out of fashion by the time I was six, grew up on Grimm’s and Anderson’s fairy tales, Karl May’s adventures, American crime fiction, and German pulp sci-fi, especially the perennial ‘Perry Rhodan’ series. I also developed a very early preoccupation with the notion of mortality. Personal extinction, decided the pre-teen, is a very bad thing indeed. Quite a few decades later, I still believe this to be true.
After studying astronomy and physics for over a year, one day I said ‘enough’ and walked out in the middle of a lecture, to apply for an immigration visa to Australia—just about as antipodean to my former life as I could go. I spent some years traveling around Australia and some of South and Central America, before, years later, resuming my studies in Australia, and later New Zealand—but this time with a strong leaning toward the life- and cognitive sciences.
For over a decade I earned my living with programming, then gave software development away in the late 90s and converted myself into an editor, technical writer, organisational process developer, graphic designer and occasional video producer. After years in the UK, US, Japan and New Zealand, my wife and I have settled on a rural property just north of Brisbane. No street lights here, and on some nights the stars seems to be everywhere. Doesn't compare to the sky in outback Australia, but it's getting close.
I still have a day-job, because trying to earn a living writing is a mug's game, except for those who make it big (or at least upper-medium). I wish I could do this full-time, but we have to live with the cards we've been dealt, and the stories I tell may just not resonate with the current Zeitgeist. Tough luck for me, I guess, but I'm not going to tell different stories just because they're going to get me more money. That's missing the point and sacrificing one's personal integrity. And I consider the latter to be without a price.
Writing ‘came’ to me in my very-late teens, but it was unformed and embryonic at best. In particular, I didn't know then what I know now: That it isn't about 'writing' per se, but about telling stories. The change of languages from German to English held things up a bit, as might be expected. So, serious and other-than-crappy writing didn’t manage to get a decent foothold in my life until some years later. There was also a young family—which changed life-priorities. My family comes first—always. Never mind about all that I-want-to-fulfil-myself-and-be-an-artist bullshit. You've got to have your priorities right, or you're not worth a damn thing.
So things got delayed yet a bit more. Now, more than a dozen novels, stories and screenplays, as well as a feature-length movie, later, with my two daughters grown up, I’m still telling stories. It's a good way to spend your life. In fact, I am addicted to it. Tried to give it up once, for a couple of years. Didn't work. Couldn't detox myself and was getting a bit stupid. That's just the way it is. You think smoking is addictive? Try story-telling. I was a smoker once, quite a long time ago, but managed to kick that habit; so I know what I'm talking about.
I don’t think I’m ‘inspired’; but I’ve found that I don’t have to be. I basically write what I would like to read: stories populated with characters I’d like to love or hate; dealing with the basic parameters of the human equation: love, hate, generosity, greed, loyalty, betrayal, hope, fear, life, death, sex, peace, war, violence, forgiveness, retribution, curiosity, misunderstanding, reconciliation, ambition, surrender, cowardice, courage, and whatever else happens to come along. Among all that, good people who are trying to find their way through the minefields of their existence, attempting to eke a meaning from it; while not-so-good people, for reasons perfectly valid to themselves, do their best to put obstacles in the good-folks’ way.
My main ‘literary’ influence is Jack Vance. His Lyonesse trilogy is, to me at least, the most enchanting fantasy ever written. Night Lamp, one of his three last novels, is pure magic. Past influences also include Heinlein, Clarke, Saberhagen, and Asimov. I think that the craft of ‘story’ is also exemplified by the, now rather unfashionable and highly un-PC, tales of Edgar Wallace. I admire the contemporary fantasies of Tim Powers and James P. Blaylock; enjoy well-crafted psychological crime fiction by the likes of Jeffery Deaver; the ascerbic and gritty South-Florida capers of Carl Hiassen and James Hall; as well as the giddy escapist sci-fi of Stephen Gould. And then there's the unabashedly 'action', and often racy, work of Steve Perry. Though I think my stuff is often considerably racier that Steve's.
So, yes, my novels usually have 'romance', and it's not always tame. Meaning they're not for kids. R16, most of them. That's because I agree with WB Yeats, who wrote that “Sex and death are the only things that can interest a serious mind.” I would add "love" and "choice", and let's not forget that death really just defines "life" itself. Something I've been trying to come to grips with since I was a child.
