Sara James and Tania Hawting managed to get this great interview with the incredibly talented German author Anja Kunzmann. If you have not read her work, an attempt should be made. Not exactly light reading but well worth the effort.
Thank you for agreeing to chat with us at Pink Sky Magazine. I am hoping you can tell us about yourself….
What style or genre of writing do you prefer?
I think the best advice for the art of writing is, to not determine a genre. Art should be free, and this is the function of art itself. The artist should be expressive, what s/he wants without tight borders. Otherwise, it is possible, but caged art, what is not the purpose and core of art.
For me I can say, it turned out, that I find myself home in writing contemporary literature in a way you give people something. I like to help and motivate people by getting another perception on things or helping them to find their own way. Sometimes I offer them simply an uplifting, beautiful story or just good entertainment or a challenging crime story. By writing contemporary literature, you can refer to society and have an impact on it in a positive sense.
Due to my studies of Geography and Social Sciences as well as German and Creative Writing I have a broad field combined with my experiences of traveling, working and living, that often flows into my texts. My first novel;
“The art of finding love” (“Die Kunst Liebe zu finden”)
for example, is initiated by developmental psychology, which says, that every human is going through different crises during the whole life. That sounds scary, and it can lead to destruction in life but doesn’t have to. Crisis (coming from the Greek language) means only change, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Every crisis can end positively. That is an important thing to know, I think, and as I wanted to write it as a *Bildungsroman, a helpful novel, that can guide readers to getting to know and trust themselves better as well as it can motivate them. So I considered what young people, but also many older ones are interested in. So I hope, that people, especially adolescents, can read this book and find a brighter view onto things, hope and help. The story takes the reader along on a journey. It is written in a calm pace, but yet still interesting as readers let me know, fortunately.
It contains some parts of a classical Bildungsroman* in it, that is common to be read in higher schools in Germany, written by Goethe (“Die Leiden des jungen Werther”).
It is a fabulous book, but it is also really terrible because it ends so brutally. I wanted to write a more modern book, contemporary art about the things that matter to people nowadays and problems they have. I also wanted to write something fresh for schools by a female author. One of the main protagonists is reading in Goethe’s book, during her journey through the plot. It is an interesting point, I think because it contains this contrariety of the somber, dramatic and a sad book of Goethe’s Werther on the one hand, yet on the other hand a life full of sunshine and lollipops. This book is not sad like Goethe’s Werther. I wanted to show, how things can work out in a positive, uplifting, yet romantic way. So I hope it encourages many readers, who might need something entertaining and a serious reading, they can identify with.
You are a very talented writer and well educated too. Do your books meet a wider audience do you think? Alternatively, do they reach a more niche audience of higher intellectuals? Is this reflected in any of the awards you have won?
With this and my second novel “Einohrhunde,” which takes place entirely in Düsseldorf, I was nominated for the literature prize of my Hometown Düsseldorf, what was a very uplifting and encouraging thing for me naturally. However, it is always the best part and the thing, that makes you proud the most, to get positive feedback on your stories.
Yes, it has. As a child, I read a lot, and I loved stories. Even though my father had four children and an own company, he took the time to tell us good-night-stories, before we fell asleep, what was a beautiful thing. I had three older siblings and was a bright and interested child, so I could write before I entered school. Math and German were subjects in which I excelled, as well as art, sport, religion and simply everything I liked and where I had good teachers. Besides creative writing in school, I drew a lot and played the piano. I wrote stories and poems at home.
What is your family situation? Are you the solitaire artist, devoted entirely to your craft, or do you have a family to care for too?
I have a beautiful, huge family, which I see regularly. We are six persons in the family, in which I grew up, and we keep in contact with all the relatives.
Nowadays I live with my friend in the most beautiful part of one of the cities of the world, which are always at the top in the ratings of the towns with the most life-quality in the world. I am thrilled to live here, and I do not want to live somewhere else.
What initially lead you into writing as a profession? Was it simply that you felt the artists call and knew the time had come?
There were several key-facts, which lead me into writing as a profession. I quit my dream job as director in fashion business on the Island Sylt and moved back home. I traveled to New York and had a beautiful love story. After this, I began to write a blog and started to interview people in the tradition of my journalism. I created portraits, see here; (2livecolourfully.blogspot.com)
and interviewed Anna Stothard, an author from England. She gave me some useful tips for writing novels. I published them on my website creativesouts.wordpress.com (in English).
So anyone, who is interested in writing can find some useful information there. Her novel “The Art of leaving”/”Die Kunst, Schluss zu machen” was always with me during the time I read it. It was not a book, I read within concise period, but I did not want to put it away. So I could always read in it when I was on the train and at home of course. I found it good as it was different, from all the other books, I discovered in the years before. It was written slow paced and calm, not overloaded with dialogues, what pleased me at this time very well.
I liked it, but I also felt, that it sounds like someone needs help. Also, I was often felt disappointed by the bestsellers I bought, so I thought, if I want to gift a good book or buy it for myself to enjoy, I have to write it myself. Another issue was that my cousin died and also the love story, I experienced in New York, inspired me. Everyone has a few problems in life and the crisis many people have by turning from his or her twenties into their thirties can be a particularly a difficult time, this I knew. So I did my best to try offering help to others with this book as I explained before (see above). It is not a self-help or advice book, it is still a novel, but I hope it is a good read to enjoy, sexy, but also serious, raising understanding and maybe guiding people’s wishes a little bit in the best sense. Another issue was that I wanted to bring attention to the life of elderly people, which are not easily given a life without work and worries by society, or surrounded by their family when becoming older. The grandmother of the main protagonist has a beautiful life though, and her family, as well as her granddaughter, care very well for her.
