• Switzerland's news in English
 

Precocious Swiss-American teen strikes gold with debut novel

Published: 21 Jan 2013 11:33 GMT+01:00

"I didn't realize it would get published," Bachmann told AFP, tapping the yellow, mechanical bird depicted on the cover of "The Peculiar", which first hit shelves in the United States last September. "I just really, really hoped something would happen with it," the lanky, blond Swiss-American with rectangular steel-rimmed glasses added with boyish enthusiasm.

And something certainly did. After spending a year trying to find a literary agent, the book he began writing in his bedroom at 16 was suddenly the object of a publisher bidding-war before it was snapped up by the US publishing giant Harper Collins.

With a first print of 100,000 copies and rights sold in seven languages besides the original English, his adventure set in a bleak version of Victorian England where faeries and humans unwillingly live side by side has met rosy reviews, including from the Los Angeles Times which dubbed him an "unusually gifted young writer". His second book, "The Whatnot" -- which picks up from the first book's cliffhanger ending and completes its harrowing tale of two young peculiars, half-human, half-faery changelings despised by both sides — is set to be published in September. Both are what is know as middle-grade fiction, targeting the pre-teen age bracket.

"Don't get yourself noticed and you won't get yourself hanged": that is a motto Bachmann's hero, a peculiar named Bartholomew Kettle, leaves to one side as he is swept into a cataclysmic adventure which sees other peculiar children snatched and killed, their insides drained and their skin left floating in the Thames. "I know it's dark," Bachmann admitted, cradling a cup of hot tea in his hands in a crowded book store cafe in the heart of Zurich. "I'm not sure why. I think I just really liked scary stories when I was a kid. I wanted to write a story that I would like to read," he said.

 'A long road to success'

He said he decided early on that his book needed to be in the "steampunk" tradition — a sub-genre of science fiction inspired by 19th century Western civilization and typically featuring steam-powered machinery — and that it be set in his favourite period: Victorian England. Bachmann, who has lived most of his life on the outskirts of Switzerland's largest city, was home-schooled by his American mother, who he said had always encouraged him to read all different kinds of books.

He lists Charles Dickens, J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" and C.S. Lewis' "The Chronicles of Narnia" among his favourites. "I really like it when writers can make you feel like you're in this whole other world," he said. It may sound strange coming from a 19-year-old, but the way Bachmann tells it, his was a long road to success.

"This is my first published book, but I wrote three before it," he confided. He began his first book aged just 11. "But they were definitely 11- to 12-year-old books. They were not very good," he laughed, adding that he had not tried to get any of his youthful works published.

It was also at 11 that Bachmann began pursuing his second passion in life, when he was enrolled in the Zurich Conservatory. Now majoring in composition, he hopes to one day also be a film composer, he said, "but that is kind of like writing, a lot of people want to break in . . . I don't know if I will have the same luck twice."

But as he works on a third book and continues to dash around to promote "The Peculiar", he says his teachers are not always understanding. "They are intense maestros who are not really impressed by the hype. To them, music is the most important thing ever, and everything else is peripheral."

Asked if he sometimes wishes he had more time to just be a regular teenager, he shrugged: "You win some, you lose some. I do go out with my friends sometimes, but a lot of times I have to say, no, sorry, I have a deadline," he said. "But then you get to go on book tours and go to New York and make new friends. It's worth it."

Nina Larson/AFP (news@thelocal.ch)

Your comments about this article

2013-01-21 12:57:03 by smeghead
Well done.
Today's headlines
Swiss hotel schools serve 'world best' recipe
Students work through lunch at the Glion school. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Swiss hotel schools serve 'world best' recipe

It feels like a luxury restaurant, with starched-uniformed waiters pouring pricy wine and explaining the intricate details of a gourmet menu as diners gaze out at a spectacular mountain view. READ  

Frog invasion forces halt to Zurich football game
Photo: FC Embrach

Frog invasion forces halt to Zurich football game

A referee was forced to stop an amateur football match between two senior clubs in Zurich after thousands of frogs invaded the field, according to media reports on Monday. READ  

Search continues in Chur River for missing boy
Photo: Saint Gallen cantonal police

Search continues in Chur River for missing boy

Police and fire department officers in the canton of Saint Gallen continued searching for the third day in a row on Monday for Semere, a two-year-old boy who went missing over the weekend. READ  

Mediterranean becoming a 'vast cemetery': UN

The Mediterranean is turning into a "vast cemetery" because of soaring migrant deaths, the UN human rights chief said in Geneva on Monday, as he strongly condemned "callous" EU migration policies. READ  

