Geetanjali Mukherjee

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

How I Write: Authors on Their Writing Process - Magnus Stanke

This week's interview is with German thriller author Magnus Stanke. 

1.          When did you first start writing?
As a kid I wanted to become a Hollywood star. When I finally managed to convince my mum to buy a super-8 camera in order for my friends and me to make films, I realized that I also needed a screenplay.  That’s when I began to write.

2.          What are your books about? Are you self / traditionally published or hybrid?
I write retro-thrillers, suspense novels that are set in the recent-ish past that is fast disappearing. ‘Falling in Death in Love’ takes place in 1977 in Spain, which had been ruled until 1975 by a fascist dictator. In 1977 there were forces who tried to turn back the tide of time. ‘Time Lies’, my new book, starts in 1982 in a Germany divided into East and West. It ends in 1993, a few years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
At the moment I self-publish.

3.          What's your writing process like? Do you outline? Do you write by hand / type / dictate?
I always start with an outline that sets out plot and chapter structure and I draw timelines for the various characters. It’s time consuming initially, but worthwhile in the long run. The first draft I write by hand. When I type up the manuscript I have get rid of the worst errors. After that everything happens on my laptop.

4.          Any favorite apps / software / technology for writing? 
No. I once tried speech-type software that was supposed to transcribe whatever I say as a dictation, you know. I’d talk and the thing would attempt to type what I said. We didn’t get on, that software and me. I don’t think I lasted more than an hour. I just ran out of patience, I’m afraid.

5.          When in the day do you usually write? For how long?
I write when I come home from work. In terms of concentration I’m usually still alright for an hour and a half, then I call it a day.

6.          Describe your desk / writing corner / favorite writing spot.
My bottom gets very sore because I spend a lot of time sitting on it, either when I’m writing or when I’m indulging in my other great hobby – watching movies. When I’m writing I sit at my desktop and type away, no music and hopefully no interruptions. Well, we have two cats and they’re allowed demand some attention from time to time. Needless to say, they demand it whether they’re allowed or not…

7.          Do you listen to music while you write? What kind of music?
I don’t listen to music when I’m writing per se, but I do listen to music when I’m thinking about the plot. As my books are set in a very specific past I make playlists (link: see above) with music that the characters are exposed to and I watch films from the era to get into the subconscious of the characters.

8.          Do you now, or did you ever have any day jobs? Did they add to or detract from your writing?
Yes, I have a day job. It’s a distraction because it means I don’t have enough time to write and promote my books. Then again, the grass is always greener on the other side, isn’t it? If I didn’t have the job and could spend all day writing, I’d probably miss having a daily social routine. I’d never leave the house anymore and develop really square eyes from staring at my screen all the time.

9.          How do you make the time to write?
Writing a novel is a bit like running a marathon. A LOT of time and energy goes into it. I need a daily routine to keep me going.

10.       How much marketing do you do? Which platforms are you most active on?
Not a lot. I’m no good at marketing and I don’t particularly like it. Thankfully I rarely have enough time to write and p/r so I opt for the former and neglect the latter… I wouldn’t recommend it as a method to develop a bestseller, though.

11.       What's the most fun aspect of marketing? The most challenging?
It’s fun to try and come up with catchy slogans. It’s challenging – to put it mildly – to make a mark in a world full of aspiring novelists.

12.       What project are you working on now?
I’m currently between drafts of my second novel, Time Lies. Like the first book, it’s a retro-thriller. Unlike the first one, the location is Cold War Germany of the 1980s. I have started to think about my third book which will complete the – loose – retro-thriller trilogy. I say ‘loose’ because you don’t have to read them in order.

13.       What books do you like to read? What are you reading now?

As far as mystery/thriller writers are concerned, I dig what Gillian Flynn and S. J. Watson are doing nowadays without ever forgetting the established Greats of Hard-Boiled, Raymond Chandler, James McCain, Elmore Leonard, Richard Stark, Jim Thompson, James Ellroy, Carl Hiaasen, James Lee Burke, Lawrence Block. I could go on but I don’t want to bore anyone.

My two favourite writers are Mario Vargas Llosa from Peru and Haruki Murakami from Japan. Neither are thriller authors in any classical sense, through reading their books provides a thrilling experience second to none.

I came to fiction writing relatively late in life, and via detours in song-writing, screenplays and film criticism. It’s probably true to say that I didn’t excel in the first, was mediocre at the second, and none-too-bad at the third. But I have no regrets. It was all worthwhile.

I have lived more than half my life outside of my native Germany and have worked at a variety jobs over the years, some of which seemingly in a previous life, they feel so long ago. I have been a banker in Munich, a dishwasher in Tel Aviv and an English teacher in Buenos Aires. And a Shiatsu therapist & masseur in London. For many years I simultaneously studied full-time and worked part-time. And, oh yes, I used to travel, a lot, too, backpack, guitar and all.

Then, seven years ago and sun-starved after many years under a London cloud, I moved to Spain and I did the unthinkable: I took a full-time job. The horror….Funny thing is, it isn’t so bad. Who would have thought that working with children could be fun, endearing and educational - moi? NEVER. 
Goes to show how wrong I was.

Now I even wear a tie to work, shave regularly and tuck in my shirt. Alright, I admit it. I’ve become your regular Joe Square; no, make that Hans Square. Except that now I write novels, thrillers, and time has turned into a rare and precious commodity. I wish there were more hours in the day, literally. Thankfully I’ve got my summer holidays right now so I can concentrate on
my second book Time Lies.

Facebook | Goodreads 
Spotify playlists for the book: Playlist 1 | Playlist 2

Falling in Death and Love

Love hit when they met. Murder came later

The year: 1977. No internet, no mobile phones; tablets cure headaches not boredom. 

The place: Mallorca, Spain. The Dictator is Dead, Long Live Tourism 

David falls hard for Aurora and vice versa, but the holiday is over. When she returns she isn’t alone, the deadly chase already underway. 

First the hitmen then the police.  

Falling in Death and Love is a hard-boiled, heartfelt thriller, a breathless ride through times of change. 
Love, guilt, paternity, murder - probably not in that order.

                                                                 Amazon US | Amazon UK

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