Saturday, May 24, 2014

Featured Author: Christoph Fischer

Christoph Fischer's fourth book, Time To Let Go, is a family drama that deals with the issue of Alzheimer's Disease. My mother, who recently passed away, had dementia, a sister to Alzheimer's, so I'm anxious to read this book. This is Christoph's fourth visit to A Blue Million Books. He's been here previously to talk about his Three Nations Trilogy, specifically, The Luck of the Weissensteiners, Sebastian, and The Black Eagle Inn. Check out those features, and then check out the books. But first, read my most recent interview with Christoph and an excerpt from Time To Let Go.

About the book:

Following a traumatic incident at work, Stewardess Hanna Korhonen decides to take time off work and leaves her home in London to spend quality time with her elderly parents in rural England. There she finds that neither can she run away from her problems, nor does her family provide the easy getaway place that she has hoped for. Her mother suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and, while being confronted with the consequences of her issues at work, she and her entire family are forced to reassess their lives.

The book takes a close look at family dynamics and at human nature in a time of a crisis. Their challenges, individual and shared, take the Korhonens on a journey of self-discovery and redemption.

Interview with Christoph Fischer

Christoph, what inspired you to write Time to Let Go?

I thought I knew a lot about Alzheimer’s and dementia until I finally got to witness the disease first-hand, about five years ago. I have seen some very different approaches as to how to best look after the victims. Caring at home or using professional help? That issue played a prominent part in my life. At the time of writing the book, I was working for an airline, which should explain the other parts of the story.

Who is your target audience?

Fans of family dramas will probably enjoy it the most. People who are unfamiliar with Alzheimer’s or the life of cabin crew may get some ideas of what is involved, whereas those already in the know hopefully might find it re-assuring and enjoyable.

How long did it take you to write this book?

I wrote the first draft within two months, in 2011. It was actually the third book I wrote, but I got carried away with the historical novels, and revisited Time To Let Go only when I needed a break from my war stories. Since November 2013, I have rewritten it about five times before giving it to the editors in March.

What do you hope readers will get from Time to Let Go?

I hope the book provides entertainment for its readers with some informative parts and a little food for thought. Understanding Alzheimer’s and what the sufferers and their families go through is only one aspect of the story. The life of flight attendants is something that many people have misconceptions about. 
Primarily however, the book remains a family drama. We all come to crossroads in our lives and need to make tough decisions. We hold on to things that we need to let go of, only we need to know what they are and when is the right time to do so.

Why did you decide to write Time To Let Go? Have you had any personal experience with Alzheimer’s patients?

Yes, my aunt, who played a very central role in my life, was diagnosed with it several years ago. I see her once or twice a year and have witnessed the progress of the disease and the way she is cared for over the course of time. I have also come in contact with a few other sufferers, although much more superficially.

Did you do much research for this book?

I read several books about the disease when my aunt was diagnosed, long before I thought about writing this book. A lot of the information was also collected from real life – first and second hand. In my life for the airline, I met many people and exchanged stories with them on long sleepless night flights: there was no shortage of material. I took a deliberate decision though, not to make a fictionalized documentary.
 The most difficult parts to research were police procedures and other details that play actually a very minor role in the book.

What was the most difficult scene or chapter to write?

The scene I am including as an excerpt. At a certain stage of Alzheimer’s, patients can get very repetitive, yet obsessive in their interactions. At that point, conversations with them can be very taxing. It was very hard to write that scene at the Korhonen kitchen table. I wanted to show the problem without losing the attention of my readers, I wanted to show Hanna and Walter’s different ways of handling it, while making sure that Biddy still remained a likeable character. 
I have witnessed many such moments in my life but needed to come up with something new and fictitious to protect the dignity and privacy of the people who inspired my story.

What’s your routine for writing? Do you work better at night, in the afternoon, or in the morning?

I work best very early in the mornings, before the Internet wakes up and keeps me busy. I do need to take the dogs for a walk first though, or Molly will push my hands off the keyboard with her nose, Wilma will drop the ball in front of my feet every two seconds, and Greta will give me her most evil look.

You're a devoted dad! Where do you prefer to do your writing?

Anywhere quiet and secluded really. I have a small office which is away from everything else in the house.

Where’s home for you?

Home is wherever my partner and my dogs are. I have moved so many times in my life that I feel quite ungrounded, to be honest. I missed over twenty-four years in my hometown in Germany. It has changed so much, it feels somewhat strange to me now: the people and the culture (the language even) have evolved, leaving me confused in otherwise familiar surroundings. I spent nine years in London and will always feel home there to some degree, but not entirely. Where we live now, the deep West English countryside, is beautiful and very familiar, too, after 5 years, but there is not much of a community, so we could easily move somewhere else.

What’s one of your favorite quotes?

"He is not the Messiah, he is a very naughty boy." From Life of Brian, Monty Python.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Currently, I am binge-watching Dexter, a very gory TV series about a mass murderer and some more lighthearted comedy programs, such as Modern Family and Brooklyn 9-9. I love running, walking the dogs and lifting weights to balance the hours in front of the computer; I still have the addiction of reading books, and I enjoy just being completely silly with my friends.

