Nele Neuhaus interview

Jon Jordan: Nele, when you first started your series did you plan for it to be a series? Did you approach the characters knowing that there would be further adventures with them?

Nele Neuhaus : No, when I was writing the first book in the series, AN UNPOPULAR WOMAN, I never thought Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein would one day be the heroes of several books. But I liked both of my protagonists, and my readers were enthusiastic, so I decided to give them a second case.

After working on my first novel, SWIMMING WITH SHARKS, for eight years, I was downright sad to leave my protagonists, Alex and Nick, behind. I avoided this outcome with Pia and Oliver by letting them investigate a second and then a third time. By now they have almost become part of my family – I know things about their personal lives and their pasts, and I look forward to deepening that knowledge.

JJ: What first brought you to crime fiction?

NN: I have always had a propensity for crime – in my imagination, of course! Even the short stories I wrote as a child were never harmless. Horses were kidnapped, or the main characters would find themselves in a dangerous situation. As a child and young girl I loved reading books by Enid Blyton, and that later developed into a passion for mysteries and thrillers. Becoming an author of crime novels was a logical step for me.

JJ: Did you ever think your books would reach a global audience?

NN: No, I didn’t even dare dream of that. For a long time I wasn’t able to find a publisher for my first few books in Germany, so I self-published. When my eventual publisher made the first foreign deal —with an Italian publisher, I’ll never forget it—I was stunned and overjoyed. Even today, seeing my books in international editions and getting e-mails and letters from readers in Korea, Poland, the US, France, Canada, or even Russia, makes me very happy. It is truly amazing.

JJ: What is your favorite thing to hear from a reader?

NN: The most wonderful thing a reader can tell me is that they forgot everything around them while they were reading my book: Eating, cooking, sleeping. It’s great to hear someone missed their stop in the train because they were so engrossed in my book. My only claim as an author is that I want to give my readers a few hours of escaping into a fantasy world, and when I succeed at that, it is worth more to me than any literary prize.

JJ: Using the Grimm Fairy tales and a kind of starting point seems genius to me. Do you think a lot of the themes translate to modern crime fiction well?

NN: Absolutely. The Grimm fairy tales are a sort of predecessor to today’s crime novels: Bloody, violent, but still ending happily and fairly: Goodness is victorious, evil will be punished. The fairy tales also paint a picture of the society of their time and show the entire palette of human deficits: Envy, pride, vanity, hatred, revenge, greed, laziness—but also love, mercy, dignity, modesty, industriousness, and tolerance. These tales contain all those things that still concern us today. Still, it wasn’t a strategic decision to use fairy tale motifs in my books. The title for SNOW WHITE MUST DIE was a spontaneous idea I had one afternoon as I was writing. One of the characters, Stefanie Schneeberger (Schnee is German for snow) was a dark-haired beauty, and suddenly I hit on the idea of nicknaming her Snow White. When I was writing BAD WOLF, however, I had settled on the title from the very beginning, once I realized what I was going to write about. What are little girls most afraid of? The bad wolf.