10) Are you currently working on another book? If so, would you please share with us what it is about?
Answer: Yes, I have a third novel in progress. The working title is Reunification. It is ostensibly set in Berlin in 2009, the twentieth anniversary year of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. It is about an American who used to be stationed in Berlin going back to post-wall, reunified Berlin and meeting his old "long-haired dictionary”.
Michael was assigned to Field Station Berlin in the 1970s. He was adventurous. He spoke German. He enjoyed the city. His “long-haired dictionary” was named Ilse. There was only one thing wrong. Mike was a spook. His job prohibited “close and continuing relationships” with locals, especially female locals. He was given a choice: dump Ilse and keep his job, or keep Ilse and be reassigned to an infantry unit to go tramping through the mud of the American Training Area at Grafenwoehr. Mike chose not to go to Grafenwoehr, and the story picks up again thirty-five years later when he returns to Berlin. Ilse is, needless to say, not exactly thrilled to see him.
The key questions to be explored here are: "Is there an 'us' in this reunited German-American couple?", "Is there an 'us' in the reunited eastern and western halves of Berlin?", and "Is there a place for the 'US' in the reunited Germany?".
At the same time, Reunification is another "historical" novel. The reason that Mike is in Berlin is to work on a book entitled: Dissuasion Techniques Applied Against Dissidents by the Stasi. While doing research for his book in the Stasi archive, Mike finds his own Stasi file. He discovers that someone was reporting on him to the Stasi in the 1970s. Was it Ilse? Or was it someone at the Field Station? Mike's memories of his old life in Berlin as he tries to identify the Stasi intelligence source form the counterpoint to his current-day experiences in twenty-first-century Berlin.
Reunification is intended to be a novel with spies in it, rather than simply an espionage novel.
11) Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Answer: The most frustrating thing about getting published is all the rejection letters you are going to get before your book is published. You have to have your self-esteem screwed on pretty tight in the face of that kind of feedback. For my first novel, Voices Under Berlin, I had the typical series of rejection letters. The final count was 47. At first each one seems like a personal insult, but then you come to realize that we are living in a time when not just your books, but everybody's books are finding it increasingly hard to get picked up by a publisher. The only people who get an agent or book contract on their first try have names like Madonna, Sharon Osbourne, or Sarah Palin, but aspiring authors cannot let that discourage them.
The agents and acquisition editors of today are not infallible. They are making acquisition decisions based on their own subjective tastes, and market analysis, which is another way of saying "a knowledge of what the market was buying yesterday". To change the frown on your "rejection letter" face into a smile, just imagine the 12 people who rejected J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, and how they must feel now that Harry Potter's run-away best-seller status--not to mention movies made from the books--have proven their decision to reject Harry Potter a big mistake.
That was the core of the problem with getting Voices Under Berlin published. It is a different kind of spy novel. It is the kind of thing that had not been done before. One reviewer called it "A Spy Novel that Breaks all the Molds." Publishers and agents who are looking for what was selling last week will--by definition--not be interested in a novel that has a new approach to its topic. But they should be.
Proving all 47 of the agents and acquisition editors who rejected Voices Under Berlin wrong has put a smile on my face. And the number of book awards it has garnered has made that smile even broader. The current count is six. And since one of those awards was at the Hollywood Book Festival, there is always the hope of a movie deal. The Day Before The Berlin Wall hasn't been out long enough to win any awards yet, but I suspect that its time will come too.
In other words, ignore the naysayers, and write the best book you can. If your book has a unique voice, it will speak for itself and find its own audience. Faith in yourself and the story your book has to tell, combined with persistence is the key to success in this endeavor.
Thanks you, Mr. Hill, for a truly awesome interview. For those of you that would like to purchase your own copy of The Day Before the Berlin Wall, below I have provided a link to Amazon.