An interview with Traude Ailinger
Traude is a German writer of cosy detective stories who many years ago made Scotland her home. Having recently published her third murder mystery title set in Edinburgh, we interviewed the author to find out more about her background and influences.
Traude has worked as a teacher for many years and is rarely found without a book in her hand. But what better way to pay homage to her new home than writing about it?
TBF: Tell us a little about your background.
TA: I grew up in an industrial town in the south of Germany as the youngest of four siblings who all spoiled me – and they still do. I always loved school because it opened horizons for me. Afterwards I went to study at Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen before moving to Scotland to become a Foreign Language Assistant. And I’m still here.
TBF: What books did you read whilst growing up?
TA: I read everything I could lay my hands on, especially the books I was not supposed to read from my father’s cupboard. Like most children of my age in Germany, I enjoyed the stories of Karl May about Winnetou, a ‘noble savage’ who befriends a white settler called ‘Old Shatterhand’ but with good reason these are regarded as racist and colonialist by some now. I also loved the wonderful and often humorous stories by Erich Kästner.
TBF: What kind of fiction do you read now? What are you reading at the moment?
TA: I mostly read murder mysteries (shock horror!) but at the moment I’m reading Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, which is beautifully written and I’m keen to watch the recent film adaptation.
TBF: Which books have made the strongest impression on you?
TA: I have read The Cider House Rules by John Irving several times, from my teenage years until recently. I’m always struck by the tragedy intertwined with humour and the humanity of the story. Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann was my favourite for many years. His use of irony and long complex sentences fascinated me.
TBF: The Edinburgh Murders series isn’t your first foray into fiction writing. Tell us about your first book.
TA: My first book is called Flammenschatten. I wrote in German because I was afraid at the time that with living in Scotland, I would lose my mother tongue. The novel is set in a Scottish boarding school and the heroine is, surprise, surprise, a German teacher who solves a mystery there. It was not a great success, and a much better sequel is still languishing on my hard drive.
TBF: We assume you write in English as the books don’t have the feel of a translated work. What are the challenges of that?
TA: It is not a particular challenge. I have lived and worked so long with the English language that it comes to me more easily now than German. Sometimes the German word or expression comes to me first and I can’t think of the English word, so I am ashamed to admit I sometimes resort to using a German-English dictionary.
TBF: Do you think in English?
TA: When I’m in an English-speaking environment, yes. When I am in Germany, after a couple of days, I think in German again. Sometimes I get confused!
TBF: How long have you lived in Scotland? Why did you move there? Have you got used to the Scottish accent? Have you lived anywhere else in the UK?
TA: I came to Scotland as Foreign Language Assistant in 1989 and after that, I divided my time between Tübingen and Aberfeldy. Once I had finished my degree in Latin and German, I moved to Scotland permanently in 1994, got married and had my three children. In 2003 I took up my teaching job at Strathallan School, and I have lived in the Perth area ever since.
I love the Scottish accents (och aye!) and dialects, although I still haven’t mastered them myself, but some Aberdonians still present a challenge.
TBF: How does your day job inform your writing? What skills did you pick up in your career that help with writing?
TA: My job doesn’t really influence my writing other than the fact that I teach grammar and writing skills to my pupils, so over the years I have learned a lot about the English language. It doesn’t help much with creative writing, though.
Most of my time is spent preparing overseas pupils for the English exam that gives them access to university courses. This is a great responsibility, and I await their results with as much trepidation as they do.
I also teach German to beginners in S1. It is fun but also a challenge to introduce children to a new language without putting them off for life.
TBF: What kind of teacher are you? A disciplinarian or a soft touch?
TA: I think good discipline in the classroom is essential for learning, so I am quite strict, but discipline does not mean wielding a stick and frightening the pupils; it is achieved by setting clear boundaries and keeping pupils interested and motivated. In general, I try to be nice!
TBF: Each of your books has a clever twist. Is this something that comes to you when writing, or is the idea there from the beginning?
TA: I plot my novels quite carefully and I try to think of a twist right from the start although in High Hand I changed the ending to make it a bit different.
TBF: What kind of experience do you try to give your readers?
TA: I hope that my books have a ‘feel good factor’ – so that for a little while the readers can escape to a different world, forget about their worries and have a chuckle.
For links to buy all of Traude’s books, available on Kindle, FREE with Kindle Unlimited, in paperback, and in hardback head to her author page here. The links should take you to the amazon store in your national location.