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18-year-old Stefan Bachmann author of The Peculiar, on writing and his career

Posted on 25 September 2012 by Alice

The very talented Stefan Bachmann (just 18 years old!) spoke to Alice about his first novel The Peculiar.

Bachmann is studying classical music at the Zurich Conservatory and is the new debut author with Harper Collins. His debut middle-grade novel The Peculiar is on sale 18 September 2012 and is set in an alternative England. Bachmann constructs a vivid fantasy town, complete with a sinister faery and a changeling desperate to discover where other changeling children have disappeared to before possibly

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meeting a similar fate.

The young author gives some advice here to aspiring young

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authors like himself.

At what age did you start writing?

I think I wrote my first story when I was six or seven. It was a pretty terrible bit of The Lord of the Rings fan-fiction, written in a teddy bear notebook, by hand, with sticker illustrations. I started writing ‘in earnest’ at around twelve.


What book did you most enjoy/remember reading as a child?

I liked almost everything I read when I was younger, but I have especially fond memories of the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodges Burnett, and The Sky Pirates series by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddle.


Do you read much now? If yes, what kind of books do you read?

I try to! Not as much as I used to, unfortunately, but I’ll still always have a book with me wherever I go. I love fantasy of all varieties, and I’m becoming more interested in biographies and historical non-fiction, too. I’ve also started reading YA a bit more.


Where does your obsession with steampunk come from?!

From the Disney movie The Great Mouse Detective. I watched it when I was four and it had automatons, and clockmakers, and a creepy toyshop, and made quite an impression. It really had quite a few of the elements that found their way into The Peculiar a lot later – grimy Victorian cities, tragic waifs, kidnappings, rats. . . They’re all there, in slightly weirder forms.


When did you first start writing The Peculiar?

I started writing it in January 2010, when I was sixteen. I finished it about seven months later, and then polished it pretty much until I got a literary agent in the fall of 2011.


Did you find it easy to

write?

I don’t know if it’s ever exactly easy to write a book. With this one, though, I was really excited about the premise and the world, and enthusiasm always helps to smooth over the lamer parts of writing. But it was still a lot work and worrying, and there were a few times where I almost abandoned it and moved on

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to something else.


If you had to choose between the two, would you pursue a career in music or writing?

Ooh, that’s hard. This could change from day to day, but right now I’d probably choose writing. Maybe. Or maybe not. I hope I’ll never have to.


What advice would you give to other

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young aspiring writers, in terms of writing, reading and career choices?

I would say read as much as you can, all different kinds of books, and then write a LOT. I think writing is mostly a matter of practice, and once you’ve practiced a lot, it doesn’t matter as much whether you’re sixteen or sixty. As for career choices, I have no clue as I’ve barely started, but I might say don’t take things too seriously, and don’t freak out over tiny mistakes. Chances are, they don’t matter half as much as you think they do.


What are you going to be working on next?

I’m probably going to start on edits soon for the second (and last) of these faery books. After that I have a whole list of ideas and book snippets that I’m excited to work on. I have a concept for another middle-grade book, this time a standalone, and I’d also like to try some YA writing and non-fantasy. We’ll see!

-With thanks to Stefan Bachmann and Sarah Woodruff at Harper Collins.

Book review coming soon!


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