Today our blog puts the Spotlight on UK Author Christoph Fischer. Christoph writes Historical Fiction.
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Christoph Fischer was born in Germany 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' is his first published work. "Sebastian" has been released in May 2013. He has written several other novels which are in the later stages of editing and finalisation.
SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author
First, congratulations on the launch of Sebastian. So Christoph, what’s next? When can we expect the third book in The Three Nations Trilogy? Do you have something else on the horizon? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?
Thank You James. The third in the Trilogy has come back from the beta readers and will be undergoing some minor changes and a rewrite during the next few weeks. The hope is to have it ready for late 2013 or early 2014.
This work in progress is currently loosely titled “The Farm in Heimkirchen” and follows yet again a large family and their fortunes, this time in a peaceful little community in Bavaria, towards the end and then mainly after World War II.
I have written so much about war and suffering, I wanted to show a different kind of drama and write a little about the times that followed the madness – a subject that has always interested me.
There were many things not dealt with at the end of “The Luck of the Weissensteiners” which sparkled some of the ideas in the third book. They had no place in the already epic Weissensteiner book and needed to be handled someplace else.
The new book is not about the Nuremburg Trials or any of the legal consequences of WWII but about the society and the German Nation rebuilding itself and much more importantly about my chosen characters in that environment.
You have a good following on twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? Do you see a carry over to your writing success?
Twitter is something I still learn about as I am using it. It has huge potential but it is time consuming. It is easy to connect with the wrong type of people on twitter who don’t read your tweets or who don’t have an interest in you other than to have impressive follower numbers. I found my Goodreads and Facebook activities much more helpful, as well as book dedicated blogs and reviewer websites I think a good presence on Amazon is important. All of these have contributed much more to my writing success than Twitter so far.
Do you do book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? If so, when and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?
I am afraid I am not making any personal appearances of yet. My presence is almost exclusively on the internet, blogs like yours and campaigning on the net - although I am talking to some of the local bookshops in the UK and there are possibilities of me making appearances in some of them later in the year.
You can find Christoph contact information above for his website, Goodreads, and Facebook. He does have two additional Facebook accounts:
Your covers carry a theme and your brand with them. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?
I have a very good friend who advises me on cover designs. When I proudly showed him my own and very amateurish first designs for “The Luck of the Weissensteiners” he politely pointed out the flaws with them. When I defended my choices he brilliantly extracted the reasons behind my choices, went online to a picture library and found some amazing pictures that expressed my ideas, only much more appealing and professional looking. Readers have commented and responded to the designs very positively when I put them on Facebook before publications.
My friend Daz then suggested creating a brand and using samples from the first cover to create that similar look for “Sebastian”. Naturally I put up no more resistance, the man knew what he was doing and apart from some basic input I decided to leave it to the true professional.
I had lots of complements about the design and the credit goes to Daz and his company http://www.nethed.com/
What kinds of writer support groups do you belong too? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?
I belong to a support group founded by visitors to a Hay House Publishing Workshop on self-publishing, I belong to Wanda’s Amazing Amazon Reviewers on Facebook, I joined theindietribe.com , some Historical Novel Societies on Facebook and plenty of discussion groups on Goodreads.
If I were more organised I am sure I could get much more advice and support from them. All of the above are very useful to connect with readers and writers alike and get feedback and support. As it so happens I write and probably still read too much to focus entirely on the marketing of my books which is something I need to address, maybe after the next book on my tbr pile. Or the one after that…..
Has the advent of ebooks changed anything in your writing, your marketing and the relationship with your readers and fans?
Yes, without e-books I would not have gotten this far in publishing I reckon. Conventional Publishers are overloaded with book submissions and it is difficult to find people even just to talk to. My books are labours of love for me and I much rather promote them myself and seek the right audience than to be an anonymous number in a large company, even though it might take longer to achieve my goals that way.
The audience that I have reached so far has been mainly appreciative and has encouraged me to persevere. I hope that audience will continue to grow.
What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?
I have given my book only to reviewers and to some prize giveaways so far and I have found the recipients appreciative and pleasant. Many of them then recommended my books to their friends.
Depending on your publisher there are limits to giveaways, copyright issues and vindictive measures by the publishing houses. I am considering an option with KdP that will make that kind of process easier, but I have been sidetracked with publicity for Sebastian to investigate.
