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... born in Muenster / Westphalia and raised in Paderborn, has been living in the Taunus region since her childhood and has been writing just as long.
Her crime thriller series with investigators Oliver von Bodenstein and Pia Kirchhoff is set in the Vordertaunus region. The large Berlin publisher Ullstein discovered her and took her under contract. Before that, it was self-published. The series made her one of the most widely read crime writers in Germany. Her Taunus crime thrillers have so far reached a total circulation of 3.5 million copies, the rights have been sold to 20 countries, including Italy, France, Spain, Holland, Korea, Russia, Brazil, Poland, China, Czech Republic, Croatia, Greece and the USA.
In June 2010, only three days after the publication of her crime thriller “Snow White Must Die” the book entered the TOP20 of the SPIEGEL bestseller list and has since ranked among Amazon’s foremost sales statistics. Since the summer of 2011 all five crime thrillers by Nele Neuhaus rank among the TOP50 of the SPIEGEL bestseller list.
In the spring of 2011 Thienemann published the first volume of the youth series “Elena – Ein Leben fuer Pferde” (not yet published in English - free translation "Elena - A Life For Horses” titled “Gegen alle Hindernisse” (not yet published in English – free translation “Against All Obstacles”). Volume 2 followed in July 2011. In February 2012 the youth novel “Charlottes Traumpferd” (not yet published in English – free translation “Charlotte’s Dream Horse”) was published. The second volume was published in October 2012.
The fifth case of her investigator duo, Oliver von Bodenstein and Pia Kirchhoff, titled “Wer Wind sät” (not yet published in English – free translation “Those Who Sow”) was published on 13th May 2011 and immediately became No. 1 on the SPIEGEL bestseller list. The same success happened with the new edition of Nele’s first crime thriller “Swimming with Sharks” which was republished by Ullstein in March 2012. In October 2012 the sixth Taunus thriller “Boeser Wolf” (not yet published in English – free translation “Bad Wolf”) became the first hardcover publication. “Bad Wolf” also continued the success of entering the SPIEGEL bestseller list as No. 1. All seven books by Nele Neuhaus were even in the SPIEGEL and SPIEGEL Online bestseller lists at the same time. In South Korea "Snow White Must Die" ranked among the foremost fiction bestsellers for several months. Furthermore, in 2013 “Snow White Must Die” and “Swimming With Sharks” will be published in the USA and in England.
In the summer of 2012 "Snow White Must Die" and "Eine unbeliebte Frau” (not yet published in English – free translation “An Unpopular Woman") were filmed for ZDF with Felicitas Woll and Tim Bergmann in the lead roles. The broadcast of “An Unpopular Woman” is planned for early 2013. “Snow White Must Die” was broadcast in February 2013.
The author lives with her partner and her dog in the Vordertaunus region.
How I became a writer
- And why you should live your dreams
How it all began ...
I wrote my first story at the age of about five years, before I learned how to write formally in school. It was about owls in the forest, my favorite animals at the time and anyone who wanted to understand what I had written, had to read it out loud because I was only able to use phonetics. Later I learned to write properly and began to fill my school notebooks with handwritten stories.
Soon after, the good old Pelikan fountain pen superseded. It must have been around 1981 when I wrote the horse story "Jessica – Abenteuer im Reitstall” (not yet published in English – free translation “Jessica - Adventure At The Stables"), which filled several notebooks, all of them being carefully glued together and bound together with tape.
A few months later, my parents bought me a yellow portable typewriter for Christmas. It was the source of innumerable horse novels, love stories, screenplays and many more works which I made up in every spare second. Some of them I kept but most of them went into the rubbish bin. Already at that point in time it was clear to me that I wanted to be a writer.
Dream job Writer
Towards the end of school my classmates signed apprenticeship contracts and enrolled at a university. It would have sounded presumptuous and probably everybody would have laughed heartily, if I had truly answered the question "What are you going to do?" Everyone knows writing is an unprofitable art. My poor parents surely would have been desperate if I had told them. They probably would have imagined me at the age of 50 still sitting in their basement with my typewriter.
So I did what I had to do: I made money. Because of my deep-routed aversion to numbers, a commercial apprenticeship was out of the question. I wish I had chosen film studies but the idea of me being alone in a big city like Berlin or Munich scared my parents a bit. In the end I was offered a job as a secretary in a company where I had already been doing casual work during school holidays. I was earning money straight away, no lean apprentice salary. Inwardly, I was still convinced that one day my secret dream would come true. Unshakable, I wrote more and more, for the drawer and usually without finding an ending for my story, but in that time I learned one thing: writing is, to a large extent, a craft and practice makes perfect! However, I was still very far away from writing a real book. I was too impatient. I wanted too much at once.
