Jessie: In New Hampshire, watching for the first signs of frost.
Every once in a while life delivers up a thoroughly delightful surprise. Meeting German mystery writer, Tatjana Kruse, several months ago, was one such happy circumstance. Both Tatjana and I love to travel and take an interest in other cultures. Recently, we chatted over email about mysteries and writing in each of our parts of the world. I thought it might be fun to share snippets of that conversation with you. So, here it is!
J:So Tatjana, since we live and write in such different settings, I wanted to ask you what the setting is like in your novels? Large city? Quaint village? And is that a frequently used sort of setting in German crime novels?
T: I am currently writing three series: one about the embroidering ex-commissioner Siegfried Seifferheld (he investigates in my lovely medieval hometown of Schwaebisch Hall), the second one about the opera singer Pauline Miller who loves to solve crimes alongside her career (she sings and investigates in famous opera cities like Salzburg and Bayreuth), and last but not least my series about the two elderly snoop sisters who run a bed-and-breakfast way out in the sticks (or as we in Germany sag: in the flat countryside where fox and hare say good night to each other).Localised mystery novels in picturesque tourist regions are very popular in Germany, as are fast-paced thrillers set in big cities. Crime novels are extremely popular in Germany, so that there is now almost no place where a fictional detective is not investigating.
J: That sounds much like the way of things here in the States! We have sleuths going about their business here, there and everywhere!
T: When I think of America, I always imagine a book market that is more commercial than ours. Is there such a thing as a “house publisher” that you stay loyal to? Or do you change frequently? And how much does the publisher look after the authors in terms of signings/readings, marketing and PR? Or do authors have to take care of all that themselves?
J: That is such an interesting question! In some cases authors are interested in staying with one publishing house. Often they enjoy a supportive and collaborative relationship with their editors and have found that the range of books they wish to write and the the house wishes to publish are a match. For other authors there are stories they wish to tell or experiences they wish to create that are not in alignment with the interests of the house. In those cases more than one publisher at a time can be the answer.
As far as signings, readings, marketing and PR, it also widely varies. Some of the level of support for authors comes from the size of the house. Some of it depends on the importance the house places on the profits the author is projected to bring in. With small houses and for lesser known authors much of that work is handled by the writer. Big houses and well known writers often have more support available.
When I think of Europe, in general, I imagine enthusiastic readers and events involving them. What kinds of events for readers and writers were common pre-pandemic? How about now?
T: We really have a very enthusiastic reading public here. Especially in Germany, we consider ourselves the land of poets and thinkers. Book sales did not collapse during the pandemic, on the contrary. There are an incredible number of crime festivals here in Europe, to which I was always invited before the pandemic. And the reboot is also just starting again. I’ve just come back from a reading in Switzerland and I’m already packing my suitcase again for Austria. And soon I’ll be entertaining the mostly German-speaking audience onboard a cruise ship to Iceland.It’s great to finally come in contact with the readers of my books again – although of course I was always in touch with them via my social media platforms during the lockdowns. But live and in colour is simply something else. I am very happy right now!
As a full-time crime writer, I usually write “on commission” – I kill for hire, so to speak. (Only on paper, of course.) That means I get my fee in advance, and in return the publisher is allowed to make a wish – for example, they might wish for a certain plot location. Do you develop your own book ideas and then look for the right publisher? Or do you also develop your book ideas together with your agent and/or your publisher?
J: How fascinating! We have books in the States that are considered “write-for-hire” which means a flat fee is given in exchange for a book being written and often such contracts involve an idea that the house has in mind. It can be extremely specific or far looser, depending on the house. In other cases the writers come up with a proposal or an entire novel all on their own and their agents send it out on submission. Editors can ask if there is room to negotiate some of the details if they like the general idea but would like to see something tweaked, but the author need not accept the suggestion. There are also some writers who have existing relationships with editors that involve collaborative conversations about possible novels. I think most authors here that are agented discuss the viability of book ideas with their agents, at least to some extent before sending a completed manuscript to them to shop.
Thanks for visiting with me on the Wickeds blog, Tatjana! I love chatting with you!
Tatjana Kruse is a vintage girl from the southern German hillsides. She grew up in beautiful Schwaebisch Hall, where she still lives and works as a full-time writer. She is a member of the Syndikat and PEN Germany.
Since 2000, she has been writing short crime novels (now represented in over 100 anthologies) as well as more than twenty crime novels, including the “Wuchtbrummen” series (Fischer/Goldmann), the “Seifferheld” series (Knaur/Haymon) and the “snoop sisters” series (Suhrkamp-Insel).
She regularly appears at major crime festivals in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, such as Mord am Hellweg, Stuttgart Crime Nights, Crime festival Tyrol, or the Munich Krimifestival.
Tatjana Kruse was awarded the Marlowe of the Raymond Chandler Society for her first short crime story, and the “Fancy Media Prize” for the second. Since then she has also been nominated several times for the Agatha Christie Prize. In 2005 she won the Nordfaelle Prize and as a result became resident crime writer in Flensburg for a summer. In 2010 she was resident crime writer in Wiesbaden. She can be found at:
Readers, do you have a friend or colleague who lives in another country? Have you ever lived in one? Have you ever wanted to move to a far-flung place?