# Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
Hi, I’m Nancy Schumann, a German writer, now based in the UK. I write poetry, short stories, academic papers, and novels in both German and English. So my publication history is bilingual by default. My topics can be whatever sparks my fancy at the time but it tends towards the dark side, be it crime stories, mysteries, or dark fantasy. My academic subject are female vampires in literature.
# What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?
I suppose my academic work can be described as having a basis in real life, whether that’s female vampire characters in folklore or those written into literature. Many people will think ‘Dracula’ or maybe ‘Twilight’ when vampires are mentioned. I like to shine a light on the multitude of vampire women all over the place to redress the balance.
Otherwise, my writing is fiction, although of course there are real life inspiration to almost all of the stories. That can be real life settings or a specific time in history that need to be described in detail. Sometimes real life events trigger a story about ghosts and vampires.
# What inspires/inspired your creativity?
I always loved to tell stories. I believe the earliest piece I remember writing is a poem about winter when I was about seven years old. I can find ideas pretty much anywhere: on a walk along a river seeing people fishing, in newspaper crime report, or from a writing prompt in a literary journal. Everything can be a story that needs to be told.
# How do you deal with creative block?
In a way I don’t believe in creative block. If a writer genuinely struggles to write it’s likely their body telling them to take a break. That doesn’t need to be a bad thing. The fact that as a writer you can, in theory, work any where and any time, tends to make it quite hard to recognise that what you’re doing is work and you need to take breaks.
That said, I try to have more than one project on the go at any one time and utilise what I call ‘productive displacement activity.’ I find that if I sit down to work on an academic paper I suddenly have loads of ideas for a short story and vice versa. It takes a bit of practice to keep an eye on any deadlines there but overall that’s a technique that’s worked well for me.
# What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
Telling the reader what they should think and spoilering the ending.
# Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
Like many other writers, I refer to projects by their working title while I’m working on them. That working title represents the essence of what, in my mind, the story is about. While that’s not always the best title for the finished text (may spoiler the ending, for example), it usually a great starting point to brainstorm with publisher / editor to distill the title from.
For covers trust in the people you work with is important. I’ve had a number of excellent cover designs from publisher that I could only approve because they were perfect, but I’ve also had opportunity to bring in my own designer contacts and thus work with people I know well and who understand the project. So, if you can, get to know the designers and build relationships. The better they understand you and your book the more perfect the cover they design for you.
# How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
It’s important to understand that not every book or every story is for every reader. Whatever made the person pick up the book doesn’t guarantee they’ll like what they read. Maybe this just wasn’t the story for them. It can help to read the infamous one star reviews of great works of literature for a bit of perspective.
Sometimes I want to respond to feedback and if appropriate I will. This is not to tell the person what they should think of what they read but to acknowledge their feedback and, if they raise something I thought about when writing, to let them know why I decided whatever I decided to do with the text. If the feedback raises a valid point take it on board for next time.
# How has your creation process improved over time?
I work in a more focussed fashion now with dedicated writing time that isn’t allowed to be taken over by other commitments. I know that writing is what I do and I can do it so I don’t wait for that fickle spark of inspiration that may or may not strike at whatever stage of the project. Instead I get on with writing. As long as there is something on the page, reviews and corrections can happen later.
# What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
I think my most favourite thing to look back on was the realisation that editors make mistakes, too. This may sound obvious but when you have a list of things the editor wants you to address they’re kind of the all-powerful oracle. So realising that they corrected ‘heroin’ to ‘heroine’ when ‘heroin’ is in fact the right word does help to take the pressure off.
# Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
I always hope that the stories I want to tell are the stories that readers want to read, of course, but it’s my job to decide what I write. So ultimately I write towards personal satisfaction in telling the story I wanted to tell. It’s great when that then turns out to be something publishers and readers also enjoy.
# What role do emotions play in creativity?
I often start stories because I have a feeling about a place, a sound, or something I see. So emotions are certainly important. I try to get into the right frame of mind to feel what I want the reader to feel when I write, especially for the more intense scenes.
# What are your plans for future books?
I have various things at various stages. A manuscript for a vampire and werewolves novel is under submission. I’ve just completed a first draft for an anti-fairy tale that is now out for beta-reading. While I wait for either of these to enter their next production phase, I’ve started to write the next story set in an apocalyptic world (I swear the idea for that started long before Covid!).
# Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
The way I take my coffee changes depending on time of day, stress-level, and locality, but I always need my morning coffee. Nobody wants to know me before I finished that first cup.