When filming or radio plays there was a lot to do and then again little to do. In the phases with few assignments I started to write crime novels. This is how the “Willa Stark” series was initially created at Conte-Verlag. Then the Cologne-based Emons Verlag contacted me and I just had a dentist crime story in the drawer. It was about a Cologne dentist who approached criminal cases with her very own methods. So writing picked up pace and I had to choose between acting and crime thrillers. But I didn’t leave the stage entirely; there was a theatrical reading for every new crime novel. Then Mördermitzi appeared for the first time as a bizarre figure on the sidelines, which was very well received by the audience. And now the third Alpine thriller with her has just appeared.
What is the Mitzi?
Archan: The Mitzi is a bizarre, tragic and yet sympathetic figure. She got her nickname Mördermitzi at school because she caused the death of her family when she was seven. She wanted to cook in a wooden hut on her parents’ property and then forgot to turn off the gas. So there was an explosion in which her family was killed. She grew up with her grandparents in Styria. Now as an adult, she lives in her own world, which is determined by books and films. Her only friend is a police inspector from Kufstein. In the crime novels, Mitzi suddenly gets caught up in the criminal cases. So she actually wants to prevent a crime in the second crime thriller and ends up in the middle of the case. Her friend officially investigates, but Mitzi does not give up and keeps rushing forward.
In the third case, things get dramatic.
Archan: Mitzi is suspected of murder herself because there are traces of her at the scene. She knew the victim, there was a little love affair between the two of them. She is in custody, from which she is freed by a public defender. Now she wants to look for the real murderer herself. But she mustn’t keep in close contact with her friend, because otherwise she is considered biased. Mitzi therefore goes on the hunt for a murderer alone and, after further murders have occurred, puts her life in acute danger. The result is a funny, but also incredibly exciting thriller with a very surprising ending.
How do you come up with the ideas for a crime thriller?
Archan: The basic idea usually comes to me while walking in the city forest. The idea then becomes an open plot for the crime thriller. The characters are fixed, but a lot can still change when you write. In this way, characters survive who were supposed to die early, and others die earlier than originally intended. Sometimes there is a new perpetrator in the process of writing.
How do you find the landscapes in which the investigation takes place and how do the characters of the crime novel come about?
Archan: I know the landscape in the Alps very well because I lived there for a long time and traveled a lot. Mitzi lives in the beautiful Salzburger Land and the new crime thriller I’m currently writing is going to Krems. I find the characters everywhere on the train or in the restaurant, you just have to listen and watch. What happens in real life is often much more bizarre than what can be written.
Will Mitzi investigate again in the fourth case?
Archan: I’m not going to reveal that at this point, you don’t know whether Mitzi will survive her current case. Perhaps her friend, the inspector, will go looking for a murderer on her own.
How important are holiday thrillers right now in the crisis?
Archan: For me, in crime novels, my adopted home of Cologne is always associated with Austria, where I was born. The Mördermitzi’s girlfriend has a Cologne friend who works as a private detective on the Rhine. For the reader, it is nice to get to Austria and the Alps through the characters and their stories in times when traveling is difficult. I know how idyllic and beautiful the landscape is and try to incorporate that into my crime novels accordingly. A good mix of tension, humor and lightness is just as important to me. That also defines me as a person.
How do you research your cases?
Archan: I have various expert friends who I pass on individual passages from the crime novels for review. These are, for example, criminal investigators in Cologne, Munich and Graz. I know a chief inspector there who can give me tips on the slightly different legal situation in Austria. There is also a psychologist and a forensic doctor from Cologne. I write my thrillers the way I imagine it and how I would like it to be. My experts then correct me and I adapt the crime thriller so that it is closer to reality. However, it often takes a lot longer and is much drier than in the crime novels. So you always have to spice it up a little artificially so that it doesn’t get boring.
Are there any plans to put the Mördermitzi on television?
Archan: That would be a dream of mine. I hope that this wish can be turned into reality. There has also been interest from film production companies. I also have a good friend who works as a screenwriter. However, I have not yet considered who could take on the role of Mitzi.
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Book Isabella Archan: Drei Morde für die Mördermitzi, Emons-Verlag, 336 pages, 13 euros
Author Isabella Archan was born in Graz in 1965. After high school and acting diploma, theater engagements in Austria, Switzerland and Germany followed. She has lived in Cologne since 2002, where she began a second career as an author. In addition to writing, Isabella Archan can be seen repeatedly in roles in TV and film.
Readings on August 25th, 7.30 pm: Eselsohr bookstore, Cologne; September 12, 4 p.m .: Culture under the cherry tree, Cologne-Sürth; October 8th, 7.30pm: Ute Hentschel bookstore, Burscheid.