Just don’t give up!
The years went by. I met my husband at a horse show and the next twenty years belonged to our hobby horses and my new job at my husband’s meat factory. Self-employment and horses minimize your leisure time to nearly zero, and therefore, writing became my only holidays. Several semesters of Law, German and History at university showed me that an academic career would not be my cup of tea. Looking back, the experience was nevertheless instructive and indispensable. Writing – now on my computer – remained a hobby my husband could not appreciate at all. “A waste of time”, he said, shaking his head. It did not discourage me though. After some years I somehow managed to finish a manuscript 1,000 pages thick about an investment banker in New York. The story required good research, and in the late 90s of the last century, the Internet was not as informative as it is today. I had to read bunches of books. Several revisions later “Swimming With Sharks” was finished and I was looking for a publisher. It would have to happen what probably happens to every would-be author: the responses I got were polite, pre-printed rejection letters. Only once I got an enthusiastic commitment only after two days. On closer inspection, the euphoric publisher turned out to be one of these ominous vanity publishers asking me to send an advance payment in the amount of DM 60,000 to print my book. That could not be the solution! Nobody has explained the reasons for their rejection and I started questioning myself and the quality of work.
Print on demand - a (good) alternative...
At the end of 2004, I read about the magic words “book on demand” – the opportunity to self-publish your own book. After collecting some information I knew THIS IS IT! You are the architect of your own fortune – try it! But what does the term “book on demand” exactly mean? The publisher prints each manuscript, unless the content is not politically correct. In simple terms: You can send in your manuscript as Word file and decide whether you would like to keep it exactly the way it is or whether you want to buy special services like copyediting, proofreading, et cetera. Additionally, the publisher can take over the creation of your book cover, organization of the ISBN and everything else. After the author’s approval the book will be printed. Hardcover, softcover, paberback, there are countless ways to design a book. By chance, I found the Muenster publisher “Monsenstein & Vannerdat” with whom I have brought four book projects on the way. I have always been pleased with the outcome.
However, it should be noted that books on demand have one disadvantage. Once the book is printed, that is it. There is no advertising, marketing et cetera by the publishers. They are - and that's not meant to sound negative - pure service providers, better printing shops so to say. Small print runs are usually very expensive, so that the author does not earn anything. Often high sale prizes are the result. Therefore, small editions cannot compete with large ones published by large publishing companies. And it is also true – that I learned the hard way – authors using “books on demand” services are not considered good authors. I did not care. I just wanted to hold my book in my hands, make my dream come true.
Live your dream
I precisely calculated my risk which brought me to my first edition of “Swimming With Sharks” with a circulation of 500 copies and a retail price of EUR 16.90 for 600 pages. I knew it was a risk investment for a completely unknown author. I could not be sure how many books will be sold. Therefore, I organized a book launch and I invited all my friends. Additionally, I planned to use the showroom of the company as a sales opportunity. My plans worked out. After a few days, the first edition was sold out, and I ordered new books. I invested a lot of energy into the marketing and I often had to overcome my inhibitions. Canvassing from bookstore door to bookstore door, creating my own website, readings in front of two listeners, approaching the press. A laborious and exhausting path leading to the desired result. Finally, my books got to the readers and that is where they belong.
Fairly quickly, these readers asked for more. Therefore, the first Taunus thriller titled “An Unpopular Woman” was born. Again, I did all the work alone. I chose a picture for my cover, I wrote the blurb, and I proofread the text. This time, I ordered a first edition of 1,000 copies which were delivered on palled and parked in our garage but not for long. The first booksellers discovered my Taunus crime thrillers and started ordering. I wrote shipping notes and invoices, I delivered the books myself and I took the books ordered through Amazon to the post office. The company’s drivers had to supply the bookstores further away on their tours.
The second Taunus crime thriller “Friends Till Death” had an edition of 5,000 copies. From its first edition (18th November 2006) until the date it was assumed by Ullstein 10,000 copies had been sold!
This day I am happy about the path I have chosen. I appreciate the work in a publishing house. I know what representatives, sales staff, editor have to face. After all, I do not only wrote my books, I also proofread them, I edited them, I designed their covers, I conceived their titles, I was my own marketing department, I was my own sales and distribution team and I was my accounting staff.
My husband and many other people shook their heads, because I have had no time to do anything else. In the mornings I spent my time in the meat factory. In the afternoons I spent my time caring for our horses. Everything else had to fit in between. No holidays. When someone asked me whether I am missing anything it was me who shook the head. I was about to fulfill my lifetime dream! What could be missing? I was satisfied with what I had reached so far. I had stopped thinking about a real publisher, but suddenly a real publisher started thinking about me.
