- Who are you and what do you do?
Dr. Elisabeth Frank: Product Manager for clinical trials software at XClinical GmbH, Munich
Dr. Christian Homma: Innovation Manager at Siemens AG, Munich
- What inspired you to choose your job?
Elisabeth: Improving healthcare and health IT is my passion. Initially, I studied neuroscience and worked 10 years in the research on psychopathology and psychoneuroimmunology at the Max-Planck-Institute for Psychiatry in Munich and the Schizophrenia Research Institute in Sydney. After doing a Bioinformatics Bachelor, I decided to change into industry and the development of software in the area of clinical trials and practice.
Christian: I was always fascinated by creating or exploring the new. Therefore, I joined the R&D department of a large corporation to work on cutting-edge technology. For ten years, I have been creating an impact on trend and technology scouting as well as open innovation.
- Have you always lived in your current location? If not, what brought you there?
Elisabeth: I grew up in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and moved to Munich for my studies. To do my neuroscience research, I lived and worked for 5 years in the south of Sydney, Australia. Thereafter, I rediscovered Munich for myself. It is a beautiful place to live and work. Particularly for IT jobs, Munich is absolutely fantastic – for somebody who loves riding a bike to work and hike in the mountains on the weekends, it is even more so.
Christian: Though I have always lived around Munich, I have an increasing desire to live abroad. Australia is high on the top list.
- What do you really love to do outside of your job?
Elisabeth: Music was my first love – I played music all my life and is my most favourite spare time. At the moment, I am singing in a pop choir (at least as far as the pandemic allows). Writing is my second passion. Together with Christian, the plotting and character drafting is absolutely wonderful. While Christian is more the action writer, I love working on the drama of our books. With writing come the readings, and we have a lot of fun being on stage and acting our protagonists. The highlight was a reading on the AIDAnova Cruise ship in front of thousands of passengers.
Christian: I am writing short stories since I was a child. Two of my Breakbuster books have been translated into English and can be bought from Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Christian-Homma). Besides that, I am a passionate hobby photographer, I love heavy metal music, work for a radio station, am a coach, and I like to create and solve riddles.
- What did you first become interested in writing stories?
Elisabeth: I love books! A great story that you can get lost in with enthralling characters is one of the most beautiful things in the world. As a kid, I tried to write my own little stories, but I never got far. Reviewing Christian’s short stories inspired us to come up with a joint writing project – since then, it is an essential and wonderfully creative part of our life.
Christian: At the age of 12, I wrote my first spine-chiller story after reading books from Stephen King and Roald Dahl. Since then, writing is part of my life.
- Which writers and novelists do you particularly admire?
Elisabeth: I was always intrigued by the genius of Agatha Christie. I also read a lot from Edgar Wallace and the Sherlock Holmes books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. On the other hand, it was Astrid Lindgren and Erich Kästner that I love most. I guess this is exactly the mixture of crime and kids’ stories that is now also an essence of our books, where four former school mates close to their retirement start solving crimes by remembering the tricks of their childhood.
Christian: My all-time favourite is Desmond Bagley for his thrillers that play at different locations around the world. Other than that, I like the short stories from Stephen King.
- What kind of themes and stories do you like to write about the most?
Elisabeth: Crime is really fascinating, but also very tricky (as we realised by now). Whatever it is, I favour humorous, emotional, and positive stories and characters.
Christian: Besides scary stories, I love writing fun stuff. I very likely will work on some children’s books in the future.
- What process do you go through to write? Would you write down all your thoughts and then edit, or would you edit along the way?
Elisabeth: We learned by now that we have two totally different approaches to go about the writing. I am the plotter. I need to have the whole story laid out. Before I start writing a chapter, the story unfolds in my thoughts and I go through all the emotions and interactions. Then, I bring them to paper. The editing is an ongoing process. As soon as one of us has written something, it is being sent to the other author. The other one reads and maybe corrects, but we surely discuss straight away what we like, don’t like, and where we are going from here.
Christian: I am the pantser. My characters come to live while writing. I also have the best ideas for interesting twists in the plot. This works well for short stories; for novels, I do have to lay out at least a coarse plot. Otherwise, publishers would never buy the script.
- What is it that you love the most about writing stories and books?
Elisabeth: The story and character plotting is wonderful. Coming up with crazy and creative ideas is so much fun. We did improv theatre workshops for this and it helps us a lot to accept crazy ideas and take them to the next level. It can be also extremely frustrating at times as plotting for a crime novel is quite a challenge, but when the pieces are coming together and the why’s and how’s all fit, it is just the best.
