Funny, I was just asking myself the same question. I guess I find myself pretty interesting and I do like to talk about myself a lot. My readings at schools, literary festivals and book fares involve the same amount of time me reading from one of my books and discussing, answering questions – like these. Since I'm currently living in Germany my next English reading will not take place for a while. So I figured one can get to know me the best this way.
Really … Where did you grow up?
As you probably know I grew up in Solingen, Germany. It is the blade capital of Germany. As kids my buddies and me played on piles of scissor-halfs – thrown away scissors that were never finished. The piles were as high as a house and you had to take care not cutting yourself climbing over them.
Did this have an influence on your writing?
Scissors that can't cut anything? Yes. The picture made it into my novel „The Locomotive“. Sure childhood influences your writing one way or the other. One of the biggest influence were comic-books. As a child I had more comics than picture books. One of the oldest comics have my baby doodles in it. By the time I was a teenager I had more than 1000 comics. My uncle handed them down to me, they were pretty cool, no Bambi of course. And I wanted to write comics, draw them, but unfortunately I found out my hands are just capable of doodles – no matter what age. So I had to balance storytelling with words only. 30 years later I realized that my socalled „movie like writing style“ – which let so many publishing houses turn down my novels – was based on those endless days and nights of reading comics.
And you are writing different genres?
Fiction and young adult fiction, serious and funny. There is no typical Thorsten out there. Not even in here … You never know what you get. I never know what is next. It depends on the best idea, I take the best idea that fits my mood at the time and then I write the story. This can vary. I always tell readers: Don't expect the same over and over again. Always read the beginning, a sample! See for yourself if the next story works for you. The writing style of each novel follows the narration voice, this has to be believable – it can be young or adult, funny or serious.
How do you write?
In the beginning I first have to find the story and the main characters. This is a purely creative process where I take a blank sheet of paper and I scribble my ideas along my self-made timeline from beginning to the end pointing out everything that seems to be important at each moment. Only then and after I check if there isn't any similar story out there I sit down and start writing. One out of five first drafts I am writing by hand, four out of five I dictate into my speech recognition program – just like this interview now.
This must be incredibly fast then?
Only if you don't care what you want to say and how it sounds. You can't just start talking, you have to plan your sentence, just like you do when you write them down by hand or on your keyboard. The big difference is the position: I can sit, I can stand, I can even lie down. You can say I make my living partly lying on my back – what basically turns writing into a horizontal trade.
Speaking of which, did you ever work something else?
I did. I was a pizza delivery guy, public health insurance officer, I sold sausages, cleaned computers, I worked as a barkeeper, technical assistant in a museum, blower-door-test assistent, cameraman, and so on and on. Since 2008 we can live off my stories. Unbelievable.
Why are you self-publishing?
I started self-publishing shortly after my first reading 1992. I made chapbooks, xeroxed poems and punched them together. I sold them after my readings. Then I saved some money to print a book in Slovakia. I couldn't pay for it to be properly done in Germany. We had to smuggle it over the border. 400 books. We got caught in our small Japanese car weight down by all the kilos in the trunk. You should've seen the face of the custom officer – expecting drugs, kalashnikovs and bodyparts – only to find himself looking at the cover of my first book. From the cover I was smiling at him, because I put my own face on it like a rock star. I thought, hey, if I pay for it … He dryly asked me for the tax papers I didn't have. Then he shook his head and let us go. That was luck – and literature smuggle in the 20th Century. How easy that is now with the e-books!
I wonder … how do you … uh … approach your cover … images?
Well, I moved away from putting my portray on every novel. Seriously the stories stand in the foreground and the genre. Based on that I collect my ideas when I start proofreading. So over a month or so I start building the cover on the computer. By the time the novel is ready, the cover is ready. In the beginning I had a lot of help from the designer Finna Leibenguth. She had some great tips.
Do you work a lot with other artists, writers?
I wrote more than one novel with another writer. And I love music so much that I buddy up with musicians like Max Wuerden for different projects. He also mixes my singer-songwriter songs. That is what I'm doing in the evening when I'm not writing, I make music. I'm not a writer who can look at paper or at a screen for 14 hours everyday. There are times, maybe weeks, I can pull that off, but never a whole month.
Your answer blends into the next question: Social media, what is that for you?
Social media became to me my open diary. I tweet my thoughts and share them on Facebook, I update about my daily life as an author and personal things. I like that. As a young writer I would have loved being able to follow the authors I like and read what they were thinking or planning.
Which authors do you like?
I can't single out one. As a matter of fact I have a whole shelf at home with books I grew on, stylistically, personally or as a storyteller. To name a few authors: Charles D'Ambrosio, Andre Dubus and his son Andre Dubus III, Richard Ford, Raymond Carver, Cormac McCarthy, Barry Gifford, Roddy Doyle.
That is a great list. You are also a very smart person, funny and exceptionally good looking. What...?
I think we should end this conversation here.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.