It’s 1978 and Johanna loves her adventurous new husband, Kurt, with all of her young, naive heart. She'll follow him anywhere—even far from their home in Germany to a small mining town deep in the Australian bush. Traveling across rocky seas, Kurt begins to unravel, revealing his true, disturbing personality. Alone and isolated from friends and family, Johanna struggles to navigate her husband's increasingly violent temper and manipulative behavior. Exploited to help him dig in the mines for the legendary black opal, Johanna faces a miserable life, filled with fear and abuse. Her fate seems sealed—unless she kills him first.
I’m originally from Germany and live in Canada, so how come my latest psychological thriller is set in a mining town in Australia? You probably wonder how I managed to create authentic scenes without having an intimate knowledge of the country and its people? Simple answer: I’ve been there. I have lived in Australia for two years, have traveled to the barren wilderness beyond the green belt that surrounds the deserts of the interior, have visited the mining town I use as my major setting, have even gone done one of those scary manholes and helped dig for the famous black opal. Granted, it’s been some time ago… but as my story is set on two time levels, one of them thirty years ago, I had no problem delving into the now and the then. If you like traveling but haven't got the time or means to take a trip to another continent, get settled on your favorite reading place and let me take you on a mind trip into the exotic setting of a foreign place. I promise you a dark and dangerous journey, with a satisfying twist at the end.
I remember writing the first sentence of my first thriller like it was yesterday. After years of nursing the idea of 'one day I'll write a book', of entertaining myself with a plot I dreamed up, of blocking myself with all sorts of excuses (no time - not enough money - no talent...), I came home from work one dreary March evening, sat down on my computer and typed the sequence of words which had twirled through my brain for months. I wrote non-stop for three hours. When I surfaced, I felt relieved - elated and calm at the same time. I had found my ground, my purpose in life. All it took was the courage to start, and needless to say, I never stopped. Several books later, I'm still amazed how easy it was. All it took was one sentence, and my life changed. (By the way, I have never changed that sentence). Be it writing or something else you feel passionate about, I urge you to do the same. Take a deep breath, get started, and enjoy the ride of a lifetime.
I was asked to name four writers who influenced me most. When I was a child, my father, an avid reader, gave me the collected works of Karl May, the beloved German writer of travel adventure novels. I began with ‘Winnetou’, and was immediately hooked on the joy of immersing myself into a story. As a teenager, I discovered Stephen King, reading ‘Carrie’ first, an experience which sparked my love for dark tales of misunderstood youth, strange phenomena and broken spirits. This path was further explored by reading a gazillion psychological novels. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn comes to mind, a book I must have read three times already. And final, the crowning number one of great authors who inspire me is Chris Bohjalian. Reading his novel Midwives made me shiver with desire to reach his level of what I call word-mastery. Of course, there are many more writers worthy of mention, but those four always have a place in my heart. Thinking about the seemingly rather odd mix now (a long dead mind-adventurer, a very much alive master of mystery, an explorer of dark secrets, a literary artist) I realize the combination makes sense when I look at my own writing to date. Entertain, create suspense – and, do it well, that’s what writing is all about.
Carola, embarks on a new life adventure in the Canadian wilderness to escape her wealthy but empty life in her home country of Germany. Stuck in a remote cabin in a week-long blizzard, searching for means to survive, she discovers a written confession from the previous cabin owner who admits to a terrible sin involving a girl called Rose. When she begins to question the townsfolk, nobody wants to reveal what happened to Rose, but Carola has a sick feeling that she shouldn’t let go until she knows the truth. A chilling and suspenseful mystery by best-selling author Helga Zeiner that will keep you up until you, too, find out What Happened to Rose.
Love it or hate it If you live in the Canadian wilderness, like I do, you have guaranteed white winters. Winter wonderland and all. But if you ask me now, I will tell you I hate winters. Negative temperature even at day time, darkness setting in by 4 pm, constant snow removal. This New Year’s Day we got about 1 meter (over 3 feet) of snow dumped in 24 hours. Snowmageddon. Most of us were stuck in our homes until friendly neighbors with tractors cleared our driveways. It’s still snowing, so we have to continue shoveling just to uphold the status quo. An Arctic blast is forecast, which will bring the temperature down to about -30 C ( -20 F), so we better get everything cleared before the cold will make outside work impossible. However, if you ask me again once the dreaded cold spell is over and the sun on a deep blue sky makes the ice crystals sparkle like diamonds, I will tell you I love winter. Such is life. Love and hate, so close together proves one thing to me: We need to let the hate pass before we can fill our hearts with love again. It’s worth it.
