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



Monster 1983 – Season I (US) >
Monster 1983 – Season I (UK) >


Interview Liz loves books

Tell us a little about your Monster 1983, what can listeners expect?
An exciting trip back to the year 1983. The little coastal town of Harmony Bay is shaken from its peaceful slumbers by a series of mysterious deaths. For Sheriff Cody, who has ended up in town following the death of his wife, duty calls immediately upon arrival due to a sequence of strange events: a prison truck plunges off a cliff, a Russian spy vanishes into thin air, and corpses keep being found with inexplicable stab wounds in their backs. Cody and his team assume that the murders have been committed by a serial killer who slaughters his victims in their sleep.

Where did you grow up and what was family life like?
I am an only child, and grew up in a small town on the urban fringe in Germany. My father ran a small but successful advertising agency, while my mother devoted herself to my upbringing. I spent most of my time riding my BMX bike, playing on my Atari, going to the swimming pool and playing the piano. But what I liked doing best was building a spooky ghost train for my friends in our attic. With zombie masks, spiders and wet flannels hanging from the ceiling. From my earliest childhood days, I have always loved scaring people. But there was no way I could have known, in those days, that I would end up making it my profession.

Academic or creative at school?
I really hated school. The only thing I was really good at was drawing. And storytelling. That didn’t get me very far at a sports-oriented grammar school. I needed lots of coaching to get me my school leaving certificate. Once I got there, this made university all the easier. I was studying Design, and could finally concentrate on the things that really interested me.

First job you *really* wanted to do?
I looked this up in my old diary. When I was ten, I did write that I wanted to be a detective (investigator) when I grew up. Well, I suppose that wish has actually been fulfilled, in a creative sort of way. :-)

Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?
I remember my father used to tell me a goodnight story, and invented a new one every evening. I was allowed to choose the hero and the setting, and he picked it up from there and embellished the story with his own dangers and obstacles. I was impressed by that. So I started dreaming up my own scary stories for friends on sleepovers. I never wrote them down, but it very soon taught me what my friends found thrilling and when they tended to drop off.

Who are your real life heroes?
Alfred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg were always my greatest role models. And then later on Steve Jobs and Stanley Kubrick, too.

Funniest or most embarrassing situation you’ve found yourself in?
I remember one scary situation when I was hitchhiking as a teenager. A car stopped, and this mysterious looking guy picked me up. It wasn’t until we were driving through the woods that I realised that my bearded companion was wearing pink shorts and white net stockings. I immediately struck up a conversation, praised his car, and babbled on incessantly, as if in a trance. When we finally emerged from the woods, I said he could stop now, I had reached my destination. He pulled over and I tried to get out, but the door wouldn’t open. He apologised and pressed some button or other, and then I was able to leave. That was really frightening, because there was no such thing as central locking in those days.

DIY expert or phone a friend?
I actually always ask for advice. Either from friends, or colleagues, or Google. I also like to give advice of my own to other people. I’m always pleased, for instance, if I can help young colleagues with their queries. I really can’t understand why some colleagues are loath to help others, and think people have to gather their own experience.

Sun worshipper or night owl?
I’m definitely a night owl. But since I’ve had a family, I can no longer do my own thing as much as I’d like. J But I’m allowed to stay in bed for a bit longer than the others in the mornings, and they even wake me up with a coffee. That’s pure happiness.

A book that had you in tears.
I’ve never known a book to make me cry. But a lot of films have, such as “E.T.”, “Schindler’s List” or “Love Story”.

A book that made you laugh out loud.
Easy: “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams.

One piece of life advice you give everyone.
Never stop believing in yourself. Even if it’s sometimes hard. With hindsight and the passing of time, we usually find that there is a reason for such crises, and that they represent key turning points in our life history. And always think big, think positive. And reach for the stars. That’s always been my motto: if you reach for the stars, at least you’ll get the moon.

Interview by

When I think back to my childhood in the eighties, there’s one story I particularly enjoy. I’d just celebrated my 11th or 12th birthday, and had borrowed my Grandpa’s Super 8 camera for the afternoon. “What are you going to film with it?“, he asked, and passed me the roll of sticky tape I’d asked him for. I just said, “Flying,” and ran off to the little shed where my new BMX bike was waiting. To this day, I’m still grateful to Grandfather Emil for entrusting me with his precious camera without asking for any more details. I wouldn’t have got off so lightly if he’d known what I really had in mind.

Brimming with anticipation, I rode my bike further and further into the woods, until I came to a steep incline, where I dismounted and – in rather a makeshift manner – used my sticky tape to attach Grandpa’s camera to the handlebars. Then I clicked the shutter – I knew I’d only got about three minutes to act, that was all you got with a small gauge film in those days – and pedalled like mad. I shot down the hill at breakneck speed, swerving in and out of the trees, just like I’d seen at the movies in my favourite scene from Star Wars “Return of the Jedi”.

In dramaturgical terms, it would perhaps have been exciting, at this point, if I had suddenly caught my front wheel in a root and gone shooting skywards against the backdrop of a giant full moon. But it wasn’t like that. Luckily I arrived at the bottom of the hill in one piece. And so did the camera.

Little did I know, at the time, that one day I was destined to become a storyteller myself. But for me, that magical moment when my family sat on tenterhooks, watching my first homemade film, had a lasting impact (even though I believe it made my Grandma feel ill).

Today, decades later, it gives me special pleasure to be able to revisit my childhood days through my new audio drama series “Monster 1983”. To go back to the days when children in Germany had audio books to send them to sleep, when there were only three TV channels available, and everything was just that little bit more naive and fantastical. When all seemed to be well in the world.

That probably also explains the success the series has had in Germany, and why it has now also been launched in England and the USA. I consider this a particular honour, as it is extremely rare for German stories to be translated into English. I really hope the American translation and casting have worked out well – the English version is three hours shorter than the German original. I wish all my listeners lots of fun with the first season of “Monster 1983”. And with a bit of luck, maybe even the second season will end up being produced for English-speaking audiences.

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