Interview Mieneke van der Salm
Let’s start with the basics. Who is Ivar Leon Menger?
“I am the friendly neighbor who lives next door, the one with skeletons in the closet”. That’s what I like to reply, if readers ask me with astonishment at book fairs – how such an apparently nice author can have such evil ideas? Most of the fans think I live in a dark castle and I’d only wear black. To stay with the truth, I was born in 1973 in Darmstadt, Germany and I love Jazz, secrets and chocolate. And cats (even though I have a dog).
How would you introduce people to your work?
I am a storyteller. And I like to make things thrilling, full of suspense. As already mentioned, I love secrets and cliffhangers. My big idols are Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg. I grew up with their art of narration and that shaped me a lot.
Your fiction has been predominantly published as audiobooks or audio plays. What draws you to this format?
Actually I never planned this direction. I came to write audio plays indirectly, via many detours. It all began with my graphic design studies. After my diploma I worked for five years as a copywriter in the American advertising agency Ted Bates in Frankfurt, and during my spare time I wrote and shot my first short film “Geteiltes Leid”.
After the film won the award for best short film of Germany at the „Berlinale“ in 2002 I decided to become a film director. I quit my job in the advertising agency, earned my living as a director for advertising films and worked on the side in a video rental shop. In the evenings, I wrote my first feature films and sent the scripts to various film production companies who, however, turned them all down. Then I had the idea to produce my film script as an audio play with German actors. I sent the finished audio play to production companies, also, unfortunately, without success.
However, a well-known actor who played in my audio play recommended me to Sony Music as an author, because he liked the script very much. And so, I got the chance to write for the most popular audio play series: “The three investigators” – presented by Alfred Hitchcock. In the following years I created and wrote my first own audio play series, such as “Darkside Park” and “Porterville”. “Monster 1983” is the first contract work for Audible.
Monster 1983 is the English translation of your originally German story. Was it strange to hear your work in a foreign language?
Yes, that was a very unusual feeling, because I had also directed the German version and did the casting. Definitely the English cast of characters have a different effect on me than the German one. The dialogues are played more quickly, and because of the new cast the characters have become quite different now. I hope that the American translation has turned out well, and that also the acting, the humour and the timing are right, because the English version is nearly 3 hours shorter than the German original. :-) I had no influence on the English production and could only hear the final product. But here, as an author and director, I just have to let go and see it as a kind of “cover version”. However, one actor has made a very positive impression on me: Nathan Osgood, who played the role of Mr Fisher. I think he is really good!
Is Monster 1983 the first in a series or does it contain both seasons from your German Monster 1983?
No, the English version is the first season of “Monster 1983”. Just a few days ago we finished the production of the second season. Season 2 will be released in German on Halloween 2016.
Is the format for Monster 1983 comparable to the many serial fiction podcasts out there, with distinct episodes or chapters, or is it one long continuous narrative?
The series is planned for three seasons. Each season shall be one act of the entire story. So, in the third season there will be the 3rd act, the big showdown.
What’s next for you? Any appearances planned?
First, there will be the third and last season of “Monster 1983”. After that I already have the idea for a new series that plays in England. I was often in Yorkshire as an exchange student and I love Great Britain, the atmosphere, the people, the attitude to life. My new series will be about a young German student who, out of love for her English boyfriend, moves to a small village in England. However, when she arrives she realises that something is wrong with her boyfriend …
Is there something else you’re passionate about other than writing and books?
Besides reading books I like watching series such as “Sherlock”, “House of Cards” or “The Bridge”. I love going to the cinema (when I have the time for that) and I am often in the woods with my dog. There I have the best ideas, so I also write my stories in the wood. In the summer I take my folding chair with me and in the winter I park my car on a forest parking lot and write sitting in my car. There, I have some peace and quiet and can really concentrate on the writing.
As a book reviewer, I’m all about the book enabling; I can’t help but want to make people read all the good books out there. But I can always use help. What are your top recommendations of books we should look out for in the coming months?
Currently, I can recommend the book “The Trap” by German author Melanie Raabe that is already being sold in 21 countries. A thriller really full of suspense, you must absolutely read it! Further I am a big fan of Jason Starr, I have read nearly all of his books.
Finally, I have to stay true to my roots and ask a librarian question to finish off with: Do you shelve your books alphabetically, by genre or do you have an ingenious system?
Normally I used to arrange my books according to publishing houses. However, half a year ago we had a big “clear-out” in our house and also re-arranged our living-room. In doing this we removed all books from the book shelves. When I placed the books in again I tried a new system for the first time: arrangement according to colour. Probably that was my designer heart coming through. :-) However, the new, still un-read books are stacked besides my reading chair and waiting to be devoured.
Author Query by Mieneke van der Salm, A Fantastical Librarian