Hans M. Hirschi - Flash Friday Q&A
Today on the blog I welcome author, publisher and activist Hans M. Hirschi. Hans is my first European guest on Flash Friday Q&A. Since finding early literary inspiration in Greek mythology, he has gone on to write an impressive list of both fiction and non-fiction including the popular Jonathan Trilogy and The Golden One trilogy, along with numerous books inspired by his parenting experiences. Welcome to Flash Friday, Hans!
You're known as the Queen of Unconventional Happy Endings. What does that mean, for somebody who's never read your work?
My publisher had an exceptionally good day when they came up with this nickname for me. To call a gay man a queen is, of course, borderline, but it does signal clearly that I’m queer, and that I probably write queer literature. When they came up with the honorary title, I had just published my fourth novel which is still my darkest, for lack of a better word. The Fallen Angels of Karnataka follows a young gay man from Norway on the journey of his life. Originally intended as a travel novel, it turned into something else entirely, dealing with difficult topics such as HIV/AIDS in the eighties, child abuse & trafficking, and pedophilia. Not latter not usually topics we read about in queer lit. I always try to end things on a positive note, and I was really lucky to begin this particular novel with the ending, which is very positive and calm,
So what does this mean to a new reader? You can expect real world topics to be deal with from a queer perspective but always with a happy or at least hopeful ending. From Switzerland to Sweden via Arizona and India, you're definitely my most multinational guest to date. What differences do you notice in how your work is received in different countries?
You mean apart from never being a prophet in your own country? I don’t know really how to answer this question because I do have very loving readers in all countries you mention, and I’ve perceived a lot of praise from all over the world. I can’t really say that my stories are better received in one country or another. However, as I write in English, and have not yet managed to get anything translated (lack of effort on my part), my main markets are the English-speaking ones. The Swiss prefer to read in their own local languages and the same is true for Sweden, albeit to a somewhat lesser degree.
There was an interesting incident though, many years ago, when my second book came out and my dad had his local bookstore read it to see what they thought. The bookstore owner told my dad to make sure it was never translated to German or our family would be shamed. LOL That’s how homophobic that guy was. My Dad’s English isn’t good enough for him to read my work and he still wonders what trash I’d written. That particular book is my first work and somewhat autobiographical and I’m quite proud of it. So yeah, some countries still have a lot of work to do. On the other hand, Switzerland might soon join the countries with full marriage equality. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. How has being a parent influenced your writing? You've written several titles about your experiences, plus children's books, but does it manifest in other, more subtle ways?
Going back to the first question, my son was one of the reasons why that particular book changed direction. We had become acquainted with another gay couple and we’d spent some time with them. To make a long story short, one of them turned out to be a pedophile, and even though we had stopped seeing each other a couple of years before Sascha was born, my author brain pictured him with Sascha on the couch in our living room and I had a mental breakdown. That is one example. But you’ll also see that children, parenting, etc. are frequent topics in my writing, and being a father and being queer is important to me. Some of my novels explore the topic of involuntary childlessness, others deal with losing a child, yet another deals with the parent dying. But also adoption, looking after kids and all the amazing moments there are as parents. It’s certainly not all doom and gloom. And to make a finer point, Her Majesty always delivers… ;)
What's the most frustrating, and the most exciting thing about writing fiction for you?
The most exciting part is certainly being able to spend time in “the zone”, being able to write freely and read what comes from my subconscious. I’m very much character-driven in my writing and I love going places with them. Consequently, not being in the zone, not hearing my characters, is frustrating. And the pandemic, with all the shit going on around us, has kept me largely out of that zone for over a year now. I’m not even sure if it’s because I’m working so much more for my day job (another frustration is that being an artist, I can’t really live off of my work) that makes it impossible to focus on the quiet within my mind or if it’s just my own subconscious being overly consumed with r-numbers, infection rates, vaccine delivery delays, or ICU-availability. Something else that can be frustrating at times is all the work that goes into marketing and selling a book after it’s published, and as someone who’s with a small press, knowing that the likelihood of success is slim to none, as we’re going against large multinational corporations with multi-million dollar campaigns selling books written by people who are already famous. It’s frustrating to know that there are so many amazing stories out there that will never really get a chance to be discovered by a larger audience. You're well known for tackling harder questions in your fiction. What makes a difficult topic worth that effort and risk for you?
Going against everything marketing, publishers and literary agents tell you, I never write for a specific audience. I simply write the books I’d want to read, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I love reading my own books (even as I type them out in the very first draft.) That in itself is worth the effort. In terms of risk, I’m not even sure I take a risk. I’m lucky to be with a super supportive publisher (Beaten Track) who also love my work, regardless of where my muses take me. There is, of course, a risk that my books won’t become bestsellers, but given what I’ve said above, the risk that they might suddenly take flight is pretty much non-existent, so not that much of a risk really. And to be honest, I’d much rather have five or ten really worth-while letters from readers who appreciate the fact that I write about something nobody else does than reading a letter from an agent who says they’d love to market my book if I only leave my soul at the door and write a book I don’t want to write.
I also don’t really have a choice. That may sound a bit conceited, but my writing is often based on my own experiences and once my brain is done, or maybe it is part of processing things, characters pop up and tell me their stories. From being afraid of having Alzheimer’s (Disease) to being afraid of losing my newborn son (The Opera House) or how to deal with my dad finding love again after my mother’s death (Jonathan’s Promise & Legacy), a lot of my topics have some sort of origin in things in my life. Writing is my shrink so to speak.
Hans' latest novel Matt: More than Words is now available in paperback and e-book.
Hans M Hirschi writes hopeful character-driven stories that expose ordinary people to unexpected situations making the spectrum of queer lives visible to a wider public. There’s a reason why he’s been dubbed The Queen of Unconventional Happy Endings. Hans lives with his husband, son and pets on an island off the coast of Gothenburg, Sweden. When not writing, he’s a learning & development executive and Gothenburg’s VIP tour guide.