Sebastian Fitzek is the author of books including The Child and The Eye Collector and is a bestselling author of psychological thrillers in the German language. On 8th May, Audible released an audio drama adaptation of his thriller AMOK, in a production that stars Rafe Spall, Natascha McElhone and Adrian Lester. Here he tells us a bit more about the book that the audio drama was adapted from.
Sum up your book in three words:
Something very different.
Where did the initial idea come from?
The idea for AMOK first came to me while I was the editor of the morning show at Berlin's most famous radio station 104.6 RTL. One day a group of visitors got into the station without having their identities or bags checked first, having got around our security safeguards. This made me think about what would happen if a terrorist posing as visitor got into a radio station. The effect would be horrifying because if that person got into the studio they would have direct contact with the outside world. Every listener of that radio station would be able to listen to what was happening live, and even communicate with the criminals. This fascinating and terrifying idea took hold of me. And from that moment on I knew I would write AMOK.
How was the title chosen?
The working title for the original book was Cash Call, which is a popular radio game in Germany that doesn’t have any direct UK equivalent. In the end, however, I decided on a title that spoke more on the psychological aspect of the thriller. In German we have a phrase “amok spiel”. Literally translated this means “running amok” and we shortened it to AMOK in English.
What is your writing routine?
My routine is not that much different from any other person who has to go work in the morning, with one key difference. Before I can start work on a book I need to arrange the various voices and ideas in my head into order. Once I’ve done this, I can go to the office like anyone else. I keep an office for writing and try to get there as early as I can in the morning. It’s difficult for me to focus on my writing at home as I have three children. While I’m at the office I try to get as much down on paper before I go home for dinner. When the writing is going well, I must confess that I miss it when I go home. Sometimes when I’m sitting at dinner I feel that I’m physically present but not there mentally. My mind is still caught up in the stories and characters I’m writing.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. No other work has changed and redefined the serial killer genre like it. It makes it almost impossible to write something in which every page will be compared to this masterpiece
What is your favourite word in the English language?
Yes. (And any other word that, as a foreigner, I can manage to spell and use correctly!)
Who is your favourite fictional character?
His name is Viktor Larenz, and he’s is the main character of my first thriller Therapy, which was published in the UK by Corvus. This book was originally published in Germany with a small print run as no one ever thought it could be a success. But Viktor, a father haunted by the disappearance of his daughter, made his way, and made me become an author. I can’t thank him enough for that.
What was your favourite book as a child?
It was a book by Enid Blyton called Under the Red Roof (published in the UK as The Family at Red Roofs. I borrowed it from my primary school library so often that in the end the librarian gave it to me. It still has pride of place on my shelf in the office to remind me of how it all began. Writers always begin as readers, and they stay readers throughout their lives too. I know that even if I ramp up my output so that I write as much as Stephen King does I know I’ll read far more books than I write over the course of my life.
Which book are you recommending to everyone at the moment?
It’s a piece of non-fiction which I don’t think is available in English called Splitterfasernackt by Lilly Lindner. It’s a great name for a horrible true life story about child abuse. Here in Germany Lindner is thought of as a literary prodigy. For me it’s a small miracle to see how she’s able to describe truly terrible scenes in beautiful prose. The other book that I’m strongly recommending for thriller fans is A Killing Winter by Tom Callaghan.
What do books and reading mean to you?
For me, books are the best and the most comfortable way to explore new worlds without having to leave our living rooms. Each book enables us to go on a new journey and I think the meaning of life lies in going on as many of those journeys as possible. I mean that in the figurative sense, of course, because the first day of a new job or falling in love is as much of a journey as taking a trip somewhere. Books are also a metaphor for learning to appreciate the limits of our experience too. Just as you can never go all of the places or experience everything you want to, there will always be books you will never get around to reading.