In January 2008, my writing career underwent an important and wonderful change; an editor of the prestigious publishing house Ullstein contacted me. She had read “Mordsfreunde” (not yet published in English – free translation “Friends Till Death”) and she had taken it with her to Berlin. The publisher was impressed and offered me collaboration. I pondered… only for a second. My energy reserves had come to an end. I lacked time and money for large-scale advertising, I lacked the necessary distribution channels, and I simply did not feel like doing it anymore. I preferred using my time for writing. As mentioned before, when I was a child my favourite animal was the owl. Therefore, I have always had a special affinity for Ullstein. Additionally, Ullstein has published some of my favourite books.
Shortly afterwards, I submitted a draft for a new Taunus crime thriller which met positive response from the editors. I got a contract. It was a completely new and great experience to work with an experienced editor. It improved my books. In the summer of 2009 “Tiefe Wunden” (not yet published in English – free translation “Skin Deep”) was published. It came as a surprise to all of us that the book went immediately into the SPIEGEL bestseller list. “An Unpopular Woman” and “Friends Till Death” became so-called backlist titles. Ullstein republished them in April 2009. This phenomenal opportunity Ullstein gave came just at the right time. It made my dream come true: I actually became a writer!
My Taunus series defied all prophecies of doom. Nowadays, it is popular in Germany and many other countries. I took the opportunity of working with the major publisher Ullstein. I was warned though. “You will be forced to write what they want to read. You will be put under pressure, and you will have to obey deadlines. They will let you down when you do not succeed.” Beforehand, I had fixed deadlines myself, and I had put myself under pressures. Actually, the new situation was about to reduce my stress because I was not on my own anymore.
This day, I have my editor who helps me with the text. I am still writing what I want to. It is still fun. I no longer have the feeling of being alone, because there is a whole publishing company behind me. In June 2010, the fourth Taunus crime thriller “Snow White Must Die” was released. And quite suddenly and unexpectedly, something happened which I would never have dared to dream: the book made the bestseller lists, and was No.1 on the Amazon website for several months.
In 2010, I wrote both volumes of the series “Elena – A Life For Horses” for the publisher Thienemann. Two volumes of the youth series “"Charlotte's Dream Horse" followed. Back to the roots of my career as a writer. Furthermore, “Swimming With Sharks” was republished by Prospero, an imprint of the publisher Monsenstein & Vannerdat Muenster. In March 2012, it was also republished by Ullstein.
My books have now achieved the enormous total sold circulation of 3.5 million copies in Germany. Unbelievable and hard to imagine!
Everything has developed very fast and very well. I have though worked incredibly hard and I have never let anybody discourage me. Neither any reviewer nor my husband, whom I parted from in 2011 managed to discourage me. I only occasionally took “good advice” from others. Mostly, I went with my gut instinct, and it has never let me down.
Well, if anyone had told me THIS is going to happen, I would not have believed him or her.
Writing is my life! I will never stop as long as there are people who like my books. If that changes, I will write for myself again. Anyway, that is the reason I do it in the first place. I thank God for my talent and for the opportunities I have had. However, I would never have got the opportunities, if I had not taken matters into my own hands and if I had not dared to publish my books myself.
I would like to thank my parents who have always supported my talent. I would like to thank my sisters who support me and who are always there for me. I thank my many readers, the people who like my books and who allow me to take them with me to my fantasy worlds. It is just wonderful!
I would also like to thank my reviewers. Initially, it was hard for me to cope with critical and partly hurtful reviews, because they pierced me into the heart. Especially, the incredible success of Snow White has taught me a lot. My books don’t have to be liked by everybody. Not everybody likes everything. Occasionally, you will find people among the reviewers and bloggers who want to be writers themselves, but they are not successful. Nowadays, I accept criticism, even if it is unqualified and hurtful. That is simply part of it all. Positive, constructive and helpful criticism predominates. In the end, nothing else matters.
One thing is for sure: If you want to make your dream come true, you have to take in your own hands, you need to work hard, you need to take the risk of defeats and setback and you have to take your chances. Just sitting still, being grumpy, waiting for someone who will help you does not get you anywhere.
So, here is my tip for all young writers. Write, write, and write! Be self-critical! Read, read, and read… to improve your style. Choose critical and honest sample readers. Rework your text – if necessary a dozen times. It can always be better. And finally, go for it! Perhaps you want to try the option “books on demand” yourself. I can tell you that it is an overwhelming feeling to hold your book in your hands!
I founded the Nele Neuhaus Foundation, which helps me to share the experiences I have had especially with those who have not been so lucky to be supported by their parents. And I am delighted to have found great allies: my family, friends and especially my partner Matthias who has great empathy with me and my work and who always supports me.
Last but not least, I would only like to add the following: Good luck to everybody who sends it to me.