- Interview by Scott Butki
With his new book, The Truth and Other Lies, Sascha Arango has set and surpassed a high bar. His plot and style remind me of the great Patricia Highsmith.
The protagonist, as the book starts, has a problem: His wife has been secretly writing the popular novels that he claims to pen. And his mistress is getting in the way. When he tries to kill one but perhaps kills the other, things go crazy and your blood gets pumping. If you like good plot-driven mysteries, give this book a chance. You can find copies of The Truth and Other Lies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
Scott Butki: How did this story emerge and evolve?
Sascha Arango: Like most stories, it started with an idea or, to be more truthful, a fragmentary idea, that kept spinning around in my head like many other ideas. So, I had the basic idea for the main character, Henry, an amusing psychopath, a man who makes a fatal mistake. I made some notes, as usual for a screenplay, and while doing so, I discovered that there was more to this story. I kept it in my drawer, took it out from time to time, added some notes and let it rest again. That’s how I usually work. And then one day a publisher asked me: would you like to write a novel? I answered truthfully yes. And do you happen to have a story yet? I answered vaguely yes. So he asked me to tell him this story. And while I was telling him the story, I had the best ideas in years!
SB: Why did you, an author, decide to make the main character an author as well?
SA: Well first of all, Henry is not an author. Henry is quite the contrary and on top of it, he is the embodiment of all my personal and clandestine fears. My fear is that one day, one horrible day, they will find out that I am not a writer.
SB: Was it your goal to make it so dark or did that just happen?
SA: It just did. Honestly speaking, when I write a text, a screenplay or a novel, I never have a goal or a very refined plan, let alone sophisticated intentions and not even a very well designed structure. I start writing when I have an image or a general idea, because the more I plan, the less I see.
The truth is, the only plan I have is to finish the text and to give all I have to make it as good and entertaining as possible. After all literature is entertainment, isn’t it?
SB: How would you describe the main character, Henry?
SA: It took me over three hundred pages to describe him, please don’t make me do it all over again. Just one thing. I tried to make Henry lovable and although he’s lying all the time to the world, he is honest to himself. Not everyone can say that about himself, I’m afraid.
SB: Can you describe the show you write for, “Tatort”?
SA: “Tatort” translates best to “crime scene”. It’s been running for 42 years; it’s the most popular TV Series in Germany. It’s a German phenomenon. Over 10 million people watch it every Sunday—young and old, intellectuals and nonintellectuals. And on Monday, it’s the talk of the Nation.
SB: How does writing for TV compare with writing a book?
SA: To answer this question, I should write a book. Don’t get me wrong—it’s a very good question. To mention just one big difference, the author is not obliged to think constantly about money. Not that I’m thinking of anything else – but here I’m referring to the budget. Every second of film costs a lot of money, so every sentence counts and should be carefully considered. “It rains” is a very, very costly two word sentence. This constant awareness of limitations and conditions had a considerable influence on my writing. Shortness, formally clear sentences, the omission of long descriptions and repetitions, never forgetting that everything happens in the mind of the reader, NOT on the paper. The educational effect of austerity is wildly underrated.
SB: What do you think of the blurb describing you as “a cross between James M. Cain and Patricia Highsmith”?
SA: I do not deserve this comparison and nevertheless feel immensely flattered!
SB: Do you plan to write more novels? What’s next for you?
SA: Henry’s adventure continues. Please, wish me luck.
You can find copies of The Truth and Other Lies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.