Like Carola in my novel, people tend to look back at the past year, reflecting on the good and the bad stuff that happened to them, hoping to learn from it. That might allow them to avoid mistakes they’ve made, and recognize chances in a more timely manner, but is this really an effective way to optimize their dreams and hopes? I believe in looking ahead. After fighting a rare form of blood cancer in the past twelve months (successfully…hurrah!), I can see myself healthy and full of renewed energy. I see myself sitting at my computer, working on a new novel. The dark valley behind me, I will now climb to the top of the mountain ahead. A year from now, I will have reached its peak. I will have created something new and amazing, a work I can be proud of. The journey to get there will be filled with endless hours of writing and editing, and of connecting with my readers again (who have been so patiently waiting for me to get back into the creative process). I will love every minute of it. This is what I wish for you, too. Look ahead. See your personal peak, and reach for it. Love what you are doing, and do it well. Happy journey.
...is something I pictured my protagonist Carol doing while she reads John McLures's confession. Living in the picturesque winter wonderland of rural Canada, I am an expert in relaxing by the fireplace, book in hand and red wine bottle close by. So, it was easy for me to write this scene - a lot easier than creating some of the heavy scenes that involve the fate of the girl Rose. I hope you will all find a quiet and comfortable place to curl up to when you lose yourself in a captivating story - like my What Happened to Rose - this November. Happy reading.
Tiara, a fifteen-year old former child beauty pageant competitor, snaps and brutally attacks a woman in a coffee shop. What’s strange is the aftermath—she can’t explain what provoked her and her mind is wiped clean. Who is Tiara? What made her attack a seemingly innocent woman? And why can’t she remember anything from before? Forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Eaton, and Detective Macintosh dig through her background for a motive, and the truths they discover shocks them to the core.
Social networking is not as harmful to body and soul as you might think. The advantages of being in touch with the world out there are most obvious when you are cut off. I don’t mean temporary cut-offs due to power outages or other internet shut-downs. I’m talking about serious stopping blocks like government interference or, as I personally experienced last year, the inability to communicate due to illness. I was forced to stay away from my social networking platforms, unable to respond to personal messages or promotional activities (like this book bubble here) for my books. I didn’t even miss spending the usual daily hour on the computer, my priorities had shifted. As a result, my circle of friends was reduced to the most loyal friends and my book sales took a dive. Not all bad, you say? Trust me, life is no fun when you are sick in bed, wondering if there is still a world out there. I now enjoy the friendly chatter and funny postings from a circle of casual friends more than ever. I even appreciate the sometimes annoying but always interesting opinions and comments from people I don’t even know personally who make me feel connected to the world again.
Over 70 000 books are published every month! A staggering number, for traditional publishers as well as indie authors like me who try to reach a reader like you. How do I make myself heard in the sometimes very annoying noise of social networking? I’m not one to get in your face with annoying book promotions, and I’m too private a person to constantly post pearls of wisdom about what I had for breakfast or how my mental state handles the current political landscape. (If you must know…not very well). So, what can I do to attract attention to my babies – namely four psychological thrillers, all about strong women forced to survive in exceptional situations? I opt for letting my protagonists speak. This book bubble gives them a voice, and I hope you read the excerpt I have chosen here to get a taste for my writing, and to arouse your curiosity about the fate of my female fighters. Happy weekend reading.