You’re self-publishing this book. How has that process been for you?

The process has been amazing. I was lucky to have met helpful people who gave me good advice very early on in the process. In particular, I attended a self-publishing seminar in London and realized that the publishing industry has changed dramatically over the last decade. You are expected to do a lot of your marketing and social media platform work yourself. What some publishers offer may not be in your best interests; for example giving up the rights and control over your work and how it is promoted. I was lucky to have had the right help, the time to learn and to do it. 
It is a bit of an acquired taste, but now I absolutely enjoy doing it all by myself – of course with the help of wonderful friends I made on the way.

What have been the most effective marketing tools in promoting your books?

Book blogs and Twitter. I found that the second I stop tweeting, my sales drop. Via HootSuite, I have learned to catch the people who like or respond to my tweets, and I have made more helpful contacts that way than I would have dreamed. Many reviews and messages about my books suggest that readers found my books on other blogs, which is encouraging.

I noticed you have 18.5K Twitter followers. I know you’re a great guy with a charming personality, but on earth does one get that many followers?

Weeks’ worth of continued hard labor on Twitter and HootSuite. Making your tweets interesting and not just hard sales of your own books but also about other books and issues I believe will keep you the followers that you gained. I interact with other twitter users and re-tweet their interesting tweets, which helps both parties to get attention from the other user’s followers.  Following the followers of similar authors can lead to reciprocation, and having my dogs in the profile picture helps, too. There are automated tools to take some of the workload off you, but since twitter has floated on the stock market and offers to ‘promote your account’ for cash, they are a little restrictive about this.

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on several projects. An epic historical novel set in Scandinavia, mainly Finland, from 1918 - 1950, currently with the working title In Search of a Revolution. It tells the story of two friends on opposing political sides and how their lives change during the various wars being fought in Europe during that era. I also just started writing a psychological thriller, currently called The Healer, which my partner had the idea for last week. I have not been able to stop writing it.

Other books by Christoph Fischer

Excerpt from Time To Let Go

Hanna looked around the room for inspiration, but all she could think of was the tried and trusted: “Is there anything interesting in the newspaper?”

“Yes. Let me have a look,” her mother said, as she folded the newspaper back to the front page and scanned the article in front of her with intense concentration.

“Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg...” Biddy began, and read the entire article remarkably well, without any errors.

After finishing Biddy asked: “What is the Taliban?”

Walter shot his daughter a warning look and shook his head.

“Oh, they are politicians,” Hanna said vaguely. “A lot of people do not like them.”

“Ah, politics,” she replied. She hesitated for a moment then she went back to the paper.
“Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg...”

“Is everything ok with you?” Walter asked his daughter whispering so as not to disturb his wife’s reading.

“Oh yes, all good,” she nodded enthusiastically.

Walter turned away from the stove and looked at her intently.

“There’s something you’re not telling me. I’m not stupid!”

“There is nothing going on that you should be concerned about,” Hanna said, shifting in her seat. “You are doing a fantastic job looking after mother. Stick to that as your family duty. I can manage my life. I am 40 years old, for crying out loud.”

“Who is the Taliban?” Biddy interrupted.

“They are politicians,” Hanna repeated.

“What kind of politicians?”

“Not very nice ones,” Hanna replied. “A lot of people don’t like them.”

“Ah,” Biddy nodded, looking at the paper. Then she turned back to Hanna and asked “Who is it that the people don’t like?”

“The Taliban, Biddy.”

“Who is the Taliban?”

“They are politicians.”

“Hanna save yourself the effort, you are hardly going to teach her about world politics now,” Walter said, but Hanna ignored him.

“What kind of politicians?” Biddy asked again.

“You don’t need to worry about them,” Hanna put her comforting hand on her mother’s shoulder. “The government is dealing with them. They have no relevance to you or me.”

“Are you sure?” Biddy was shifting uncomfortably in her seat.

Hanna pressed harder on her mother’s shoulder.

“Quite sure.”

“Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg...”

“I admire your endurance,” Walter said, blatantly talking over his wife now from the stove. “If I were you I would just steer the conversation to something else. Why should she concern herself with the Taliban?”

“Why should she concern herself with anything these days?” Hanna shot back. “It doesn’t really matter what she engages with. As long as she interacts and asks questions I am glad for her.”

“You can only confuse her by talking about abstract things like that. Keep it simple.”

“I am not going to discourage her if she shows interest in something. I just want her to feel valued, surely that is worth a few repetitive moments.”

“We’ll see how you feel when you have done this for a week, or a month,” Walter said.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love your patience. Just don’t burn yourself out.”

About the author:

Christoph Fischer was born in Germany, near the Austrian border. After a few years in Hamburg he moved on to the UK where he now lives in a small hamlet, not far from Bath.  He and his partner have three Labradoodles to complete their family.

Christoph worked for the British Film Institute, in libraries, museums and for a major airline. He completed the historical Three Nations Trilogy last year, which included: The Luck of the Weissensteiners, Sebastian, and The Black Eagle Inn.

Connect with Christoph:
Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | 

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