Crime and commitment
The English-language crime genre was set ablaze after the release of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, which was followed by a plethora of translated crime novels from across Scandinavia. A forthcoming title by Nele Neuhaus, Snow White Must Die, is firmly placing Germany on the European crime-literature map.
The novel centres on the cold case of two 17-year-old girls who went missing in the tiny village of Altenhain near Frankfurt. Their childhood friend Tobias Sartorius is sentenced to 10 years for their murders - despite the fact that their bodies were never found. Laura Wagner and Stefanie "Snow White" Schneeberger were never forgotten in their tiny hamlet; nor did the close-knit community ever let the Sartorius family forget about Tobias's sentence. When Tobias is released and another pretty young girl goes missing from the village, the locals decide to take matters into their own hands.
"There have been so many successful German crime-fiction writers in the last few years," says Neuhaus, from her native country, "but the Scandinavians have a different tradition than in Germany.
"In earlier times, crime writing in Germany didn't have a good reputation - it was considered a cheap kind of literature," she says. "I think there's a long way to go before German crime stories are accepted like Scandinavian in other countries, but I really hope we have a chance in other countries other than our own."
Neuhaus cites her fellow German crime writer Sebastian Fitzek as a leading novelist, whose book Therapy knocked The Da Vinci Code from bestseller status in the country in August 2006.
Neuhaus started out studying law and German at university but later relinquished academia to care for her family. However, having been writing since the age of five, she always hoped one day to publish a novel. After spending eight years writing her first book Swimming with Sharks on a part-time basis, Neuhaus found it difficult to find a publisher who was willing to take on an unknown author with a plot set in New York. Discovering print-on-demand models, she decided to go at it alone.
"I took all the money from my savings account and printed 500 copies of my book. I was so proud when I held a copy of my book in my hands. I rented out a room and invited everyone to a book launch. Then I sent copies to the local press and I got very good reviews… I sold 400 of my books within three weeks," she says.
After selling the books single-handedly through a local dealership, Neuhaus's work was picked up by a visiting publishing representative, who took her on after reading one of her novels. "That was my biggest chance and I took that chance. It was a dream come true," she says of her first book publishing deal.
Neuhaus's single advice to emerging authors is to hone your writing skills.
"You should never try and copy someone else because it is important to find your own way of writing, find your own style and be self-critical," she says.
Snow White Must Die has sold more than one million copies in Germany and is being made into a two-part series - the first part is scheduled to be screened on German television in January.
• Snow White Must Die is out tomorrow
Updated: January 2, 2013 04:00 AM