Christian Jungeboldt

Thomas Harding is a bestselling author whose books have been translated into more than 16 languages. He has written for the Sunday Times, the Washington Post and the Guardian, among other publications. He is the author of Hanns and Rudolf, which won the JQ-Wingate Prize for Non-Fiction; The House by the Lake, which was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award; Blood on the Page, which won the Crime Writers’ Association “Golden Dagger Award for Non-Fiction” and Future History, which was shortlisted for the German Children’s Literature Award 2021. His next book, White Debt, will be published in January 2022. 

How many ideas for potential works do you have in your head?

Ha! I have ideas all the time, some demand my attention, I get excited by them, I explore where they might lead, others I let go. It can be quite difficult deciding which idea to pursue. In terms of new writing, I can only work on one idea at a time. But when it comes to the later stages of the process – editing, interviews, public talks, marketing – I can focus on more than one project at a time.

When working on a new project, how do you sift through competing ideas in order to move forward?

A new project is actually a relief. I can then focus my energy on one project. The most important thing to work out is the structure, how to tell the story. Once this is established, things become much easier. 

What writing habit do you have that is impossible to shift? (That could be a particular snack, writing hours, location, caffeine consumption etc.)

I find outside noise a real distraction. In my home office, I can control the environment, it is quiet, which works just fine. In a public space, I must have headphones. 

The international literature festival berlin (ilb) has become an essential part of Berlin’s literary calendar. What do you connect with the city?

That’s a big topic! In fact, my book THE HOUSE BY THE LAKE is all about trying to answer this question. In the 1920s, my family felt 100% Berliners, so it was traumatic when they had to flee the National Socialists in the 1930s. I started spending more time in Germany a decade ago when my family began working with local residents to rescue the lake house outside of Berlin. I felt fear at first, that those I saw on the street were going to get me. Was it safe? Was I safe? I was hyper-vigilant. Unable to relax. Now, having met so many incredible people over the years, having had so many rich experiences, and having taking part in a very powerful reconciliation process, I feel extremely positive towards Berlin. In fact, it feels like home. For more about the lake house project go to www.alexanderhaus.org.

What impact did the past 12 months have on your writing and ways of working? (Answers could range from challenges of home schooling to enjoying some quiet time or a writing routine turned upside down)

In truth, the last 12 months have had little impact on my writing. I worked at home before COVID, and I still work at home. But the pandemic did have a huge impact on the other part of the process which I love so much: the interaction with a live public audience. In addition, two of my books were published in Germany during the lockdown when bookshops were closed, it was deeply frustrating. I am so excited to take part in in-person book events again! Of course, my frustration is nothing compared to the terrible health, social and economic impacts of the pandemic, that have impacted so many people, including members of my family.


Thomas Harding 2021