Other authors recommend give-aways but only in connection with the right marketing and publicity strategy. One friend told me her giveaways have connected her with the wrong type of audience and it has brought her some unnecessary poor reviews on Amazon by readers with wrong expectations and people that were not interested in the subject she wrote about. I am going to look into some giveaways on Amazon over the summer and will get back to you on the success.
How do you manage your plots, characters and timelines to keep your stories going? Do you use any software to keep track of your books?
In all my books I have had some basic plot ideas and some characters I wanted to include in the story prior to writing. I read and research the background extensively before I write the first page but I continue with my research all the way during the process. As I re-read and double check facts or have to find out more details I often come across minor errors in my sources (or in my assumptions) that force the plot into slightly different directions.
As far as the characters are concerned, they frequently change of their own accord and make me change their story. The whole process is very dynamic and subject to constant change.
I keep a time-line on a separate piece of paper and write down dates, events and anything important, so that I can refer to it later. My editors are luckily very sharp and point out any continuity issues that slipped through the net.
I do not use any software. It might pay off in some ways but it might also take out the originality and enjoyment that the current “chaos factor” brings for me.
Tell us about the unique selling/marketing situation you have living and writing in the UK? Where is your biggest audience, UK or US? Does marketing online help in the situation?
Yes, that situation is rather strange and has led to some sleepless nights for me.
I have a lot of followers in the West of the US, particularly around Arizona and California. Comments and other communication with bloggers, readers and reviewers are taxing on my sleep pattern. I have to catch these people before they go to bed or if they speak to me when it is night here they often keep me up all night.
This could not be done without the internet.
I have written my books with the UK market in mind and was surprised that there was interest in the US at all. Some readers have commented on the words and expressions I use that are more British. Maybe because my books are Historical Novels set in Europe the language I use has attracted more people than putting them off. My relative success in the US however has fed back to the UK and generated interest here as well. In that I have been quite lucky.
Have you published your books in other languages like German?
My family, friends and even some strangers have requested German versions of the book but I have not got that far yet. Everything in my publishing life has happened very fast since I published the first book last November. It was almost only meant as a casual trial run and I had no coherent marketing strategy to start with. Thanks to many Internet friends, reviewers and other writers I have learned quickly.
My brother has started on a German translation for “The Luck of the Weissensteiners” but since he is a writer himself and has a full time job he has not made solid progress yet. I am in talks with possible translators for a Dutch and a Hebrew version.
Author's Book List
- The Three Nations Trilogy - Volume 2
Sebastian is the story of a young man who, due to an unfortunate accident, has his leg amputated shortly before World War I. When his father is drafted to the war it falls 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, the time of war and the end of the Monarchy, while trying to make a living and to preserve what they hold dear. Fischer brilliantly describes life in Vienna during the war years; how it affected the people in an otherwise safe and prosperous location, the beginning of the end for the monarchic system , the arrival of modern thoughts and trends, the Viennese class system and the end of an era. As in the first book of the trilogy, “The Luck of The Weissensteiners” we are confronted again with themes of identity, nationality and borders. The step back in time 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 sequential order, so as not to see one as the consequence of the other, but to experience them as the reality it must have felt like for people at the time.
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The Luck of the Weissensteiners
- The Three Nations Trilogy - Volume 1
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. 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 their lot through the war with its predictable and also its unexpected turns and events and the equally hard times after. From the moment that Greta Weissensteiner enters the bookstore where Wilhelm Winkelmeier works, and entrances him with her good looks and serious ways, I was hooked. But this is no ordinary romance; in tact 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 Christoph Fischer gives his readers 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. Set in the fascinating area of Bratislava, this is a wide-ranging, historically accurate exploration of the connections between social location, personal integrity and, as the title says, luck. I cared about every one of this novel's characters and continued to think about them long after I'd finished reading. -- Andrea Steiner, University of California Santa Cruz The Luck of the Weissensteiners is an epic saga set in wartime Eastern Europe. It follows the lives of two families - one Jewish, one Catholic - and their entwined survival amidst the backdrop of the second world war; first the fascist then the communist invasion and occupation of Slovakia, and the horror of the consequences of war. The reader is transported to a world of deception, fear, distrust and betrayal, alongside enduring love and family drama. The characters are vividly painted in the mind of the reader as we follow their journey across Europe at a time of unimaginable challenge and trauma. Weissensteiners is a magnificent tale of human survival. I wish I hadn't read it already so that I may repeat the pleasure of discovering and becoming lost in the story once again.
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