Wilfried Voss was born and raised in Germany. With a background in electrical engineering, his special skills allowed him to travel all over the world until he found his home in the United States some twenty-plus years ago. He resides in New England with his wife, an Irish-American green-eyed redhead, and their son, Patrick.
Wilfried’s writing career began with publishing technical literature, while still maintaining his job as the president of a business that sells industrial electronics components. His first book helped him to overcome the fear of being published.
Since 2009, Wilfried has been exploring fiction writing. To date, he has published a short story collection, Cemetery Polka and other dark tales from New England, and three novels, The Bleeding Hills, American Male Prostitute: How I (Almost) Got a Book Deal Through Sex, Lies, and Deceit, and his newest work, Painted Wings and Giants’ Rings.
Welcome, Wilfried. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Painted Wings and Giants’ Rings sounds like a fascinating book. Would you tell us first how you chose the title and what it represents?
And it is a real pleasure meeting you, Tyler. The line Painted Wings and Giants’ Rings is taken from the song Puff the Magic Dragon, lyrics by Leonard Lipton and set to music by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary. The song describes the loss of innocence when “painted wings and giants’ rings make way for other toys.” In other words, it symbolizes the transition from childhood into adulthood.
The novel is fantasy, but it begins in harsh reality. Why did you feel the need to treat reality with fantasy — is it escapism, or would you say the book’s fantasy is more than that?
It is definitely more than just escapism. Having a five-year-old at home and remembering my own childhood that was so very different, I re-discovered the magic world of childhood. A child’s world is built around fantasy and imagination, which is in stark contrast to the average adult life. Too many “adulls” forget their childhood when they deal with their daily challenges without realizing that a healthy portion of childlike thinking might make for a happier life. I tried to emphasize that situation in my book.
Roger is a businessman who had come under a tremendous amount of pressure from his superiors, which, in turn, did impact the interaction with his children. In the past, he used to sing with his children, read them books at bedtime, even write rhyming stories for them, and he encouraged their imagination in many ways. He was, however, not able to keep a healthy balance between sensible parenthood and the business world, and new job responsibilities gained the upper hand. During his coma, Roger is being prosecuted for his failure.
Will you explain what you mean by “prosecuted” — who is prosecuting him and for what?
That is difficult to answer without giving away too much of that part of the storyline. I can say so much as that Roger finds himself in a Kafkaesque situation where he is expected to determine the charges against him and, ultimately, recommend a sentence. I chose this kind of scenario to effectively describe Roger’s inner conflicts.
Roger’s children find an interesting way to try to save their father. Will you tell us a little about how that process works?
Well, there is a very simple, childlike assumption: According to Roger’s son Patrick Nobody dies in Never-Neverland, neither Captain Hook nor Rufio, the character in the Steven Spielberg movie “Hook.” Every time you read “Peter Pan” or watch the movie, all characters come alive again, and that might as well work for Patrick’s father. And since you can visit Never-Neverland only in your dreams, both children, Patrick and Siobhan, set sail to find and save their father through their dreams.
Wilfried, you refer to many wonderful fantasy places in the novel including Peter Pan’s Never-Neverland and places in Arthurian legend. How did you decide which fantasy places to include?
As I mentioned previously, a child’s world is filled with fantasy, and, as I watched my now-five-year-old son and his peers, I learned their favorites are places like Never-Neverland, the island of Sodor where Thomas the Tank Engine lives, or the land of Honalee where Puff the Magic Dragon frolics in the autumn mist. In my story, Siobhan and Patrick start looking for their father in such places, but they learn that he must be in an adult dream world, and what better place is there than the fantasy world of Alfred, Lord Tennyson?
Fantasy is not always pleasant, as you show in some of the cases, such as Shallot, based on Tennyson’s poem, where the Lady of Shalott dies from yearning for Sir Lancelot. How would you say that such dark moments add to your story?
You are right, fantasy is not always pleasant and neither is adulthood. Siobhan and Patrick learn that by meeting the Lady of Shalott and through their encounter with Annachie Gordon whose heart turned to stone after learning that his love, Jeannie, had died. They survive and fight the dark forces of adulthood by using their most effective weapon, their childlike happiness.
Wilfried, who would you say is the audience for this book? Will both adults and children or young adults enjoy it?
I wrote the book primarily with adults in mind, specifically those who have forgotten the pleasures of their own childhood. Nevertheless, the story is appealing to a wide age range, including young adults who will enjoy the fantasy places, the characters, the singing, the lyrics, and, last but not least, the symbolism.
Wilfried, I mentioned when I introduced you the names of your other books — especially your book American Male Prostitute sounds very gritty. Do you see Painted Wings and Giants’ Rings as a real departure from your previous books or are there similarities?
Benjamin Disraeli once said that the best way to become familiar with a subject is to write a book about it. That was the case with The Bleeding Hills, which describes aspects of the Irish Troubles, especially the events of Bloody Sunday. The gritty American Male Prostitute reflects my experience with the book-publishing world. And yes, Painted Wings and Giants’ Rings appears to be a real departure, but, in all truth, I am trying not to slip into a cliché by using similar topics all over again. What my books have in common is a spoonful of education and a cup full of humor.
You mention that you rediscovered childhood as a parent — but did you have any favorite fantasy worlds of your own as a child, or would you say there are any books or authors who influenced your writing of a fantasy novel?
Yes, I did rediscover childhood by watching my own son, but I also realized that, during my own childhood, fantasy was not encouraged and that sad fact reflects in the description of Roger Wilkinson. Later, as a teenager, I went to the local library to read the works of the German writer Karl May who wrote fictional accounts of his adventures in America and the Middle East. However, there is no particular author who influenced me when it came to writing fantasy. That idea was triggered through interacting with my son.
What kinds of responses have you received from readers so far about Painted Wings and Giants’ Rings?
That is easy to answer, and the responses surprised even me. Everybody who read the book did so within two days because they felt unable to put it down.
Do you have plans to write any other books, Wilfried, and if so, could you give us a little sneak peek into what they would be?
If a day had more than twenty-four hours, I would be able to write and finish all the stories in my mind. So there is a lot more to come. But the most prominent project is the one that sparked my writing career, and yet, I haven’t finished it. This project is about U.S. Immigration, a subject that is of special interest to me since I am in the process of applying for American Citizenship. The main character is, of course, a German immigrant, and the story describes his journey to and within the United States.
That sounds fascinating, Wilfried. I hope you’ll come back to talk about that book when it’s finished. Since you bring up being a German immigrant, I wonder whether you feel there’s a difference in how Germans and Americans approach fantasy and feel about it? I ask since when I think of Germany, I think of Grimm’s fairy tales and legends like that of Siegfried but all the fantasy places you mention in your book I think stem from American or British authors.
As a German living in the United States, I have learned to take the best of both worlds, and that process included learning more about American and British literature, and it still is a process I thoroughly enjoy. In terms of children’s fantasy, European stories tended to be dark, even violent to a certain degree, while I deem American works far more positive and intuitive. I wrote Painted Wings and Giants’ Wings for a primarily American audience, and every American parent will feel familiar with the places and characters in my novel, which in turn made it easier, even more constructive, to convey the message I am trying to send.
Thank you again, Wilfried, for the opportunity to interview you today. Before we go, will you tell us about your website and what further information we can find there about Painted Wings and Giants’ Rings?
This interview was a very pleasant experience for me, and I thank you for giving me the opportunity to answer all those insightful questions. I frequently update my progress on current writing projects on my website at http://wilfriedvoss.com, and I do encourage readers to contact me through my posts.Powered by Sidelines