When natural disasters like devastating floods, tornadoes or wildfires strike a community, human response is to bond together and help each other. I have been in such a situation last summer, when raging wildfires came dangerously close to our home and placed our whole community on evacuation alert. Once the initial panic subsided, my husband and I found strength in community gatherings where we made plans how to get everybody to safety in case of evacuation. Luckily, the wildfires could be controlled, at least in our area. Unfortunately for people living further north, many lost their homes. Having experienced such a dramatic situation gave me the chance to reflect on the psychological reactions of people in extreme situations. Not all are driven by noble motivations - just think of the looters who take advances of robbing empty houses. As an author of psychological thrillers, I am naturally drawn to explore the more sinister responses when facing loss and hardship. The story line of Tiara, a child beauty pageant contestant whose life depends on the reaction of her caregivers while a hurricane devastates her hometown, gave me the opportunity to use a natural disaster to drive the story toward its inevitable showdown. Art imitating life – or vice-versa? Read for yourself…
At thirteen, Lillian becomes the child bride of a Canadian Bishop in an American fundamentalist Mormon sect. His compound is located deep in the wilderness of British Columbia, totally isolated from the rest of the world. She’s trapped in a miserable life and will do anything to escape. When Richard Bergman buys the property next to the Bishop’s land, he finds out Lillian is trying to flee from her polygamist older husband. Richard wants to help, but he knows that Section 132 is the covenant of plural marriage dictated by the Mormon Church. Should Richard get involved to save Lillian from her life as a child bride, or should he respect the law and swallow his personal morality?
Lillian, the child bride forced into a polygamous cult by her own father, is one of my fictional characters in “Section 132,” but looking at today’s new normal, I wonder how many people use the covers of a stay-home-and-isolate order to their evil advantage. But back to Lillian. She is strong and will survive, I promise you that. Like all of us. We shall survive this experience and be the better for it.
Last week Debbie Palmer, the first women who escaped the polygamous sect in Bountiful, Canada, and shone a light on the horrible child-bride abuse practiced there, has died. I never knew her personally, but reading about her efforts to prosecute the leaders of this cult had inspired me to further research which eventually lead to me writing the novel Section 132. I found out about her courageous escape through an article in the Vancouver Sun, and subsequently managed to get more details, check facts and connect with other former members of the cult through the internet. Social networking helped me stay in touch with many of them over the years. Debbie Palmer’s passing was announced on a Facebook feed. I might not have known otherwise. Many dislike social networking and the new tools the internet provides but as an author I’m grateful for them. Communication is faster, easier and can be more accurate. We only need to use it sensibly and responsibly.
The question “What if…?” has been a favored writer’s tool to turn an ordinary idea into a unique story concept. I’ve done so. One day, I read about a polygamous cult in British Columbia, and begun to wonder why any self-respecting woman would put up with sharing her husband. Masochistic tendencies? Maybe, they don’t like men and prefer female company? Maybe they didn’t know any better? What if I had grown up inside this cult? Hard to imagine. My mother taught me that women were equal partners. She was a devout catholic, but when it came to mixed marriages, sex before marriage, or the use of birth control, she told us that the pope had limited knowledge of such things, therefore, we needed to forgive his intolerance. Other than those deviations from her faith, she gave me plenty to rebel against. I was a head-strong teenager and moved out when I was barely eighteen, thinking I knew it all. Which brings me back to my question of how I would have reacted if I were born into a polygamous cult? A few years of research laid the groundwork for my novel Section 132. In this story, my protagonist Lillian, a 13-year-old girl, is forced into plural marriage with a much older man. What if…
Writing is a lonely business, some say. Personally, I don’t agree. In fact, when I open my computer and dive into my imagination, I’m quickly surrounded by the protagonists of the story I’m working on. A little pushing and shoving is involved at that stage as minor characters try to vie for a better position. Once this initial re-grouping has settled into a comfortable gathering, I can let them play out their purpose to drive the story forward. For pretty much exactly three hours, I enjoy the company of my mind friends, the good and bad ones. If you’ve read some of my novels you will know I call many truly evil characters my friends - of course only until they meet their just punishment. Take the bishop of the polygamous cult in Section 132 for example. A disgusting piece of s… if I’ve ever described one, but he was dear to me while the creative process of writing about him lasted. Maybe specially so, because I knew I had the power to destroy him. That is the kind of gathering I like best, because it happens right inside me, and I can trust my instincts to do the right thing. Honest writing has no pretense, no deception, no shame.
My protagonist - an under-age girl - is forced into marriage. How can I shape a character if I have never experienced what poor Lillian is going through? I wanted to give the image in my mind a realistic portray for my readers. Knowing that this child--bride horror happens even in our civilized western world, I contacted different groups who work with 'survivors' of polygamous cults. Through them I was lucky enough to find women who had experienced the trauma associated with forced marriage and were willing to talk to me. After that, Lillian became what I call my companion while writing the novel, and she surprised me constantly with her reactions trying to find a way out of the cult. I watched her becoming strong and independent, and I'm still a bit proud of how she turned out to be.
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