For my blog this week, I am proud to present a "blog hop" between myself and Swiss children's author Karin Bachmann. Karin and I first met at Swanwick Writers Summer School about 10 years ago, and have been friends ever since. We have each asked the other 14 questions. To read Karin's questions for me, and my answers, go to Karin's blog
Karin is the author of THE VENETIAN PEARLS, the first book in the N.C.D. Mystery series, and a number of short stories. She also tweets for Swanwick Writers Summer School. Karin lives in the canton of Berne, Switzerland.
Your blog is called Stories 4 7-77. Can you explain that title to us?
I write mainly for children but occasionally also for adults. And don't we all love to listen to stories, no matter whether we are 7 or 77? I wanted the title of my blog to mirror that, hence "stories for seven to seventy-seven". To express that in numbers was actually my mother's idea.
On your blog, you are currently serialising Serena and the Knights of St. John, an exciting historical adventure. Have you written many historical stories, and what periods of history do you like best?
History has always fascinated me. My father introduced me to Greek mythology when I was about five or six. There are many periods I love: Ancient Egypt, ancient Greece or Rome, the Middle Ages, and the 16th up to the 19th century with their great discoveries. You name it. I don't write a lot of historical adventures. But in the sequel to the PEARLS, THE GRANDMASTER'S SWORD on which I'm working, I use glimpses into different historical periods to show the course of the eponymous sword. It was great fun researching and writing those. I liked some of the minor characters in those historical scenes so much, that I decided to write SERENA AND THE KNIGHTS OF ST. JOHN as a spin-off.
What was the first story you ever had published?
It was an adventure/crime story for 8-12-year-olds called "Der Fall Mateo" (The Mateo Case). A hair rising story about an heir's abduction. In retrospect, I wonder how it was ever published. But then, I was only 16 when I wrote it.
You write detective stories for children. Do you feel in touch with your inner child?
I'm afraid, I've never completely grown up. Sometimes I think writing, especially plotting, would be easier if I had. Often, my sense of adventure gets the better of me and the resulting plots have more holes than substance.
Did you enjoy writing stories as a child, or was it something you came to as an adult?
I've always thought up stories for as long as I can remember. But only in my teens did I begin writing them down.
You do schools visits as a writer. Has anything funny ever happened there?
They're always great fun and I marvel at the depth of the questions that come up. Often the kids try to sound "adult". One day, when I visited the same school for the second time within a week, I walked behind a child. When he heard my steps, he turned around and said, "Why, it's Ms Bachmann. Sorry I didn't recognise you at once. How are you today Ms Bachmann?" He sounded so grand and adult that it was hard to keep a straight face. I'm glad I managed it and was able to give him a suitable response because at the same time, his reaction was very flattering.
In your day job, you are an optician. Does anything from your optician's life ever find its way into your stories?
Yes. My day job is a great source for building characters – not only the appearances but also character traits, gestures and figures of speech.
How do you fit writing into your daily life?
Sometimes with difficulty. I work 80%, which gives me an additional day to write, apart from at the weekend. I work long hours, so come home after seven pm. By the time I've cooked dinner and cleared the kitchen, I'm often too tired to write. I'd rather get up early on my days off and try to sit at the computer by eight am. On a good day, I write two hours in the morning and three to four in the afternoon. Unfortunately, there are also household chores to be done, but tedious work like vacuuming and ironing are great plotting time – so is commuting to work.
You have just published a children's book, The Venetian Pearls, in English. What affected your decision to do that, and was it difficult to do?
Why did I consider writing in English? Delusions of grandeur, most probably. To be frank, it was the English teacher I had in New Zealand who egged me on to try it, promising he'd correct everything I'd send him. (He's kept his promise up to the present day). Also, I learnt a lot about writing in English at the Swanwick Writers' Summer School. The support I found there also let me give writing in another language a try. I was also lucky to find a great mentor in a Swanwick friend. All that made the process much easier than it could have been without any help.
What is your favourite story or book that you have written?
It's a whodunit for 8-12-year-olds published in Switzerland called "Die Zirkusaffäre" (The Circus Mystery). I love the characters in it and think that – for once – I found a good balance between suspense and humour.
You have been coming to Swanwick Writers' Summer School in England every year for several years now. (And this year you won their Writing For Children competition) What do you get out of coming to the school?
Where to begin? Writing is a solitary business. It's fantastic to have a place where you can "talk business" all day long for almost a week without anybody's eyes glazing over. The people at Swanwick have all been there, made similar experiences and can give hands-on advice on just about every aspect of writing – not to mention a shoulder to lean or cry on if need be.
What are you reading at the moment?
Usually, I read several books at the same time. One before going to bed, one while commuting and during the lunch break, and an eBook.
I've just finished your SILVERHANDS and absolutely loved it! Now I've tackled the third part of the BARTIMAEUS trilogy as my night read. THE TV DETECTIVE by Simon Hall is riding on the train with me and THE IMPORTANCE OF WISDOM by Michael O'Byrne is my present e-read.
Most readers outside Switzerland don't know much about Swiss literature. Do you have a favourite book by a Swiss author that you could recommend?
THE PLEDGE (Das Versprechen) by Friedrich Dürrenmatt is an absolute must-read. The complete Dürrenmatt, actually. Here's a writer who always confessed to not believing in justice on earth. And yet all his stories come to a satisfying and, in the wider sense of the word, just finish.
How can readers get in touch with you?
You can find me on Twitter (@BookwormKarin), Google+ and, most recently, on LinkedIn. And, of course, you can contact me via my blog. I'm always happy to hear from readers.
I would like to thank Karin very much for coming up with this idea, and for answering my questions.
(Thank you for participating and for your interesting questions.)