I've had the pleasure of knowing Janika Hoffmann since last year when we met virtually in our NaNoWriMo group. For those who don't know yet, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month where writers all over the world attempt to write a 50k word novel in one month.
Janika and I both wrote for the CEA Past your Reality fantasy anthology that was published recently, and that's when I had the pleasure of discovering that her debut fantasy novel, The Dragon Claw: Talon of Morero, had been republished and the second of the trilogy, The Dragon Claw: Fire of Power, is on the way!
I took the opportunity to spend some time getting to know this German fantasy author a little bit more.
Janika with owl Selenia
INTERVIEW WITH JANIKA HOFFMANN
1. First off, congratulations on having your latest fantasy novel published and obtaining your first hardcopies. How does it feel?
Thank you! It’s amazing. I always dreamed of having a hardcover book published one day – and here it is! Also, the limited pre-copies were sold within two conventions’ time. It’s unbelievable to see so many readers stopping by to get a signed copy.
2. What is it like being a fantasy author in Germany? Is the market for fantasy big there?
There are many fantasy readers of all kinds and ages, but there are also incredibly many books published every year. But that doesn’t mean authors are business rivals. Instead, we’re like a big crazy family – and it doesn’t matter whether someone’s a bestselling author, only selling a few copies per month or a self-publishing author. As long as you live the family mentality, you’re part of the group. I wouldn’t want to miss this for anything in the world.
3. When did you first start writing in general? What has the experience been like?
I started writing when I was twelve years old. I’m the kind of person who needs to own books and don’t like to just borrow them. At that time, I really loved novels about dragons, but I had spent all my money and couldn’t buy new ones. So I decided to write my own dragon story. Writing soon became a big part of my life, and by now, I can’t live without it. Well, I could, but I’d get nervous and grumpy within a few weeks. ;-) I also met so many amazing colleagues by attending book fairs and conventions. They became my second family.
4. How many books have you published, and how many do you have planned so far?
So far, I’ve got only one novel and a few short stories published. My debut novel was published in 2013, but my old publisher and I didn’t work well together. So now, I’m with a new publisher and my debut just got re-published. Book 2 will follow in a few months, and the last book of the trilogy next year. Since I’ve got quite a few more manuscripts on my harddrive and even more ideas in my mind and notebooks, I can only hope that there’ll be many more publications in the future!
5. How much work goes into preparation and story development? Are you a planner or pantser?
A bit of both, I think. Each project is unique, but most often, I do know where to start and where to end, write down a bit of a plot (some important scenes throughout the story) and that’s it. I feel like I can bring the characters to life easier when I allow them to surprise me at times. But when I expect a story to be really complicated, I invest more time in plotting.
6. Explain your experience with NaNoWriMo, from when you started until now.
I first heard about NaNo in 2010 or so, but back then I wasn’t into writing that much in such a short time. In 2012 when I started networking more intensely, I got invited to a NaNoWriMo writing group, and that’s when it started. Since then, I’ve participated (and reached the 50k!) every year. I just love joining so many people (online and offline) who are all having the same goal! My most amazing experience was the NaNo in 2015 when I spent my exchange term in Australia and joined the Sydney NaNo crew. I wrote a whole novel with more than 100k words that month! Since then, I’m trying to visit another country in November each year, even if it’s only for a few days. Last year, I’ve been to London, and this year I might look for writers in Denmark.
7. You are one of the authors listed as published in the Celenic Earth Fantasy Anthology, CEA Past your Reality. Have you written English stories before and what is it like for you?
This actually was my first short story written in English ever! So far, I’ve only translated one or two pages from a NaNo project because my fellow writers in Australia were curious about the novel. It’s pretty tough writing in another language and I kept feeling like my grammar was horrible, but since the editor hasn’t sent me any e-mail threats, apparently it wasn’t that bad. ;-) It definitely was fun and I’ll surely write more short stories in English in the future!
8. Now that your latest book has been published, will you relax before writing the next one, or jump right in?
Actually I already jumped into editing. Book 2 of my trilogy will be released this year as well, so I need to get 600 pages ready for publishing. After I’m done with that, I’ll start writing book 3 as well as a reading sample for a new project.
9. What is it like when you write? Do you sit in quiet area, or have a specific writing space?
It depends. I like to sit on my couch or bed and enjoy writing in silence, but since my life can be quite busy and chaotic at times, I also often write in cafés or trains. At the moment, I often stay longer in the office and use the quiet atmosphere for editing or writing. If I’m writing “on the move”, I often listen to some instrumental music in order to be able to concentrate on the story.
10. Can you give us an excerpt or teaser from your latest novel? Or tell us what it is about?
I could give you a german excerpt but I guess not many people would be able to read it. ;-)
Basically, my story is set in a high fantasy world. My main character Simon realizes dragons are real, and bonds to his dragon partner Maya. Then he gets to know that a man called Igor is searching for an old magical artefact that would help him rule the country. Simon wants his family and village to be safe, so he leaves home in order to find that artefact first and thus stop Igor.
He isn’t chosen to save his world, he just wants his beloved ones to be safe. Also, although he falls in love for the first time, it’s not the cliché of undying love. Friendship is way more important. That’s what might be different from many other stories published.
11. What was your favourite part of working on your latest novel?
The book already was published back in 2013, but when I started working with my new publisher, I got the chance to edit it again. The story of course is still the same, but I smoothed the writing style and added some extra scenes and details. Working with the feedback the readers have given me so far was a great chance!
12. Do you find it easy to write and develop stories and characters?
Novel ideas come to me quite easily, yes. In fact, I already have more ideas in my mind than I could write down in a lifetime! The tricky part is to choose which idea is worthy or can be combined with another idea.
When it comes to world and character building, I find it a bit more difficult. For example, it really takes me a long time to fill a country with city names that sound similar enough to belong to the same culture. And I do need to have all the names before I can start writing.
13. How long did it take for you to write the latest book?
That depends on how you define “latest book”. My latest published book took me 18 months to write in the old version and another four or five months for the new version. The novel I’m currently editing I wrote a bit faster, about a year if I remember correctly. And the last newly written manuscript took me about four months for the first draft.
14. Can we expect English translations of your work?
Hard to say. I’d love to see my novels getting translated into English, but of course we’ll need a publisher who’s willing to buy the international license and do the marketing and stuff like that. I think my current trilogy isn’t likely to be translated, but hopefully some of my future project will find their way into the English readers’ book shelves!
So make sure you follow Janika's Facebook page for more of her work. I will be eagerly watching this rising author for more wonderful novels to come!