I’m a bit crazy, I suppose. When I started to write my first book in 2014, it was simply out of the question that I write it in German – despite the fact that that’s my mother tongue. Having read English books most of my life, writing in German didn’t hold any appeal for me. So I sat down and wrote.
At first, I didn’t tell anyone about it. I didn’t want to answer any silly questions (like ‘why do you write in English?’). It was just me and the story. After about half a year of this, I felt I needed to explain to my husband what the heck I was doing. “You should write in German,” he informed me. “Who’s going to read this thing in English?” I didn’t know. I didn’t care. All I wanted was to tell the story the way it wanted to be told.
Knowing full well that publishing an English book with a German publisher was out of the question and my chances of finding an English publisher willing to publish a book written by a German were going on nil, I decided to self-publish. It was fun, it was confusing, it was exciting and I will never forget the moment when I held my book baby in my hands for the first time.
I had caught the writing bug. Ideas were bubbling in my head and my family was duly impressed. One of those ideas was a Christian adventure for kids, and since I wanted my kids to help me and also be able to read it, I wrote it in German. I told my sons – then aged 9 and 12 – about my idea and together we brainstormed about the story, developed a plot and worked out characters. It was fun to write, especially because I read each finished chapter to my sons and received immediate feedback. It was a family project, but not one I took as seriously as my English book. When it was done, I looked for an illustrator I could afford and proceeded to self-publish Jabando. Of course I sent the manuscript to any number of Christian publishers in Germany, but I received only one answer – a very friendly rejection.
Feedback was good, though, and I sold enough copies to cover my expenses, which was about all I expected. Meanwhile, I tried my hand at marketing and found that I’m lousy at it. While I had no lack of creativity, the persistence was a problem. I knew I had to work on it more, but either I had other, more pressing things to do or I simply felt bad about putting another ad out there. After starting out mediocre, sales ceased altogether after a few months.
I admit it. I gave up. I didn’t want to enter the circus of promotion and ad campaigns, giveaways and mailing lists. All I wanted to do was write. But what for, if nobody read it?
Then a miracle happened. My husband went to a congress and met a Christian publisher. He told her about the German book I had written and she said ‘send it to me’. I did, right away. By that time, I had already written two sequels and was planning on publishing the second book in a few months.
Only one week later I had the publisher on the phone. “I started to read your book,” she said, “and I couldn’t put it down. We’re going to publish it. Please do not publish the sequel on your own. We want the whole series.”
I never planned on becoming a children’s author. Perhaps I dreamed of finding a publisher, but I certainly didn’t plan on it. And I absolutely didn’t plan on writing a series of children’s books in German. But that’s what happened.
On the one hand, it’s what every author dreams of, isn’t it? Who doesn’t want a publisher to say those magic words about your book “I could not put it down”? I’m thrilled beyond measure! I can’t wait for September when my book will finally hit the shelves, professionally illustrated and pushed forward in advertising as one of the major new releases in fall. My head is spinning with all the praise I get for the unique story I created with my boys.
And yet … There is a part of me feeling a little down. My English heart is aching. The English author who wants to write a sequel and a spin-off to that first novel, plus a historical romance. The one who pioneered into the book world and is now being overtaken by the younger sibling.
There is only so much time in the day and I cannot afford to waste it writing English books for my pleasure. I need to write in German to follow up with the series. I recently signed the contract for book two and have submitted book three. Now I’m working on book four and already know that book five will take a lot of research. That’s where the money is and that’s what I have to focus on.
Please don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate writing in German. Book four is a lot of fun to work on and I can’t wait to read it to my kids (it’s going to be a Christmas surprise). And success certainly is not something I turn my back on! I feel that I have a valuable message to give to children in Germany and hopefully in other countries as well.
But can you relate to the pain when you have to let your firstborn go, including all the hopes and dreams you had for it, and turn to a new chapter in your life?
Perhaps, one of these years, I will have the leisure to write those beautiful stories still residing in my mind – in English.
Feel free to take a look at my Way of Life series.