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Michelle Stern: From hobby to dream job

Writing - for many a passion, for Michelle Stern also her job
Photo: mattjeacock / iStock

She turned her passion into her profession: writing.

She has a job that many dream of - and thus asserts herself in a real men's domain. Michelle Stern is a science fiction writer. She tells us how she did it.

Living from his creativity - many dream about it. Michelle Stern did it. In the interview she tells us how she turned her passion into her job and gives tips on writing books .

We are sure that in many of us there are talents and unused creativity, just waiting to break out. But turn his creative hobby into a career? That requires courage.

Michelle Stern did just that. She is a science fiction writer. How she did it, she tells us in an interview:

Dear Ms. Stern, As a full-time writer, you have a job that many dream of. How did that happen?

At about twelve, I discovered my joy in writing stories. Even then I wanted to become a writer. A visit to a literature workshop in Darmstadt and an award by the state of Hesse in a literary competition have encouraged me to my graduation times in this desire. However, I was also aware that I want to have a plan B and want to be as broad as possible in the professional life. That's why I first studied and gained additional experience in writing. After completing my studies, I worked in various secondary jobs in order to write full-time.

They are actually called Stefanie Jahnke. Why the stage name Michelle Stern?

The artist's name came about during the collaboration with the Bastei publishing house. At that time I was still called Stefanie Rafflenbeul and my birth name was too long for the editor. That's why he said I should think up a stage name. My husband chose the first name Michelle, and I chose Stern as a surname - at that time I did not write any pure science fiction, otherwise I might have chosen a different name.

Getting involved in an established series like PERRY RHODAN, a series that has been around for over 50 years, is certainly going to be tough. How did you prepare for it?

After the first request, I dealt with the so-called silver volumes, even though I have not read all the silver volumes for a long time. In these books, several novels of the series are summarized, which allows a good start. In addition, I have read a lot in the Perrypedia, the reference work of the series on the Internet.

How does that work as a writer for a series? So how long do you write a novel, how many pages does a novel contain? Where do your ideas for the plot come from? Are there any requirements?

At PERRY RHODAN things are going so well that there are currently two authors of exposés and also a multi-headed writing team. The Exposéverfasser write novels for the series. They pay attention to a uniform action. Each author reads the exposés and, if they are already available at the time of writing, also the novels of the other authors.
So I get an Exposé with guidelines and cornerstones, in which a lot is already set. I write about three to four weeks on a novel and then rework it. In print this is about 64 pages, which sounds little. However, these are a good 180, 000 characters including spaces. Sometimes it gets more.
In addition to writing the novels, I also take care of the letters to the editor. I answer the numerous letters and put together the so-called reader contact page, which is included in every PERRY RHODAN booklet.

When and where are you particularly creative?

In fact, the last few weeks I've been forced to work mostly at home on a PC - that's easiest for me. If I have the time and the weather cooperates, I also like to write outdoors, preferably by a lake and by hand. This has the disadvantage that I have to write off everything when I'm at home - and the advantage that already takes place when copying a correction. If I do not like a sentence, I do not bother to type it.

Nearly 80 percent of PERRY RHODAN readers are male and on average 45. Your colleagues are all male. As a young, sci-fi enthusiastic woman, is it hard to be taken seriously as a writer?

I think this estimate is misleading. I know a lot of younger PERRY RHODAN readers and some readers - although the 80 percent may well be true. As far as the age is concerned, it's nice to see that it does not matter. There are people in their twenties whose horizons are more limited than those of an eighty-year-old PERRY RHODAN reader. Especially in the science fiction scene, I came across many cosmopolitan, open-minded spirits, whose age I personally completely indifferent.
I have another colleague in the team, Verena Themsen. There is also a former team writer who writes so much for the series that readers affectionately refer to her as a regular guest writer. Moreover, the same applies to me as it does to age. I have always been with men a lot in my life and have never taken the classic female role. One of my hobbies is martial arts.
I did not feel that I had a hard time. Most readers are very open-minded. Sure, there are a few who like to think: "What is the woman doing with my favorite hero?" Behind it stands for me a fear that I can understand, since I myself was a fan of series and am. Especially in some parts of life, the function of literature can be very diverse and go far beyond nice conversation. The more serious it becomes for the reader, the more he fears that he will not be taken seriously - or that one does not take his heroes seriously enough.

You were also an erotic author. What do you mean? Do erotic and science fiction conflict?

Phew. Do not necessarily contradict. But in PERRY RHODAN I do not need eroticism as a reader, to be honest. It disturbed me earlier in the fantasy, if the novels there are slipped too much in an erotic direction. As a reader, I like to separate it myself and if I want to read erotic literature, I read it separately.

Are you still working on other projects besides the PERRY RHODAN novels?

At the moment I have no other projects. In addition to writing, I'm doing martial arts again, albeit moderately, have a husband, a beagle who is very runny, and am interested in relaxation techniques and coaching.
Professionally, I am currently busy with the series PERRY RHODAN and PERRY RHODAN NEO as well as the support of the reader contact page and answering the reader's mail.

Do you have any advice for women who also want to become (full-time) writers?

Especially in the field of fantasy, science fiction and fantasy, I can only recommend the various writing workshops. They not only improve your skills, but also get in touch and get a feel for this particular profession.
Especially writers like Andreas Eschbach or Markus Heitz can certainly learn a lot. But also from the PERRY RHODAN writers, some of whom give writing seminars. The BuCon near Frankfurt at the end of the Frankfurt Book Fair can be a sensible event to meet smaller publishers in the scene. Gladly you can address me there and ask me questions. Mostly I'm there on Saturdays.
Another recommendation is the homepage of Andreas Eschbach . There you will find many valuable tips and insights on writing.

Otherwise, I once set up the ten commandments of the writer for fun:

  • You should keep your perspective
  • You should keep the chosen time
  • You should describe in a sensual, concrete, pictorial and accurate way
  • You should find your physical narrative attitude and build tension
  • You should provide the reader with an orientation, a problem, an assessment, and a credible solution
  • You should show, do not tell !!!
  • You should know your story
  • You should research, plot and revise
  • You should honor the six W's (he does what, w w, w o, w and w arum), rearrange and weight
  • You should not despair

The last point is the most important.

Michelle Stern (Photo: (c) Sabine Schönberger)

Since 1961, the PERRY RHODAN series has thrilled numerous science fiction fans in German-speaking countries as well as in countries such as Japan, France and the Netherlands. With the volume 2800, which appears on April 17, 2015, launches a new story arc in the largest science fiction series in the world. The novel was written by a young author from the Greater Frankfurt area: Michelle Stern drives Perry Rhodan and his companions into the Zeitriss.

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