Moreover, these times in your own life are where you draw your inspiration from as a writer?
Yes, I am mostly inspired by my own life. This and what I see and experience, problems in society, various things I recognize, but also by the background knowledge I gained during my studies inspires me. It is beautiful, being able to put together all of the experiences and knowledge you have into a kind of fairy tale or almost fanciful, but realistic story, many can identify with. I grew up very privileged in a good family with no serious problems during my childhood and youth. We made beautiful travels with my family. When I was older, I went alone or with friends, also with University (what is especially cool as I studied Geography: traveling was on the schedule). I live on all these beautiful experiences and memories.
Can you please tell us about your early writing history also?
I used to work in a bank, when I was very young in the field of marketing, public relations and similar. I continued to stay in the area of communication in most of my jobs, and finally, I became a freelance journalist and consultant for advertising/marketing, which paid very well. The advertising more than the journalism, even though I loved creating portraits of people. One day I thought, I always wanted to write a book, so I should do it, the best opportunity for it has come. After fifteen years in journalism, being a pretty experienced writer, I felt the motivation, I received through this, reading and the tips of Anna Stothard and her writing was enough, to let no doubt holding me back, from what I really want to do, even if this appears to be is a crazy thing. Since then so many people loved my stories and appreciated my writing: they encouraged me very much to stay an author. To write novels is my passion.
How many years now have you been writing? Has it given you a sense of satisfaction to fully engage with your passion?
I published my first novel 2014; the next came onto the market 2015. I try to write a book each year, even though the one from last year will be published this year, I think.
You have said you were very inspired by Anne Stothart. Are there others who inspired you also?
There are many authors that inspire me. You just need a few influences to set free your own creativity, what is a healing process for everyone, I think. That is why creative writing is part of the schedule in medical faculties at universities nowadays too. Doing something, that comes out of your soul nourishes it at the same time. Bringing your thoughts, dreams, and fantasies in words and invent stories increases the creativity. I appreciate classical books and of course the ones, that were rated very well. I enjoy mostly stories, which bring me into a good mood and set free my own good experiences though. To be held a little bit in a cloud full of positivity by nothing more than educating yourself through reading is a good thing. So any author can inspire me. The most important fact about being an artist is to turn even bad things into something good, so you have a product made even out of adverse experiences in life. Art is about making something beautiful, I think.
It is so easy making something ugly, but making something beautiful is the point when work becomes art, I think.
Charlotte Link is an author that I find very positive, and I can recommend, even though crime-stories are not usually my favorite books, but “Die Betrogene” for example, I read very fast, like 600 pages in one week and I am not always such a fast reader. Combined with all the terrible things in politics (war/terror etc.), which happened in the last years and especially 2015/2016 with the trouble through the demographic wandering-movement, I was encouraged to write a political crime-story, after reading a few stories of this genre. This is my youngest project. It is called: Project Codeword F/Projekt Codewort F and will be published soon. The name of the next novel is “Liebe Rosa”/”Love Rosa.” This will be a beautiful love-story and released soon too.
What are your most recent awards and what were they called?
Unfortunately, I have no official awards yet, but I hope, I will not have to wait too long to get one finally. I was nominated for the literature award of my hometown Düsseldorf with my first two novels in 2016 (see above).
When did you realize you wanted to be a writer? Was it a childhood dream?
As a child, it was a wish. I finally realized it at the end of 2013.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I started to write the first parts, that lead into my first novel, published 2014 by the age of 38. Since then, I often thought, I should have started earlier.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I love walking for hours in beautiful nature, at sea at the weekends, when I was working on the island Sylt, in the forest or by the water here in my hometown. When being at one place the whole day (working at the desk), I need much physical exercises (I am like a dog at this point). I like running, canoeing, basketball and skiing for example.
What does your family think of your writing?Are they supportive of your creative work?
They think, I am talented and not a bad writer. (So they wait for me for landing a bestseller and getting my novels filmed in Hollywood.)
You are a multi-talented artist, aren’t you? What do other creative arts you engage in?
Sometimes and draw/paint and play the piano. The title of my book “Einohrhunde” is inspired a picture, I painted.
What is it about writing, as a medium that you prefer to other forms of communication?
One writes differently than one speaks, which is something I like. I also appreciate the time it gives you to answer a letter for example.
Creative Writing is very satisfying. Creative work, where you have a product, you are proud of, in the end, makes you feel content, I think.
Can you tell us more about YOU? The personal side of yourself, which might enable readers to get a glimpse of the real person.
Even MORE about me? I try to be a good person and to lead a good, healthy and happy life. I think, I am very kind and I lucky experiences, that many people are very helpful to me too. I am a very communicative person like most journalists are. It is easy for me to chat with people even if I do not know them. I try to be uncomplicated, but I am a perfectionist, so not everyone might find me too uncomplicated. I need much time for myself because writing and recreation require that, but I would go crazy without my friends because the process of writing is a pretty lonely thing.
I like children and animals. Most of them like me too. I appreciate very much when people are as honest as possible without being unkind. Also, I like loyal and funny people.
I like dancing, and I am a not too unimpressive a singer, which I experienced at a wedding.
I like to help people, and I enjoy helpful people. I care only about friendly people. The ones, which don’t care about others or treat them bad, I do not care about.
What would you like the PinkSky readers to know most about you?
I have started to give workshops for Creative Writing (in German), and I offer them worldwide at institutions, where German is spoken, for example at German Private Schools. I am pleased about the inquiries I received so far from all over the world and I would be happy about even more from your readers. The workshops can be held everywhere, if it is, to make your staff most potent and creative or to indulge yourself with a Workshop in Creative Writing or get your own book project started. You can find more information via our website creativescouts.wordpress.com.