The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Stefan Bachmann

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Stefan Bachmann

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Summary: Three years ago a young man emailed to ask if he could review for us. Normally we wouldn't have considered him - he was fifteen and we don't like putting commercial pressures on people who are still at school. He lived in Zurich and we don't post books outside the UK. There was just one thing that we couldn't pass. He wrote like an angel and over the course of a year Stefan gave us some wonderful reviews. We're not surprised that he has a deal with a major publisher but we are delighted and we certainly were not going to pass the chance to ask Stefan a few questions.
Date: 8 November 2012
Interviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee

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Three years ago a young man emailed to ask if he could review for us. Normally we wouldn't have considered him - he was fifteen and we don't like putting commercial pressures on people who are still at school. He lived in Zurich and we don't post books outside the UK. There was just one thing that we couldn't pass. He wrote like an angel and over the course of a year Stefan gave us some wonderful reviews. We're not surprised that he has a deal with a major publisher but we are delighted and we certainly were not going to pass the chance to ask Stefan a few questions.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Stefan Bachmann: Ooh, I try not to do that. It’s too scary. But seriously, I don’t know who they’d be. I don’t even know what age they’d be. I know the publishers are marketing it for ages 9 and up, but my little brother, who is now thirteen, stopped reading after five pages because he was terrified of the people in the trees. I was like, Uh, that’s not even a scary bit. And then there was the ten-year-old who thought the book was just a funny adventure and not scary at all. Basically I hope it’ll be picked up by a few of the right people, no matter what their age, and that they’ll enjoy it.

  • BB: We loved the plot of The Peculiar: where did the inspiration come from and how did you do the research?

SB: Thank you! With The Peculiar I really wanted to combine all my favourite things – folklore, steampunk, 19th century England, magic – and make a story out of them. I wanted to write the sort of book I wanted to read, and I couldn’t find it in bookstores, so I tried writing it myself. As for the research, most of it was into Victorian customs and city maps and train time tables and the amount of time it would take to walk (or run frantically) from this street to that building. It got quite complicated.

  • BB: It’s three years since you first reviewed for Bookbag and you always said that your first love was music and particularly the piano. I know that you’re studying at the Zurich Conservatoire. Does music still come first? What do you want to be doing in ten years’ time?

SB: Woah, three years already? Music does still come first, but only barely. Writing takes a ton of time and energy, and the classical music world isn’t exactly easy either, so I really don’t know how long I can do both simultaneously. I’ve been spending a lot of time being angsty about this lately. In ten years I would love to be doing music professionally and writing books. We’ll see, I suppose. . .

  • BB: How do you find the time to study, to practice AND to write a book? Do you have more hours in the day than the rest of us? We demand to know!

SB: Honestly, if I could, I would be the laziest person ever. The way things are, though, I try to set goals for myself, long-term (get book published) and short-term (get out of bed) and then work until they’re accomplished. I think the way I get by is by focusing on one thing at a time. If I feel like I need to write, I write until I’m done. Then I go back to music. Obviously that doesn’t always work, and life happens, and sometimes a chapter needs to be edited or a piece needs to be practiced whether I feel like doing so or not. But it’s fun, too, and I feel very lucky to be able to work on the things I love.

  • BB: When and how do you write? With or without music? How did you learn to write so well?

SB: I write in the evenings mostly, and definitely without music. I can’t write to music. Like, at all.

And thank you again! I learned by reading a lot and writing a lot, I think, and I’m still learning. The Peculiar is my first published book, but I’ve been writing for ages and I have dozens of really awful manuscripts and short stories that will never see the light of day.

  • BB: We spotted a liking for steampunk, urban and faerie fantasy genres. Which is your favourite and why?

SB: I loooove steampunk. It was something I got from movies, I think - Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective, Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle, and so on. So it’s mostly a visual thing in the book. Not just a gimmick for trend-purposes, though. It does play a pivotal point in the plot.

  • BB: Are you planning more books in the series? If so, when can we expect the next one?

SB: HarperCollins US, which bought the original manuscript, contracted two books, so as is probably glaringly obvious from the ending of The Peculiar, the next one will be the sequel and concluding volume. I think they’re planning it for the fall of 2013. I’m very excited about it.

  • BB: I know that you love reading, but do you still find the time? Who’s your favourite author and which book has had the most effect on you?

SB: I do still read a lot! Not as much as I’d like to unfortunately, but I still manage about a book a week. My favourite author would have to be JRR Tolkien. I don’t write about orcs or dragons or dark lords anymore, but I do think his prose-style and the depth of his world-building made a huge impression on me. Super excited for The Hobbit movie, too. ;)

  • BB: You’ve got one wish. What’s it to be?

SB: World peace, of course. But since that never seems to work out, I’d wish to be able to write books and music for a long time to come.

  • BB: What's next for Stefan Bachmann?

SB: Revisions! I just got back from a month-long book tour in the US, which was pretty much the most exciting thing ever, and now I’m back to regular life and school and practice and polishing up Book 2. Also, now that I’ve gotten the folklore and steampunk out of my system there are a bunch of other things I’d like to try writing. We shall see! Thanks so much, Bookbag, for having me back here!


  • BB: Stefan, it was our pleasure.

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