Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Author Interview: Beate Boeker

Wednesday Morning Author Interviews are so much fun, to both participate in and read, especially when it involves Beate Boeker, who is a fun and fascinating writer who lives in Germany.  I have no doubt you’ll enjoy getting to know here as much as I did.  So, here we go....

Me:  I understand if you toss your name into Latin/German to English translator, then Beate Boeker would, literally, come out as  Happy Books.   And you are a self-described Happy Books writer! So did you decide to do that based on your name translation, or did you figure out the translation after you started writing?

Beate:  My husband figured it out after I had finished my first novel in English. He was delighted when he discovered that the name had not been taken on the Internet and immediately booked it for me before he started to create my website. It's funny that we never even noticed it in all the years before.

Me:  Tell us about your latest book for Avalon, A Little Bit of Passion.

Beate:  It's my only novel ever written in first person. The heroine Karen writes e-mails to her best friend Leslie and tells her about the interesting man she met . . . and how her feelings spiral out of control.

Me:  What is your favorite scene in A Little Bit of Passion?


Beate:  Hmmm - difficult - I have favorite phrases and jokes scattered throughout the book, but my favorite scene is probably the very first kiss.

Me:  Sigh...first kisses usually get me too.  So, where did you find the kernel of an idea for this book?

Beate:  It was the weather. When autumn comes, I get a great longing for snow and skiing. I didn't have money to go skiing that year, so I created a world where the snow crunches underneath your boots to make up for it.

Me:  The setting for this book bounces between snow skiing the Teton Mountans in Wyoming to a bookstore on Long Island, New York. What made you select these locations? Have you visited both these places?

Beate:  I once spent two days on Long Island, but I've never been to the Teton Mountain Range. I always look around until I find an area that inspires me, then I dig deeper and search the Internet, pour for hours over maps, find out connections and distances, etc. I was shocked when I found out that one mountain was called Fred. How can you call a beautiful mountain Fred? I had to use the real name in my novel, but I made sure that Karen voiced her displeasure.

Me:  I have to agree with Karen.  So, now that we’re on the subject, tell us about the hero and heroine, and how they met.

Beate:  Karen is a skiing instructor in winter and works at her partially owned book-store in summer. John has booked the Easter skiing course together with his teenage son. Karen falls for him right away but tries to keep her distance for fear of becoming too involved. An accident changes everything.

Me:  I personally am impressed that romance writers can keep two helplessly in love people apart for 200 pages. What is the conflict that keeps Karen and John apart?

Beate:  It's Karen's need for independence. She has built her life just as she wants it, and she's happy with it. Being with John would mean giving up something that's precious to her. I believe that this is something many couples today face when coming into a new relationship. Unless you start out as a very young couple, you need to create some place for this new person in your life. However, your life has been fully organized already, so it takes a strong willingness to adapt and compromise.

Me:  That’s a great premise.  And rather serious sounding, yet your voice for this book is light and breezy and totally engaging. Is that natural for you? Or do you have to work really hard to achieve that effect?

Beate:  This novel was special for me as it gripped me more than any other ever did. While writing it, I was deep inside the character of Karen. So I edited very little on the voice. However, when I first sent it to Avalon, I only had the letters of Karen to her best friend Leslie. I never showed Leslie's answers. The then-editor Faith Black suggested that I add Leslie's answers to make the exchange more natural. I found that hard because I wanted to make her voice different – and I also didn't want to make her too prominent next to Karen. I compromised by making Leslie into a person who's not that much into writing and also very busy, so that she had reason enough to keep her letters short.

Me:  So it’s not the first draft that’s ending up in print (which we all know is rarely the case.)  There are so many stages involved in writing a 70,000-word novel, from breathing life into new characters, fleshing out a full first draft, to polishing until the manuscript shines.  What’s your favorite part?

Beate:  Writing the beginning. A new novel is as easy as a new relationship. Everything is interesting; everything is possible. Toward the middle, things become harder and I usually think This is the most boring novel ever written. I tell my husband so, who always nods and says, You've said that before. Then I put it away, and when I take it out again, I tell him, You know, it's not as bad as that. I even laughed once, though I knew the joke.

Me:  When you write yourself into a corner (let's face it, we've all done it a time or two), what tricks do you have to get yourself out?

Beate:  I tell my long suffering family and friends the whole plot, and while I do so, ideas come to me. Usually, my family is not much help, as my husband, an avid fantasy fan, often recommends to throw in a few dragons or wizards to make it more interesting, and then they're off creating wholly impossible stories. But just telling them helps me already (even if I don't listen to their fantasy-oriented advice).

Me:  How long does it take you to write a book?

Beate:  Nine months at least. Sometimes longer. I try not to abandon a book and start another one, but it does happen. However, in that case, I force myself to return and continue with the abandoned before starting a third one, otherwise, I'd have too many unfinished novels floating around.

Me:  On your website <<www.happybooks.de>>, the authors you list as your favorites are in the mystery and young adult genres, yet you chose to write romance. There has to be a story there...

Beate:  Wow, I'm impressed you have noticed that. Basically, my favorite novels are the ones that combine cozy mysteries with romance. That's why my first novel (the one I wrote in German) was a mix of both. However, when I worked on my manuscript, I noticed that it sounded fairly convincing in the romance part (the concept of love wasn't that foreign to me), but the mystery part was all wrong (bodies and such threw me in a panic). So I decided to remain on firm ground for the beginning. In the meantime, I feel more comfortable as a writer, so I have started to acquaint myself with bodies and such (theoretically, of course!) and have started to write those mystery-romance novels close to my heart. However, I haven't yet sold them.

