Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Author Interview with Christoph Fischer, Author of "The Luck of the Weissensteiners" and "Sebastian."

Today I welcome the Author, Christoph Fischer to the blog. Christoph presently has two books out, the first of which is The Luck of the Weissensteiners. This is set in war torn Europe and incidentally, is one of the top ten indie books for August 2013.

Hello Christoph, and welcome. It's great to speak with you today and to learn a little more about your books, the Three Nations Trilogy.

Hello Sue and thanks for inviting me to your blog.

    Always a pleasure to host a fellow writer of historical fiction. Can I begin by asking what was it that influenced you to explore such periods of history?

When my interest in family history arose a few years ago I realised how little I knew about any of it, particularly Czechoslovakian history before and during WWII and about the places where my family came from. There was nobody I could get first-hand information from so I had to get my head into the archives and history books.
I am not a ‘pure’ German and have often felt a little bit like an outsider in Germany. Now I even live as an ‘alien’ in the UK and maybe that is why my interest was drawn to periods in history where Nations were drawn together or separated.
The fascination with what I found led to my first book, “The Luck of the Weissensteiners”. [My ancestors had different experiences to the characters in my book but they infiltrated my story a lot.]
Vienna and the early 1900's have always been mentioned in the literature I read for book one as a perfect place in history. I wanted to find out if that was true, which is why I chose it as the setting for my second book “Sebastian”. There were some unanswered questions and themes from the first book that I wanted to explore further and so I decided to write the Three Nations Trilogy. The breaking down of the multi-cultural Austro-Hungarian Empire in “Sebastian” serves as a useful and sharp contrast to the pan-Germanic Third Reich and offers a point for reflection between the two books.

Many authors state that it’s vital to establish a regular writing routine, but a few stress that they write only when the muse strikes. How would you describe your own writing process or routine?

I tend to write very early in the morning. Often I get up when it is dark and walk my dogs, then I sit down and write undisturbed until the rest of the world wakes up and starts making its demands on my time. I have been lucky in that I never experienced massive writer’s block. I have good writing days and bad ones. Usually after a few lousy days I am on a roll and catch up quickly.

    There's something special about writing in the early hours while the household sleep on. Describe your favourite writing place.
I used to travel for a living while I wrote the first few books. Any place was good as long as it was quiet and left me undisturbed. My window at home overlooks our garden and I would be lying If I said that the views didn’t inspire me a little. The greatest environment was probably a Japanese Spa retreat during a family holiday.

    Some authors never deviate from their preferred genre, whilst others have a mix. Is historical fiction your only genre or do you have a desire to delve into others?

I have another four drafts for novels in my drawers, one of which is also Historical Fiction, but the other three are about contemporary themes, such as Alzheimers, mental health and society drop outs. So far all my ideas for books have come to me quite naturally. I am not fixed on history, but it has a special draw for me. I am however always happy to try out new genres. Currently I am even working on a comedy.

    A comedy sounds very interesting. It sounds as if you're following your calling.
    I'm well aware that writing Historical fiction can be a mammoth task. I know that my own novel has taken up many hours of research. Did you have to do a great deal of research for all three books?

For the first book I definitely did. For several months prior to writing I studied history books, surfed the Internet and read a lot of fiction set in that period as well. I interviewed people who were alive around those times and I continued looking for relevant fiction and non-fiction books and read them while I was already writing and re-writing.

    Interviewing people is possibly one of the best ways to gain real info, especially to inject the personal touch into your work. My grandparents served in the Second World War but sadly, like many of their generation, they never discussed it. Do you know of any family members who served in either World War?

I know of one uncle who served in the last days of the war, at the young age of 15. He was always foolishly proud of his “bravery”. And one great uncle of mine never came back from Russia after the war but he was the only one ever mentioned. Both my grandparents had physical problems that exempted them from military duty. As Germany wanted to move on from its shameful past after the war people did ‘not to mention the war’, that is where the sitcom cliché has its true origins.

    It's sad to hear about your great uncle. I'm aware of the labour camps in Russia during that time and it's something that is not well known of today.
    As an author, you will no doubt be a prolific reader. I find myself dipping into one book one day and another the next. I must have several books by my bedside. What book(s) are on your bedside table right now?

Chesapeake” by James Michener, and next up on my kindle “Shattered Dreams” by Jyotsna Ramani and “To Fame's Proud Cliff” by Bob W. Dunbar.

    I like the title of the last one by Bob W.Dunbar. That's one I'll be looking up later.
    Should any new writers seek advice, what words of wisdom would you impart?

Believe in yourself and don’t give up. And the more you write the better you get (I hope lol)

    I'm sure you're right, Christoph. Sound advice. Now, writers sometimes talk about establishing the right mood or atmosphere within which to work. For me, music is key. Do you find listening to music aids your own creativity, or is there something else besides peace and quiet?