I believe that good, engaging stories, written or cinematographic, convey the truth about the human condition and its complexities better than any learned, ‘popular’, or ‘spiritual’ non-fiction treatise ever could. They do this by the simple expedient of ‘entertain’ and ‘show-and-don’t-tell’. And the less pretentious they are, the better they work. The less the ‘message’ shows, the more readily the audience will listen to it, though they may not even be aware that they are listening. This is the applied art of persuasion and planting the seeds of change into minds.
The focus of my stories is on people, because stories about anything else are basically boring. Everything else is just 'background'. Lurking inside these stories is usually a serious framework of ethical and everyday-life issues, questions, suggestions. In Keaen, its sequels in the Tethys series and its prequels, as well as Seladiënna, Continuity Slip and others, these include my views on history and human destiny and its manipulation by those who would aspire to do so, however beneficent their putative reasons; social versus personal obligations; weighing society’s taboos against personal feelings; coming of age, whether it be in one’s youth or later life; finding one’s destiny; finding meaning; struggling against ethical turpitude; having hope; and staying alive—for only then can there be hope. I'm also preoccupied with the ethical question as to whether the decisions we make in life should be considered as instances, or examples, of 'higher principles' (or maybe 'ideals') in action; or whether 'principles' are, at best, over-simplified descriptors of the infinite variety of the possible. (In other words, was Plato talking nonsense? I suspect this to be the case.) I have no definite answer to this either; but it troubles me that the vast majority of humanity appears to have no notion that the question might actually be significant to their lives as well.
Story-telling requires, above all, a high standard of personal integrity. I completely agree with Harlan Ellison's dictum about taking your work seriously, not yourself. If you don't tell stories because you really want—possibly need!—to, do the world a favor and find something else to do. It took me decades to figure out that it's not about 'art', but just the simple, yet glorious, craft of telling stories to entertain people—and through this help them live their lives, because they can weave them into their lives and thus become stronger and more capable of coping with its vicissitudes.
Next to soldiering and prostitution, story-telling is probably one of the oldest and most venerable professions extant. We owe it reverence and integrity; instead of using it to seek glory, adulation and wealth. If we, by some great streak of good fortune, happen to find these along the way, so much the better. But let us never forget why we started doing it in the first place. The moment we do, we will lose our way and our sense of purpose.
More, entirely useless, information and personal commentary:
I'm fascinated by helicopters. To me, they are the most amazing machines ever invented.
I love fairy tales. That's probably because I grew up with them: the real thing; pure Brothers Grimm, unadulterated by political correctness and cutesy sanitization. Maybe that's why I love Bill Willingham's comic series, Fables; which is like the Brothers Grimm's tales—and every other fable ever concocted, including and freely mixed in with others you wouldn't expect—on speed. I sense the presence of a kindred soul, who obviously loves these stories just as much as I do.
I am a fan of Joss Whedon's Firefly TV-series and the spin-off movie, Serenity. Wish there were more of this.
People: My wife and daughters. Period.
Movies (a list subject to being updated): The Duellists, Blade Runner, The Illusionist, Avatar, The Princess Bride, Stardust, The Next Three Days, The Adjustment Bureau, Hereafter, Silverlinings Playbook, Star Wars (Eps 4-6), the new Star Treks (the old ones, too, but they're dated), Once Upon a Time in the West (best spaghetti western ever).
Writers: Jack Vance, Robert Heinlein. Both huge influences.
Rock Group: Foo Fighters .
Composers: Hans Zimmer, Jean Sibelius.
Any sentence starting with "But I was going to..." or something along those lines.
People who refuse to take responsibility for their actions or who endlessly complain about the consequences of their choices.
Politicians. They, either by nature or by eventual adaptive necessity, are (or become) creatures of a lower order than your average human being. Exceptions are extremely rare. In fact, there may be more mutated chickens with teeth than trustworthy politicians.
Religious or ideological zealots. Actually, I even have issues with religious or ideological 'moderates'. And I most certainly have issues with OCD-suffering atheists, who seem to feel an unhealthy missionary urge to enlighten the benighted masses. (Sorry to burst your bubble, guys, but you know SFA about what *really* behind the universe and everything; just like everybody else. Isn't is that which makes life really, really interesting?)