Astrid Freyeisen is the author of Shanghai and the Policy of the Third Reich (2000) and Songs for Piaf: The Life of Norbert Glanzberg (2004). She is the Shanghai correspondent for ARD German Radio.
Why I write
Because I can’t help it.
Do you write every day? If so, how many hours?
Not on books at the moment, but as a journalist. When I write a book, I write until I feel exhausted, sometimes eight hours or more.
Worst source of distraction?
Since I write historical books, I have to look up sources a lot. Often I keep on reading these documents or books even after I had found my information.
Best source of inspiration?
When I hear a fascinating story being told – especially by old people.
How often do you get writers’ block / doubt your own ability?
I haven’t had writers’ block yet, but sometimes I must force myself not to read and re-write things I have written over and over again. There is always something to be improved, and when a book is published you always find lots of mistakes and blame yourself not to have found them in time.
Contemporary writer in any medium who you never miss?
As I love to read detective stories, I make sure I never miss books by Qiu Xiaolong. One book I will definitely not want to miss is the upcoming memoir Permanently Temporary by Shanghai writer Tess Johnston.
Favorite Chinese writer?
Qiu Xiaolong, Jiang Rong.
Best book about China?
Too difficult to say.
The book you should have read but haven’t?
Goethe’s Faust II. I was supposed to read it in middle school for an exam, but only read a summary in a literary lexicon – enough to write a good exam. But shame on me!
You look back at the first thing you had published and think…
It was a small newspaper article about Franconian championships in swimming. When I see it now I remember how terribly long it took to write it and how proud I was when I saw it printed.
Does writing change anything?
A book you write is something you create. Sometimes you save a story or even a person’s life story from being forgotten all too quickly. This is quite a rewarding feeling.