I prefer silence and a (imagined) Do-Not-Disturb-Sign outside my door but sometimes, when it finally is quiet, that distracts me actually more. I like to know that my partner is downstairs and love it when one of the dogs falls asleep on my feet. The grounding effect tends to spur me on.

    That's interesting and I suppose we all have our different, multifaceted ways of creating.
    So, just as there are many different reasons we become writers, who or what was it that enticed you to take the writers path?

Writing was originally just an experiment for me. I had time and ideas and I read a quote somewhere that said that if you are a writer you should be writing and not just thinking about it. Something along those lines. So I wrote down my ideas for a novel and began writing, fully expecting to run out of steam at any moment, but then I finished it, re-wrote it, edited and eventually passed it along to my friends to read and give me feedback. While they took their time to read it I wrote the next one and so on.

    The chronological period covered by book one and two is interesting. Book one, being set during the Second World War, and book two, during the Great War. Is there a single, overall message or multiple messages that you wanted to convey from your Three Nations Trilogy?

The trilogy is about Nations and identity. While we see in Book one what happens when the idea of nationalism is taken too far, we see in Book two that trying to keep ethnic groups together against their will can be impossible. Both led to horrible wars.
As borders and political nations can change and be redrawn at short notice, what is it that defines us as individuals and as groups? Religion, culture, loyalty to a thrown or leader, humanity, ideology? 
        Mine is not a statement message but an open question.

The other theme is a little clearer and is a message about being human. Everyone is fallible and slightly flawed, everyone can change and nearly everyone has a redeeming factor somewhere in their character.

    That's very interesting as well as being some very complex themes to explore.
    Finally, can you tell us a little about the last installment in the trilogy? Is it set before the Great War or is it set in the future?

The Black Eagle Inn”, my last book in the Trilogy, is about post war Germany, something that was not often discussed in my childhood. How had the Nation risen from the ashes to the place I knew when I grew up there in the 1970s?
The Black Eagle Inn” is another family saga between 1945 and 1975 in Bavaria. The fictitious town of Heimkirchen is an isolated place that was affected very little by the war directly because of its remote location. But nobody can escape the post-war politics and modernisation and my characters struggle with challenges of different kinds. One of the themes in the book is the arrival of workers from Italy and Turkey in Germany the 1950s, the so called Gastarbeiter, and their reception.

The book should be available later this year, hopefully in October 2013.

Christoph Fischer was born in Germany, near the Austrian border, as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. Not a full local in the eyes and ears of his peers he developed an ambiguous sense of belonging and home in Bavaria. He moved to Hamburg in pursuit of his studies and to lead a life of literary indulgence. After a few years he moved on to the UK where he is still resident today. ‘The Luck of The Weissensteiners’ was published in November 2012; 'Sebastian' in May 2013.He has written several other novels which are in the later stages of editing and finalisation.



The Luck of the Weissensteiners by Christoph Fischer

In the sleepy town of Bratislava in 1933 a romantic girl falls for a bookseller from Berlin. Greta Weissensteiner, daughter of a Jewish weaver, slowly settles in with the Winkelmeier clan just as the developments in Germany start to make waves in Europe and re-draws the visible and invisible borders. The political climate in the multifaceted cultural jigsaw puzzle of disintegrating Czechoslovakia becomes more complex and affects relations between the couple and the families. The story follows them through the war with its predictable and also its unexpected turns and events and the equally hard times after.
The Luck of the Weissensteiners (The Three Nations Trilogy 1)But this is no ordinary romance; in fact it is not a romance at all, but a powerful, often sad, Holocaust story. What makes The Luck of the Weissensteiners so extraordinary is the chance to consider the many different people who were never in concentration camps, never in the military, yet who nonetheless had their own indelible Holocaust experiences. This is a wide-ranging, historically accurate exploration of the connections between social location, personal integrity and, as the title says, luck.


Sebastian by Christoph Fischer
Sebastian (The Three Nations Trilogy 2)
Sebastian is the story of a young man who has his leg amputated before World War I. When his father is drafted to the war it falls on to him to run the family grocery store in Vienna, to grow into his responsibilities, bear loss and uncertainty and hopefully find love.
Sebastian Schreiber, his extended family, their friends and the store employees experience the ‘golden days’ of pre-war Vienna and the timed of the war and the end of the Monarchy while trying to make a living and to preserve what they hold dear.
Fischer convincingly describes life in Vienna during the war, how it affected the people in an otherwise safe and prosperous location, the beginning of the end for the Monarchy, the arrival of modern thoughts and trends, the Viennese class system and the end of an era.
As in the first part of the trilogy, “The Luck of The Weissensteiners” we are confronted again with themes of identity, Nationality and borders. The step back in time made from Book 1 and the change of location from Slovakia to Austria enables the reader to see the parallels and the differences deliberately out of the sequential order. This helps to see one not as the consequence of the other, but to experience them as the momentary reality as it must have felt for the people at the time.