Me:  So what’s next for you, a mystery or romance?

Beate:  A contemporary romance between a vet (the heroine) and a star in a crisis (a singer). Oh, and a puppy. When it's done, I'll return to my abandoned mystery-romance set in Italy with a crazy family (it's the second in a series).

Me:  Your mother tongue is German, and yet you chose to write in English. Why is that?

Beate:  When I started to write, I realized I needed help – teachers, mates, someone to show me the ropes. However, I couldn't find enough material in Germany as our cultures are very different. I'll give you an example. Imagine you're training seals for a living and want to write a romance. If you tell someone in Germany, people will smile with a mix of amusement and condescension, pad your shoulder, and  say, „Yeah, these strange dreams will disappear as you settle down. Don't we all dream of writing a book from time to time?“ In the US, people will shrug and say, „Why not? Go for it. If you want it, you can do it.“ That's why it's easier to learn a new trade in the US. It doesn't matter where you come from. It only matters where you want to go.

Me:  If you don’t mind getting personal for a moment, I have to ask, how do you juggle your "other" career, motherhood and writing?

Beate:  I write at the weekends. During the week, I'm too tired to be creative – that's when I do promotional stuff and help with the Avalon blog. I type very fast and can manage one thousand words in roughly two hours. The most I ever did was five thousand words on one day – but that only happened once!

Me:  What do you love to do when you're not working/writing/homemaking?

Beate:  I sleep. Embarrassing, really, but I sleep a lot. I love to sleep. People tell me I'll become very old due to that odd habit. Am not sure I want to become THAT old, but I can't help it. When a certain point is reached, my body switches off the light.

Me:  I read on your website you like to go to the zoo. What is your favorite animal to visit?

Beate:  It's not a specific animal. It's the bathrooms (really!). The zoo I go to is famous for creating whole worlds. They have Africa, Alaska, and India, and everything you see fits into that world. It's like stepping into a book and living there . . . I love how they decorate every tiny thing to match that world, even the bathrooms: India has turquoise mosaic walls! The elephants (to name some animals) fit right in. They are part of the picture but not the sole attraction.

Me:  Is there something you're willing to reveal about yourself that your readers don't already know about you?

Beate:  I sometimes dance to my favorite songs in the living room together with my daughter. Makes me happy.

Me:  I guess all that happy dancing is the secret to her writing happy books!  Thanks, Beate, for your time and willingness to answer all theses questions. 

For anyone who want to know more about Beate and her books, check out her website <<www.happybooks.de>>.  She is also on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=105190536233784&id=1511072093#!/profile.php?id=1511072093 

13 comments:

Carolyn Brown said...

Lovely interview. Do you think you'll ever write a first person again? I wrote my first, The Ladies Room (October), but I'm not sure I'll attempt it again. Your book sounds wonderful and I love the premise.

Sandy Cody said...

What a happy interview! Now I really want to go to Germany and go to the zoo - so I can go to the bathroom. Thanks, Beate, for sharing your life with us and thanks to you too, Jayne, for asking just the right questions. Reading this was a nice way to start my day.

Beate Boeker said...

Yes, I think I'll write in first person again, Carolyn. Even though it has its limits, I had so much fun writing this novel.
Sandy, if you ever come to Germany, I will take you to the zoo. Promise!

Elisabeth Rose said...

I can attest to the fact Beate is a happy person. We had a great time together at the Washington conference--two foreign newbies :)

Beate Boeker said...

I was so glad you were there, Lis. Thanks to you and Shirley, I didn't feel like an outsider . . . and then I met all the other Avaloners, too. It's a shame I won't be in NYC this summer, but I definitely plan to return one year.

mulligangirl said...

Great interview, Jayne and Beate! Beate, I learned something new about you—that bit about enjoying the zoo for the bathrooms. How fun!! I'm looking forward to reading your book, and I'm excited for that crazy Italian romance-mystery...something tells me that's going to be a good one! ;-)

Sandy Cody said...

I plan to hold you to that promise, Beate.

Loretta C. Rogers said...

You sound like such a fun person, Beate. It's so nice learning about you. Loved the part of about the zoo bathrooms. You painted such a lovely picture of them through your words, I could almost envision them.

Beate Boeker said...

I see I have to take you all to the zoo when you get here! (wouldn't that be fun?!) Tomorrow, I plan to go there with my mother. We have to do so to keep us busy because I'm no fun at all right now - have lost my voice and can only whisper. You can't imagine how quiet the house is for a change. I'm training how to do quiet tantrums, but it's hard!

Jayne Ormerod said...

I'm loving these author interviews. Not only reading them every Wednesday (so many intersting writers out there) but also on the side of asking the questions. It's a lot of fun! You should try it!

Jayne

PS--Beate, hope you fell better soon! Quiet tantrums--what a scream! :)

Kent Conwell said...

great job, jayne. beate is a special person. the more i read and learn about our group, the more grateful I am to have found it.

kent

Beate Boeker said...

Thank you for leaving such kind messages, Kent and Jayne. I'm so glad you've both joined our group in the last months!

Have just checked out the bathrooms in the zoo once again. Today, my favorite was the one in Africa. Corrugated metal oildrums are the sinks!

Kaye said...

Loved the interview, and was glad to get to know more about such a talented lady.