Stefanie de Velasco on writing

Berlin is a very inspiring place for me, because it’s dirty and ugly, poor and cruel. This sounds very morbid I guess but cruelty and ugliness are the most inspiring things for me. I don't see beauty in it, don't get me wrong. But it's quite fascinating. Nobody wants it, but it seems to be part of our lives.

I must admit, I don't really believe in research...

I did a little where it was necessary, but normally I prefer to let my imagination roll. Sometimes I even get angry when I read about a book or a film and the newspapers say how perfect and accurate the research is, and then you read the book or watch the movie and you think, yeah so what, it's still super boring. Literature is not about copying reality, it's about a truth that lies beyond reality. It's a big lie, you create a lie, which is the fiction, but you put all the truth from real life in it and that makes it feel real, and that's what comforts us, that's what helps us in real life. In the end we are all narrative beings.

A typical day when writing...

I am a morning person. I wake up early and walk my dog, Pinsel, to my office and write until lunchtime. I eat. Sometimes I continue writing in the afternoon, but normally I take a long walk with the dog, and then I meet friends, or I go to the movies. I love the movies. When I'm in the process of writing it's really hard for me to read books, because they spoil my writing, my language. It's like too many people talking to me.

My writing style is...

Raw, but tender? I don't know. :-)

On where I do my writing...

I must admit that I don't like writing as much as I like reading or watching TV or painting my nails. It's like doing exercise. At first you don't feel like it at all, but afterwards you're happy you've done your day’s writing. That's why I need a very quiet and lonely place to focus and concentrate, like the library, my home or my office.

The writing process...

I expected it to be hard and it was hard. I barely had a social life. I have promised myself that it won't be the same next time. I have just bought a dining table so I can invite people over for dinner once in a while. I write chronologically. I only continue once I'm satisfied with what I've written before, so I didn't change a lot from my first draft.

A fictional character I wish I had created...

For me, the most powerful characters are Tom and Huck, but also Rüdiger von Schlotterstein of Angela Sommer Bodenburg's Vampire novels in the 80's.

A scene from the book that was particularly hard to write...

It took me a long time to finish the murder scene. I think it took me three months, because I wanted it to be shocking without being dramatic.

On dreams influencing writing...

A couple of days ago I had a nightmare about a boy who got stuck in a lift shaft and got killed. It was a glass elevator and I was the only person in it. I could see the boy but couldn't stop it happening. It was horrible. It was so real, I could hear him screaming and I could smell the blood and everything. Now I can't stop thinking about him, I see his shaved little head, and I know, someone put him there on purpose, but who, and...why? That's how it starts sometimes.

The characters in Tiger Milk I'd most like to meet...

Sometimes I think Nini and Jammeelah are fun, but hanging out with them all the time would also be very tiresome, since they talk non stop! I think I would go for Nico or Jameelah's mom Noura. I wonder what kind of story she would tell me about her husband and her son in Iraq. I feel a lot of empathy for her.

I used to be an actress before I started writing...

Sometimes I still do that and it really helps me, because it's the opposite of writing. It's with real people and you have to move your body! I also do some ghostwriting, I like it, it's fun.

I actually started writing for erotic magazines. The cheap ones you get at train stations. Do you have that in the UK? Really cheesy titles, and the characters are either royalty or nurses. It really helped me to work on my style without any pressure.

On my next project...

It is about a young boy from West Germany who moves to the outskirts of Berlin after the wall falls. He and his parents are pioneers of the Jehovah's witnesses who were the only minority persecuted by both the Nazi AND the Communist regimes. It is a novel about a young boy in the young German Republic. It is a novel of the ‘90's, a time when youth was still an attribute of rebellion.


ON READING

My favourite books are…

Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain and Ham on Rye by Bukowski

Nini and Jameelah are a little bit like Tom and Huck. I also admire Bukowski for his vulgar but very tender language.

If I were a fictional character I’d be…

Anne Shirley of Lucy Maud Montgomery's books. When I was younger I tried to dye my hair and it turned out to be green and once hit a boy with a chalk board.

How do you find your next read?

I am a big fan of the classics. When I like a writer I usually read everything.

Which book do you wish you’d written?

I don't know, maybe Harry Potter? Oh no, that must be a crazy life. Poor JK Rowling.

Favourite piece of writing?

I'm a big Thomas Mann fan, but I don't get "Dr. Faustus". I don't know, what was up with him?

I also remember a terrible book, I was forced to read in school, it was something about a monster called Unugunu, that was terrorizing this nice family, telling them it would gas them if they didn't do what they want. It used to say, "bring me this" or "bring me that (normally food from the fridge, if not I kill you with gas!)". Seriously check it out on Amazon. I mean it was for CHILDREN! I found that quite awkward especially reading such a book in Germany. Maybe it was a kind of post-war Freudian metaphor to work through German guilt?? I don't know. It was the weirdest thing ever.


Dream dinner party guests:

Charles Bukowski, Hannah Arendt, Whitney Houston, Holly Golightly, Stephen King and...George W. Bush, so we have someone we can make fun of.

Five desert island items:

Chicken broth, german bread, my Star Styling Hoodie, the complete works of Enid Blyton, Kuschelrock-Cassettes from the 90's.


Tiger Milk by Stefanie de Velasco publishes 1st September 2014. It is a tender, funny and tragic story about two fourteen-year-old girls on the loose during a long, hot summer in Berlin.

Will you love this book as much as we did? Share your reading experience newvoices@headofzeus.com or via @HoZ_Books @stefdevelasco #tigermilk