One of the highlights of the Emirates Literature Festival in Dubai was the meeting of three international stars of the thriller genre: Chris Carter, Alexander McNabb and Sebastian Fitzek.
We met Sebastian Fitzek - the German No. 1 psycho-thriller author - whose books have been published in 24 languages and are bought in their millions. It was a long time since we laughed as we did during the panel discussion of the specialists for the abysmal evil. Probably part of the creators' approach to their fictional horror is not to take it and themselves too seriously. And something else stands out: ...that the successful writers have an unenviable friendship for each other.
When Fitzek talks about his book "Passenger 23" (he is estimated to have sold about 500,000 of them by now) Chris Carter covers his ears because he doesn't want to let the thrill be taken away . "I haven't read it yet, but I will." You can take that from the tattooed best-selling author, criminal psychologist and rock musician.
It's hard to ask a question you haven't heard...
No problem. The readers are interested in something very specific.
Let's start with an expat question. Would you move abroad for a book?
Yes, I could imagine that; but it hasn't happened yet. Because of the family and the children it has not been possible so far.
If you look around to the Generation Smartphone, it seems that people hardly ever read anymore. Is the effort of writing still worthwhile today?
In any case! For one thing, I don't have the impression that people read less. I think that a many people still turn into books. And another reason is that a writer writes
for himself first of all. If it turns out that his imagination, his thoughts are interesting for the readers this is worth it and makes it all better.
You write all about the "evil". Where does the reader's fascination for dealing with horrors comes from?
Yes, as paradoxical as it sounds, evil is meant to entertain. People like to read about it and retreat in the comfort of their home. They first want to see their fears articulated in a book - and reduce these fears. After reading they just can put back the horror into the shelf – they simply needed an arrestor.
Was there a reason for you to become a writer who is describing the horrible sides of life?
There was no plan for it. It happened rather spontaneously. I once had to wait a long time in a doctor's waiting room for my wife. And so I imagined what would happen if she did not come out of that doctor's room anymore and if the people who sat with me in the waiting room said: 'What woman are you waiting for? There was no woman here!" I continued this thread and from it my first book "The Therapy" emerged.
But apart from the occasion, I was interested in the topic of dealing with evil. Perhaps because my father was a history teacher, I was interested for example in understanding what happened to people under National Socialism; why people went through the horrors, why they did not resist in the masses.
Is there an answer to that?
Not really one. But I think it has a lot to do with the fact that humans are a master of repression. How else people could deal with it? For example, we can't think about all day long that we will die one day. People couldn't do anything else because of grief. They would go crazy.
The SPIEGEL once wrote that you are "one of the most technically reliable thriller authors in Germany ... and one of the most brutal... "
How can one think of oneself into the killer's mind?
People often have wrong ideas about evil. Many directos's of prisons would tell you that they could dismiss 90% of murderers because they are no longer dangerous. They have become murderers in exceptional circumstances. In contrast, violent offenders who are not murderers and yet have a history of violence are far more dangerous because there brutality is imminent. So murder in itself is boring. Only a certain motivated group of people can be considered as perpetrators, the detection rate is high. The process is therefore not so "attractive" for the presentation. Even serial killers have a pattern that can be analyzed. But the unmotivated, unthinking, lurking violence is the often unbelievably brutal phenomenon. The writer actually mitigates the brutality of the atrocities that happen out there, making them bearable and trying to explain the root cause.
Your first novel "The Therapy" quickly became a bestseller...
Probably not. I have experienced how one publisher after the other has refused it for years until Knaur published the book. I was suddenly number one on Amazon, ahead of
Dan Brown's "Sagrileg" and all the big names. At some point Amazon UK asked Amazon Germany: "Who the f ... is Fitzek?" This shows one thing: You cannot fully control how quickly success is
achieved. You can only believe in yourself and move on.
Let's get back to the evil: Is your wife sometimes afraid of you when you are in the writing phase?
I'm not absent when I'm writing and it doesn't really change your personality, but you're in a creative phase. You are focused and sometimes you are not aware of your surroundings. By the way, my wife watches thrillers with great interest that I would never watch, such as American Crime. So the question should be the other way round, if I shouldn't be afraid of my wife sometimes :)
Thanks for the time for Classy Dubai. Do you have time to see more of Dubai?
Tomorrow I will take the plane back to Germany. Hopefully I am not passenger 23.
Interview & Photos: PAULE KNETE