Saturday, August 25, 2012

Author Interview: Stefan Bachmann/THE PECULIAR

Today, our special guest on the blog is Stefan Bachmann, author of the forthcoming middle grade fantasy, THE PECULIAR, which recently got a starred review fromPublishers Weekly. I was lucky enough to snag an ARC of Stefan’s debut and can say without reservation that it’s nothing short of brilliant. From the very first page, you will be hooked.

But what do we really know about this amazing new writer? An internet probe (heh, heh…I said PROBE) reveals that he lives in Switzerland and studies classical music. But today, we’ll dig deeper to learn more about the man and the myth that is Stefan Bachmann (IF that is his real name….).

First up, Stefan, I should know better than to trust the internet as a reliable information source, but I wanted to ask you about one rumor in particular. My sources tell me you’re eighteen years old. So my first two questions are: 1) is this true and 2) how do you deal with the unrelenting, fiery hatred being directed at you by older authors who resent your youth and talent?

       1)      It’s a LIE. I turned nineteen in June.

I      2) I haven’t encountered any unrelenting, fiery hatred. At all. Which makes sense to me, because I’m not sure it’s worthwhile resenting youth and talent. Experience and the ability to work hard are probably better traits to have as a writer, and I only have one of those, sometimes, when there’s no internet or movie or ice cream to distract my wandering little brain.

If someone reading this does happen to hate me with unrelenting, fiery hatred, stopppppp: people don’t write books to spite other people, or to show off, or to be a brat.  They write them because they feel they have a story to tell. And everything that happens after that – getting an agent, getting a book deal, getting good reviews and publicity and sales – is really almost completely out of the author’s control. Really.

In their review, Publishers Weekly said it was, “An absolute treat for readers of any age.” Pretend I am Grumpy Old Mr. Throckmorton who lives next door. You know him: terminal scowl, hikes his pants up to his armpits, looks like he might feast on village children in his spare time. So, I’m Mr. Throckmorton. Convince someone of my considerable age to read your wonderful book. AND SPEAK UP, SONNY!

Ok, Mr. Throckmorton, FIRST OF ALL: You need to stop eating village children. Seriously. Someday you might eat one who has a scissors in her pocket and she will snip her way out like Little Red Riding Hood. That being said, if you’re into being creepy, there’s a fair bit of creepy stuff going on in this shiny book raht heah. *holds up shiny book*

What, you were not utterly bedazzled by the cover? Oh. Well, letsee,,. It has a character in it named after you. He’s a jerk, but don’t worry – the book also takes place around the time you were a wee lad, so it'll doubtless bring back all sorts of good memories!

You were a wee lad in 1850, were you not?

Oh, you weren’t? Ahem. *flees*

THE PECULIAR has been described as a “gothic-steampunk-faery tale.”  Why so greedy? Why write in so many subgenres?  Is it a sign, perhaps, that you just need to focus more?

But- but I like gothic-ness and steampunk and faery tales!

Yeah, that's pretty much my reasoning, right there. I wanted to write a book with all the things I liked squished into it, and so that's what I did. It could have ended badly, but I think these things happen to work well together. Victorian England has something innately gothic and grotesque about it, and steampunk has its beginnings in that period anyway. Also the juxtaposition of faery magic and clockwork technology is interesting to me.

You’re a composer! That’s so cool! And sad, because now people have another reason to hate you. (Try not to let it get you down.) A sample of your work can be heard here. Who are your musical inspirations and what do you hope to do with your musical skills?

Thank you! And again, no reason to be haytin’. There’s nothing enviable about going to conservatories, and practicing for hours on end, and playing at nerve-wracking concerts, and then doing edits until midnight. 

But I digress. My musical inspiration comes probably mostly from film and classical music. I think Danny Elfman, Alexander Desplat, Dario Marinelli, almost all the big current film composers are completely brilliant. And of course, Beethoven and Chopin and those folks. I used to be very uppity about pop, but now I don't think I could survive without some good acoustic voice-driven stuff. Regina Spektor, for example. Or Amy Macdonald. Look her up, and you will be happy for ever and ever.

Eventually I hope to get into film composing. Or TV music. Or any kind of commercial composing, really. I'll write jingles! For ice cream trucks!!! :D

Now we come to the part of the interview called JUSTIFY YOUR TWEET. This is where I pick a random tweet from your twitstream and demand that you justify its contents. On July 1, you tweeted:

So my question is: 1) what could your little brother possibly have done to deserve you unleashing your unparalleled martial arts prowess on him and 2) what kind of unparalleled martial arts prowess can you claim to have if your younger sibling can slip an elbow past you (did you have to return your black belt with head hung low)?

My little brother and I need no justification to fight. We’re almost like adults that way.  Also, by “unparalleled martial arts prowess” you mean, FLAIL/YELL/LASH, and my black belt in that art is MINE, and I will not return it. Little brother got lucky, is all.

So, if I get this right, you were born in the US but have spent most of your life abroad (or, for you, I guess, it’s not really abroad and more like home).  Do you get back to the States often?  Where do you see yourself in five years?

I do go to the States! Not very often – maybe once a year – but any more than that and I would eat all the Reese’s EVER, and die, so all’s good. In five years, I see myself…  hunched over a desk writing my fifth book? I hope? That would be great.

What is something from the world of THE PECULIAR that you wish was real (something you could possess or some state of being) and what from that world are you glad can NEVER be real?

I’d like the bird on the cover. And since I’m not greedy at all, an airship would be ok, too.
The thing I'm very glad is not real is a certain faery named Jack Box. I won’t say exactly who or what he is, because it’s a SURPRISE, but he is rather frightening, and has many tails, and many eyes, and many sharp, sharp teeth. 

How much did you draw from established faery lore and how much is your own creation?

A lot of the basic concepts in The Peculiar are based on English folklore, but there’s only so far I could go with that. For instance, everyone has a vague notion of what a goblin is, but there isn’t a lot of concrete information about what they look like, or what their characteristics are, or whether they are vicious, or gentle, or wild. So I had a lot of leeway there, and a lot of room for inventing my own details, which is one of my favorite things to do. The interesting thing for me was seeing how all these “English” faeries would fit into industrialized Victorian cities. Answer: there will be problems.
I definitely did tons of research, but most of it was into London and Victorian customs rather than folklore. Sooo many hours spent studying 19th century city maps.They're complicated.

You write about faeries. Are you now or have you ever been an elf sympathizer?

Of course. I’m all into saving trees and whales, and blowing things up in the process.

Except for that last bit.

Okay, okay, all joking aside: I mean it when I say this is a fantastic book (one of two I’ll be recommending to people this fall).   My sincerest congratulations to you, Stefan. I can hardly wait for Book Two in the series.

Thanks so much! Also, people, the other book he’ll be recommending is doubtless going to be awesome. I mean, Lemony Snicket’s artist made the cover. And it's about master-thieves. What more do you need to know?

Stefan Bachmann’s THE PECULIAR hits stores September 18. Run, don’t walk, to get it!

You can find Stefan:

--At his blog

--On his Twitter account


  1. What a fascinating post! I loved this fun interview and learned so much about Stefan. I recently read a review of this book and it was great. I have added this book to my list and can't wait to read it. I had no idea the author was successful at such a young age (in so many areas)! Good for him! :) Wishing him all the best. ~

  2. I'M utterly bedazzled by the cover. It's at the top of my TBR list. GREAT post. And congrats, Stefan!