Christian: I so much love being creative and creating something that has not been there before. When writing, I dive into fantastic fictive worlds, and no email or telephone call can get me out of there.
- Can you tell us about some of the crime stories you have written and published?
Elisabeth and Christian: We came up with the idea of our novel series when we realised how much we loved books like The Famous Five. So, we were wondering what would happen if such a kind of gang would meet after 30 years and start solving crimes again like they did as kids. It was just so much fun finding out who they would be today and thinking of what could be after nowadays.
For the first book, we sent them on a cruise to catch ivory smugglers, but let them discover that something much deadlier was going on aboard this ship (we went on a cruise from Spain to Morocco for our research). The second book is about a medieval elixir that required mysterious immolations, and our V.I.E.R. (German for F.O.U.R.) have to hunt the bad guys all through Europe with major stations in Slovenia, Venice, and the metal festival in Wacken. We also travelled to all these places, and it was a really fascinating journey. The third book in the series is planned to be published in 2021 and will actually be set in Ireland, particularly in Dingle. We also did a wonderful trip to the emerald island and we absolutely loved it and all the culture there.
- What are some of the best experiences and advice you’ve gained from publishing your stories?
Elisabeth: Writing, publishing, and marketing a book is a lot more work than I ever expected. Holding the finished and edited book in your hand, however, is one of the most uplifting feelings that you can think of. The most important thing is to finish the book and have many people read it and give honest feedback before you take the next steps. And being able to do all for the fun of writing and not having to write for money in the first place was also a valuable asset for us.
Christian: Besides the writing process itself, I love readings where I can entertain people. What I really learned over the years is the importance of character development. In my short stories, the plot and action are central. However, for novels, it is crucial to give your protagonists depth, so that readers can identify with them.
- Do you have any future goals with your writing?
Elisabeth: For now, we want to have a few more books in our V.I.E.R. series. We have two more common book projects on the list, but this will be more a long-term thing. But for me, writing is more a wonderful hobby, so I am taking it slowly and am just having as much fun as possible.
Christian: Simple – I want to do it as a living.
- Do you see any similarities between playing writing stories and your current occupation?
Elisabeth: Working and writing in a team is the biggest similarity. We create, share, and improve together. We discuss and are solution-driven in our progress. I love producing artefacts in this way, be it books or software. Otherwise, writing rather supplements my daily work. Being creative in my spare time is also an inspiration for the daily business in my job.
Christian: Actually, there are more differences than similarities. My work is mainly driven by processes and supporting others bringing their ideas to life. When writing, I create my own thing.
- Do you think that your experiences with writing have been a benefit to your technological career, or vice versa?
Elisabeth: We use a lot of knowledge and techniques for writing that we learned as researchers and software designers. We exchange our manuscripts as is done in science for papers. We use Git as a version control system for our text. Character design has been done like creating personas in software design. Christian has programmed a little Word plug-in detecting similar and duplicated words. This is something that you usually have to pay a lot of money for. At work, I am profiting from the writing in how I see my personas and how I am also working with normal texts.
Christian: Writing a thesis has helped to make us confident that we can finish larger books. On our global innovation platform, I regularly write texts and articles, where my experience in writing concise and interesting material has helped.
- What’s your best piece of advice for someone interested in writing and publishing their own works?
Elisabeth: Finish your manuscript, collect as much honest feedback as possible from a target audience, and re-work the book a few times. Be sure to read Save the Cat (https://savethecat.com/), which we also got as advice from two of our techie friends that are writing their own youth novel around the mysteries and culture of Swedish natives.
Christian: Find the balance to write what you really want to and what the market needs. Get feedback early. Get advice from other authors. Read a lot and write a lot to create your own style. Find an agency or contact a publisher directly.
- Finally, how important is it to help share the creative passions of technologists from all over the world – is there always more than tech?
Elisabeth: Being creative is part of being a techie. Without creativity, no new technology would have ever been developed. To me, it is the same – whether this creativity shows in writing a novel or a program. A prejudice is, however, that IT people are narrow-minded nerds. All my techie friends are rather wonderfully open-minded and interactive personalities with the most creative ideas in tech, art, and social contexts.
Christian: I mentioned the global innovation platform my department recently launched at our company. There, we strive to bring together people, resources, and tools on a fertile ecosystem. In the end, it is all about people and their passion.
To read up more about Elisabeth and their Christian (and their books), be sure to check the following links: