Welcome to Barren Island Books, the author interview series that’s in no way related to a popular music-based radio programme. You know the rules by now: my guests are exiled to a remote island with only five books for company, selected from the categories I give them. It’s up to them to make sure they choose wisely, because they’re going to be stuck with those books for a long, long time …
My interviewee this week is Hans M. Hirschi, author of Willem of the Tafel – currently on tour! When he’s not being banished to a desert island, Hans can be found at www.hirschi.se. Stay tuned for more information and a giveaway at the end of the interview!
Hans, thanks for joining us! First of all, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself – just so we know who it is we’re sending into exile. Illogical fears, unusual birthmarks, whether you’d rather wrestle a bear or punch a shark, that kind of thing.
Hi, thanks for sending me into exile. We could all use some time off on an island … LOL. Illogical fears? There is no such thing. All my fears are well founded in reason and years of practical research. I’m not a big fan of spiders and I hate bugs, the bigger the more I despise them. I don’t have any birthmarks really, just a bunch of scars. I’m quite clumsy. I have a tooth bite mark on my foot (proof available) from being bitten by a large shark (that’s what I usually wrestle). He was old though and the tooth got stuck (dentures?) and was later used as a necklace. The other scars are mostly from me being clumsy and piercing myself with things, e.g. a skiing pole. I’m just your average John Doe, I’m 27 years old, celebrating the 22nd occurrence this year, and I eat my peanuts with the outer shell. What else? I could easily turn this into Ripley’s freak show, but I guess that’s enough for now. LOL.
I still want to see the proof of your shark bite, haha! And what about your own work? What are the inspirations behind it? What would make someone else choose it to accompany them into exile?
My life serves as inspiration, and given the previous answers, you can imagine there’s plenty to draw from. My books are inspired by my relationships (good or bad), our road to parenthood, my son and the fears of losing him, friends, odd or good, as well as the arts, books, movies and the news. It’s only when I reread a book that I can see what’s really gone into it, but I’ll give you an example. My coming novel plays out in part in Texas, in Lubbock. Why you might wonder? I’ve never even been close to the Texas panhandle yet I find myself researching the city for hours. Why? Well, I met someone at a conference last fall, and for some odd reason, the name of the town got stuck. Things like this happen all the time: I’ve used friends as characters, I use my favorite travel destinations as locations, etc. I seriously doubt that I’m the only one doing so though. We all have to draw our inspiration from somewhere … So if you want to remember what life was like while you suffer in exile, my books are great companions.
Now let’s move on to the books you’re going to take to the island with you. First up, it’s your favourite childhood book – perhaps the one that got you interested in reading in the first place, or the one you read over and over when you were young. Which will you choose, and why?
My favorite childhood book was a science fiction novel, which I guess is only fitting given the genre of Willem of the Tafel. The book is based on a film from Steven Spielberg, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and the book begins where the film ends, when the humans enter the space ship. In three books (I had the collected band) we got to meet the aliens and the challenges they face as they fly out into space with the humans. The novel was written by a German author and was never translated to any other languages. The book is called Planeten des Grauens and as you can see from my copy, it’s been used a lot … I’ve always been a sci-fi buff, yet I never thought I’d write a sci-fi book, even though Willem is free of space and starships.
Next, the book that made the greatest impact on your life. This could be one that inspired you to become a writer, or one that made you look at the world in a whole new way – maybe even one that resulted in real-life romance or adventure.
This is the most difficult question of all, simply because there are too many to choose from. I’ll pass for now and will come back later.
Okay, back to this wretched question … I’m honestly at a loss, because I simply can’t say that one book or another made me become a writer, but if I really have to choose something I’d choose the Odyssey by Homer. Now I know you’ll sigh and say “what a pompous prick”, but allow me to explain. I had an amazing teacher in Latin, and together with her, we explored the entire antique world, all the stories and fables, and they’ve always been there. The ancient Greek dramas and comedies are, after all, said to be the templates for all modern writing, and the Odyssey is an adventure book. It was exciting to read: all the gods are there, many of the heroes are mentioned and Odysseus is a great hero to identify with. Looking back I can definitely see how antique literature has inspired me to start to write, and I recall writing about a centaur in one of my first attempts at writing. So the Odyssey it is! :)
Not pompous at all. The Odyssey is full of fascinating stories! For your third book – and you’re probably going to need this one, all alone on a remote island – I’d like you to choose your greatest comfort read. You know, the one you turn to when you’re sad or ill or just need a little pick-me-up.