SBB looks abroad to hire needed train drivers
Photo: SBB

SBB looks abroad to hire needed train drivers

If you are a qualified train driver looking for work, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) is hiring — and in a hurry. READ  

Anti-frontalier party loses support in Geneva
Eric Stauffer. Photo: Municipality of Onex

Anti-frontalier party loses support in Geneva

The Geneva Citizens’ Movement (MCG), a party that supports giving priority to Swiss citizens for jobs over foreign commuters crossing the border from France, was seen as the big loser in Sunday’s municipal elections in the canton of Geneva. READ  

Swiss 'second worst' for dumping electrical waste
Photo: AFP

Swiss 'second worst' for dumping electrical waste

Switzerland has the second worst record on a per capita basis for pitching electrical and electronic waste in rubbish dumps, a newly released report from the UN says. READ  

Wawrinka announces separation from wife
Wawrinka playing last week at Monte Carlo. Photo: AFP

Wawrinka announces separation from wife

Swiss tennis star Stan Wawrinka took to his Facebook page on Sunday to announce that he is separating from his wife Ilham after living with her for ten years. READ  

SwissPost launches tests for drone deliveries
'Quadcopter' drone tested by Germany's DHL. Photo: DHL

SwissPost launches tests for drone deliveries

Switzerland's postal service is to start testing deliveries by drone, a spokesman for Swiss Post said on Sunday. READ  

UN decries 'xenophobic' attacks in South Africa

The Geneva-based United Nations Refugee Agency on Friday expressed concern at the latest round of xenophobic attacks in South Africa, saying the violence had displaced 5,000 people. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Expats face Monday deadline to register to vote for UK election
National
French president Hollande basks in good vibes from first Swiss visit
National
Segways win approval for operation on Swiss bicycle lanes
National
Joan Baez and Sting in lineup for this summer's Paléo music festival
National
Second CERN club skier dies from avalanche in Valais Alps
Sport
Lausanne and IOC celebrate a century of Olympism
National
Bern waters down criteria for beer that can be labelled ‘Swiss’
National
VIDEO: Swiss television satire clip ridicules Americans on ski slopes
National
Internet giant Google named most attractive employer in Switzerland
National
Immigration remains top election issue for Swiss voters: opinion poll
National
Environmental bureau ranks Zurich first among Europe's 'sootfree cities'
National
Zurich crane-climbing stunt by teenager flags 'roofer' concerns
Features
Mobility takes off as young urban Swiss catch the car-sharing bug
Education
THE ranks EPFL among seven 'fastest rising young universities'
Features
Six steps for expats to get along better with the Swiss
Business & Money
Ethical Coffee Company aims to beat Nespresso in home market
National
Use of temporary staffing continues to rise in Switzerland
Sponsored Article
Need help with permits and registration in Switzerland?
National
Swiss foreign affairs minister touted as candidate for top UN job
National
One of Switzerland's most celebrated artists dies in Lucerne at 106
Business & Money
Swiss luxury brand Tag Heuer announces plans for smartwatch
National
Valais lights up 13 mountain peaks for 200th anniversary
Business & Money
Switzerland to avoid recession this year: Credit Suisse forecast
Business & Money
Europe's tallest hotel pitched for Swiss mountain village
National
Exlusive interview: surviving Swiss cousin remembers Anne Frank
National
New Credit Suisse chief executive 'offers hope for Africans'
Features
Top tips to help you find an apartment in Switzerland
Business & Money
American expat to make way for African as Credit Suisse CEO
National
Rising Swiss gender pay gap above European Union average
National
Political deal reached to enact Swiss holiday home restrictions
National
Optimism drives this year's Geneva International Motor show
National
Robust Swiss economy beats forecasts for 2014: government
Sport
Federer scores upset win against Djokovic for seventh Dubai title
National
Swiss train in collision near Zurich ignored stop signal: SBB
Technology
Switzerland best in world for per capita European patent filings
Education
New EPFL building to showcase art and science 'under one roof'
National
Same-sex marriage supported by most Swiss: opinion polls
National
New study finds Switzerland is world's best place to retire
National
Army official calls for Swiss women to undergo military training
National
New Swiss health campaign combats smoking as 'norm' for too many
Culture
Abba star Frida records song about first ascent of the Matterhorn
National
Swiss federal government unveils EU immigration quotas bill
Business & Money
HSBC Swiss private bank revelations 'tip of iceberg': whistleblower
Business & Money
FATCA: 'The age of financial privacy is over'
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

4,570
jobs available