‘No secrets to becoming a successful writer’
In 2014 Vea was writer-in-residence at Bowling Green State University and was elected as the Austrian author of the year. In 2015, her second novel ‘Makarionissi’, which is the best-selling novel of the year in Austria, was awarded by the Publisher Ravensburger as ‘Best Family novel’.
Vea Kaiser talks about the foundations of writing.
Where did your interest in writing originate from? Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I never really had something like a “literary background”. As I grew up in a tiny village on the countryside of Lower Austria, the longest texts that were written in our household were shopping lists for the weekend. But the writing itself never was the center of my interest.
Since I’ve been able to talk and think, people remember me as someone who loved imagining events and couldn’t stop telling stories – the boundaries between reality and fiction of my re-tellings were pretty blurry from the beginning. When I was a child, nobody could ever take anything I said for granted. I had to create a story out of everything. This love for story-telling is what motivated me to become a writer in the end.
What genre do you consider your books?
When I write, I don’t aspire to fulfill the criteria of some specific genre restrictions. When I started writing ‘Blasmusikpop’, I didn’t even imagine that I would end up with a whole novel. The story of its protagonist Johannes Irrwein as well as the novel’s structure developed basically alongside my writing process. So for me, my books are stories about individuals, about families and all the emotions, problems, opportunities and events that are linked to these stories. Putting them into certain boxes with labels on them never seemed to make sense to me.
What inspired you to write your first novel ‘Blasmusikpop’?
I wanted to test out the potential of literature for myself. More than any other art form, literature possesses the possibility to identify oneself with strange lives, to put oneself in the place of unfamiliar circumstances, to test new ideas and thus to take up a variety of hitherto unknown perspectives. Through the different personalities I created in the form of the protagonists of “Blasmusikpop”, I tried to experience this phenomenon I until then just had from reading novels by writing one myself.
But again, I’d say the initial motivation for writing the novel was my love for making up stories and telling them to others. I started writing the book when I was a young student of German language and literature – a good part of the novel was born while I was sitting on the floor of lecture rooms, waiting for the lecture to begin.
4. Please tell us a bit about your most recent book and why it is a must-read.
‘Makarionissi’ tells the stories of momentous catastrophes, of wannabe-heroes, of heart-breakers and of the great love you always tend to find more than once. Its plot spans from the Greek mountains of the 1950s to the US metropoles of the 1990s and the Central European periphery of the present, the storyline is handed on from a grandmother to her granddaughter, from a father to his sons and thus is constituted through the eyes and experiences of a multiplicity of protagonists.
I like to consider ‘Makarionissi’ the big brother of “Blasmusikpop”; the family story embraces even more generations and sidelines and although the initial scenery is again a village in the mountains, it does not take long until the action gets carried out into the wide world: from the Greek peninsula the protagonists make their ways to Hildesheim in Germany, Zürich in Switzerland, St. Pölten in Austria and Chicago in the US.
5. Do you prefer a pen or a type writer or the computer while writing?
I tend to gather my ideas and references by hand on paper, but for the development of stories I prefer writing on my laptop – but internet and any other disturbing factors have to be deactivated, otherwise it’s impossible to stay focused!
6. Any tips for aspiring writers?
I don’t think that there are some secret “tips” that can help you to become a successful writer. There are just some very basic principles which constitute the very foundation for writing: originality, fine ideas, perfect mastering of the language you’re writing in – and, most importantly, hard work and discipline. Not just while writing but also during the countless revisions and reworkings of your texts. I have one big tip. One and only:“Don’t cry, work”.