Novelist Jeanine Krock: “Writing Is a Lonely Job, so You Need to Be Comfortable in Your Own Company”

Jeanine Krock
Jeanine Krock

Sometimes, life takes unexpected turns. It was a severe riding accident that forced Jeanine Krock to change careers. That was fifteen years ago; today, Jeanine makes her livelihood as a novelist. She has published numerous books with various publishing houses and acts as a coach to aspiring writers of all ages.

A German version of this interview is available on the website Die Wortfinderinnen.

Please tell us something about you and what you are working on.

My name is Jeanine Krock. I’m a novelist. Most of what I write I publish under my name, but there are times when I’m using a pen name. Right now, for example, I’m writing as Kiri Johansson, and have just completed the first draft of a novel called Islandsommer (“A Summer in Iceland”), to be published by Heyne in May next year. It’s now with the editors, which, for me, is always a bit of an emotional roller coaster.

I trained as a costume designer, but have also worked as a scout and booker at a model agency, as a relocation consultant, waitress, cook, and in a call centre. At one point, I even ironed shirts for a living. Oh, and I’m a committed European.

Which role does writing play in your life?

It’s what I do for a living. Tends to keep you busy twenty-four seven. Which would be unbearable if it wasn’t so much fun.

So, you have worked in a number of other professions and lived in the UK, Greece, and the French Antilles. How did you become an author?

Not a pretty story I’m afraid. In 1995, I had a riding accident, including a near-death experience (makes for great reading in fiction, not really great in real life, believe me). Also meant I had to learn how to walk again, and to change career. Whilst recovering in a tiny flat in Hamburg, I ran out of reading material. I thought why not come up with a story of my own? Turned out that people liked it, one thing led to another, six or seven years later it got published (rather accidentally to be honest), and the publisher encouraged me to keep writing. Fifteen years and plenty of writing classes later, I’m among the fortunate ones who make a living as a novelist.

I’m also the co-founder of a business called Die Wortfinderinnen (“The Wordsmiths” ). We coach people new to writing, regardless of their age. And I’m an active member of the writing community in our neck of the woods.

You have already published many novels. Where do your ideas come from?

Cover of the novel “Islandsommer”, which will be published under the pen name Kiri Johannson
Forthcoming: The novel “Islandsommer”

They don’t just come out of thin air. I do read a lot. Books, newspapers, mags, blogs. Plenty of social media content. Also, I’m no recluse. Quite on the contrary. I listen. I observe. And I’ve always been interested in psychology. All of which probably helps me get a feel for what life is all about for other people. Sometimes, it’s something someone says. Sometimes I try to figure out why people behave the way they do in a given situation. And then, of course, there’s travelling, visiting places with a breathtakingly beautiful landscape, and their very own myths and legends. And, bang, suddenly things fall into place, and it’s like, hey, what about a story centred around … 

Some of your books have been released with big publishing houses, e.g., Heyne and Lyx/Lübbe, others you published by yourself. What are the pros and cons of both ways?

Actually, I’ve been with all sorts of publishers, from independent small press houses to some of the big guns. The way I see it is, if they believe in you, support you and don’t drop you as soon as your sales numbers don’t meet their projections – which can happen any time and, in most cases, has nothing to do with the quality of the storytelling – they are doing what good publishers are supposed to do.

On the other hand, self-publishing means you’ve got complete creative control over every aspect of your work. However, you’ll have to pay all the upfront costs, and you run the risk of financial loss if your book doesn’t sell well enough to recoup your expenses.

What are, in your opinion, the most important characteristics for an author to become successful?

Get yourself organized. The ability to suffer (hey, life isn’t fair, you know? Never was.) Attention to detail. Curiosity and an open mind. Know how to tell a story. Do your homework. Keep writing every day, come rain, come shine – no excuses. Moreover, working on a draft day-in day-out is a very lonely job, so you need to be comfortable in your own company. And you still need to be able to love your fellow human beings. Even if they have the tendency to impose themselves on you the very moment you have one of these brainwaves where you need to get words on the screen before they evaporate into the Nirvana of Great Ideas Forever Lost …

“Don’t call it a dream, call it a plan” - promotion artwork for Jeanine’s coaching business Die Wortfinderinnen
Together with two other female writers, Jeanine has founded “Die Wortfinderinnen”, a coaching business for aspiring writers

How important is self-marketing for success? Is it a must, or will great stories find their readers anyway?

I think it’s very important to let people know what you are doing and what you stand for as an artist. However, always be honest, don’t overdo it, and if you are not comfortable with it, don’t do it at all. Readers can tell whether you are the genuine article or a fake – well, at least, most of them can. In the end, you still want to be able to look yourself in the eye, don’t you?

Having said this, clever marketing can turn pretty average stories into bestsellers, as we’ve all seen on more than one occasion. On the other hand, books with wonderful storytelling and a gripping plot may bomb because of buggered-up marketing, or publishers trying to sell to the wrong audience. 

What is a typical day in Jeanine Krock’s life like?

I’m a seasonal creature. During the summer months, I get up at 5 am, have a nice cup of tea, and start working until I’m getting hungry. During winter, I tend to work from dusk till dawn.

However, once I’ve started a new manuscript, I work on it every day (if what I’ve written turns out to be utter tosh it just gets discarded) whilst still allowing for stints of what Martin Walser calls »creative idleness«.

Please tell us how you are using Ulysses.

I’ve been using Ulysses for many years. It really helps me organize my work. Back in 2013, when the new version came out, with a changed layout and all these groups and sheets, I wasn’t sure if it still was my cup of tea. But I got used to it quickly and now can’t do without.

I use Ulysses to manage my deadlines, achieve goals I’ve set myself, keep track of word count and chapter length, and to file notes and content snippets.

A screenshot of Jeanine’s Ulysses library
Jeanine’s Ulysses library

How did you find out about Ulysses?

Sorry, that was such a long time ago, I really don’t remember. What I do remember though is that, at some point, I was burning the midnight oil to meet a deadline when the system went blank. I panicked, emailed support, and, despite the late hour, within a couple of minutes somebody was on the case and helped me sort things out. Afterwards, I found out that it was the company head himself who guided me through the process. I owe you big one!

Which other apps and tools do you use and how do they help?

Well, I use the Vellum app to create ebooks – that’s my own books, and books by fellow writers. Photoshop is absolutely essential for what I do. Spark is pretty useful, too, when posting stuff on Instagram. Then there is Trello, to manage joint projects, and Papyrus for proofing text content with regard to spelling, grammar, and other inconsistencies. And, of course, there’s Word. Mostly, because everyone else uses it.

What else is necessary for you to be productive? As an example, do you work in a particular environment?

In terms of equipment, most of my work is done on a MacBook Pro and, recently, on the latest iMac. Occasionally I’m also using my smartphone, or a tablet.

When it comes to work environment, I prefer to write sitting at a desk. I don’t mind where as long as it’s somewhere peaceful and quiet. Writing in coffee houses or tea rooms sounds great, but doesn’t work for me as I am way too curious to ignore all those people around me. My time off is spent at the seaside. No internet. Just me, my dog and my Icelandic horse. I can look at the water for hours. Helps me relax and makes up for all those weekends at the desk pounding the keyboard.

Thanks for the interview!

Rebekka Honeit

Blog-curating writing maniac and public relations person. Loves coffee, chocolate cookies and literature. Finds peace in tweaking press copy.