Reigning in the Mutiny – 15 Questions about Writing

Fiction Writer´s Corner

Name: Tom Vater
Nationality: German, Asia-based
Occupation: Writer, editor
Current publication: Tom Vater’s new book SHARKMAN, is out now. Order on Amazon.
Recommendations: Where to even start …
Two pieces of music that affected me – Exile on Main Street by the Rolling Stones and Bitches Brew by Miles Davis.
Two books that affected me – Youth by Joseph Conrad and The Master and Margerita by Bulgakov
Can’t think of two paintings specifically, but I do look at the work of JW Turner every time I am in London.

When did you start writing? What what it about literature and writing that drew you to it?

My bookish parents encouraged me to read. In high school I became editor of the student newspaper and promptly got into trouble for it. It seemed to me back then that words have power.

When I was 16, I did an internship with my home town’s newspaper and ended up reviewing countless rock bands passing through the area, my first writing job.

Which authors, or books captured your imagination in the beginning?

I read Enyd Blyton and Karl May, like lots of German kids growing up in the 70s. I also read many of the classics – Treasure Island remains a favorite – and I soon advanced to more sophisticated fare like The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, novels by Stanislav Lem.

By the time I reached my late teens, I was into the Beats – starting with Bukowski, I got hooked on Burroughs, Bowles, Kerouac and Ginsberg and Noir writers like Raymond Chandler, Dashiel Hammet, Patricia Highsmith, Chester Himes, Jim Thompson and Ross McDonald.

How would you describe your development as an author in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?

I didn’t search for a personal voice. I guess it emerged over the years.

There were no literary breakthroughs in terms of my development. In 1997, I found myself in a guest house in Kathmandu. At the time I travelled with a small grant from the British Library – I was on a mission to record and document indigenous music in South and Southeast Asia. The couple that stayed in the room next door had cycled to Nepal from Europe and were writing about their experiences. They asked me for help to edit their work.

I accompanied them to one of the local papers, The Rising Nepal, where I typed up one of their stories on an electric typewriter. The editor gave them 800 Rupees. I asked him whether he would give 800 Rupees if I gave him a story about Nepali folk music. A month later, I had the weekend supplement. I started writing my first novel then, The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu, and never looked back.

That was my epiphany and I’ve not done much else other than writing and playing a little guitar on the side since then. I am very lucky to have been able to turn my art into a living.

Read the full interview here.