I was going to say Robinson Crusoe, for all the practical survival tips, but I guess it’s not very comforting, is it? You might not believe this, but I never turn to books for pick me ups, I usually listen to music, so I’ll just choose the lyrics book of my all time favorite band Abba … Their lyrics and their songs are so versatile that there are songs I can use when I’m manic, when I’m calm, melancholic or just simply happy, and they help me achieve any of these states of mind.
Love it! I’ve never had anyone choose a book of song lyrics before, but it makes perfect sense :-) Fourthly, it’s your unexpected treasure: a book you didn’t expect to like but did, maybe one outside your usual genre or that you picked up with low expectations but were pleasantly surprised …
You are asking me some really difficult questions. It would be a lot easier to pick the opposite books. Those that were promising but were blaaah. I rarely remember plots after I’m done reading (my mind works in mysterious ways, some might say not at all …) but I’ll choose A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood. Not so much because I was pleasantly surprised (I know his writing to be good and the ending is dismal, sixties and being gay equals disaster in literature), but it was still a pleasant surprise to read about an openly gay man when I first did read it.
And finally, I’d like you to choose your instant classic – the book you think most deserves to be read and reread by future generations. It’s up to you whether this book is already considered a classic or is something more obscure.
How can you ask me such a question? I have a library full of books. You certainly cannot be a parent. It’s like asking which of your kids will you leave behind. But for the sake of the exercise, let me just say Franz Kafka’s The Trial. In our times we need to be reminded that what the good Franz wrote about is a sad reality for far too many people around the world. Being incarcerated without charges, tried without knowing why. We may have different names, making it sound nice and exotic, but it’s no better.
Right. We’ll get those five books packaged up ready for your journey. Since we’re not completely heartless here at Barren Island Books, we’ll also let you take one song/piece of music, one film and one other item of your choice into exile with you …
I’ll forego the film and choose two songs: Gimme, gimme, gimme by ABBA (my all time favorite) and Lay all your love on me from the same band. Who cares about a film when you’re on a tropical island, but if you get really lonely, music is a must for me. One to dance and one to feel really miserable with. LOL. One more item? I’ll bring my family with me. Can’t live without them!
This is starting to sound more like a party than exile! :-) Now, before we whisk you away, you have one last decision to make: where you want your remote island to be located. You can choose anywhere you like for your exile, in this world or another.
That’s the easiest one. I’ll choose the island next to Haakon’s from The Fallen Angels of Karnataka. I’ve recently been to the British Virgin Islands, and I know exactly where his private island is. I could swim over and I could finally get to know him in person. I am sure that he, Mahender and I would be good friends. Besides, I’d love to help them run “Fallen Angels”. Here’s a little YouTube video from my recent trip to the Caribbean:
So you could say I’ve already been to my exile and know what awaits me! ;)
Yep, definitely a party :-) That’s it, then – you’re ready to go. Thank you for joining us, and enjoy your trip!
And here's a playlist provided by Hans, to get everyone in the mood for Willem of the Tafel ...
Willem of the Tafel by
Hans M. Hirschi
Beaten Track Publishing
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, LGBT, Post-Dystopian, Young Adult
Release Date: May 28, 2015
The world we know is gone, destroyed by greed and ignorance. On a post-apocalyptic Earth, centuries into the future, few have survived the Great War. Some have taken refuge deep inside a mountain. One of them, Willem, is exiled to the surface... Alone and struggling to survive, Willem embarks on an epic journey, making a discovery that could once again alter the future of humanity. Willem of the Tafel is an epic tale of survival, second chances, hope and undying love.
Check out the trailer for Willem of the Tafel
Follow the Willem of the Tafel Virtual book tour here
Hans M Hirschi (b. 1967) has been writing stories ever since he was a child. Adulthood and the demands of corporate life efficiently put an end to his fictional writing for over twenty years. A global executive in training and channel development, Hans has traveled the world and had previously published non-fictional titles.
The birth of his son and the subsequent parental leave provided him with the opportunity to unleash his creative writing once again. With little influence over his brain’s creative workings, he indulges it, going with the flow.
A deeply rooted passion for, faith in a better world, in love, tolerance and diversity are a red thread throughout both his creative and non-fictional work. His novels might best be described as “literary romance, engaging characters and relevant stories that won’t leave you untouched, but hopeful.”
Hans is a proud member of the Swedish Writers’ Union and the Writers’ Center in Sweden.
The giveaway for Willem of the Tafel has 11 randomly chosen winners; 10 will receive $15 Gift codes to the author's shop, but the grand prize winner will receive a free ticket to GayRomLit retreat 2015, in San Diego, CA, happening October 15-18th, 2015. Ticket value is $175, but if you win the grand prize, you're responsible for travel and accommodations. Please notify the author in advance should you win and be unable to attend, so we can choose another recipient to enjoy the prize!
Good luck and happy reading and winning!
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