Taunus crime author Nele Neuhaus: That’s why regional crime stories are so fascinating

  • Nele Neuhaus is the author of the popular Taunus thrillers.
  • The latest film “Mother’s Day” will be shown on ZDF on February 14th and 16th.
  • In an interview with our editors, the author talks about what it’s like when the characters from your own stories come to life on the screen.

Ms. Neuhaus, the first part of the new Taunus thriller will be shown on Valentine’s Day Mother’s Day on ZDF. Wouldn’t it have been a lot more fitting to broadcast on Mother’s Day?

Nele Neuhaus: Of course, Mother’s Day would have been awesome. However, I believe that pragmatic considerations have prevented that. We all wish that we have nice weather in May. And then you don’t like sitting in front of the TV anymore. And I think that’s probably why ZDF made the decision to broadcast the Taunus thriller now in the dark spooky February.

Nele Neuhaus: “I’m surprised how entertaining and touching the two-parter turned out to be”

The book Mother’s Day you already published in 2018. How much will the film differ from the book?

The film will be different. The common thread is the same, the plot remains very similar to that in the novel. But of course, with two times 90 minutes, some things have to be left out of a 500-page book. True to the motto “Kill your Darlings” you have to do without a lot. I was allowed to see the film in advance and of course I’m always very critical of it, because I’d always like to have a lot more in it. But I have to say I was surprised at how entertaining, how exciting and how touching the two-parter turned out to be.

The second part will be broadcast on February 16th. As a writer, do you appreciate the format of 90 minutes twice, which allows you to delve much deeper into the story?

“Böser Wolf” was the first two-part Taunus thriller in 2016. I really like the format because it does better justice to the amount of material in my books than having to compress too much. Now a whole new team is behind it, UFA as producer and Felix Herzogenrath as director. I really liked the implementation of my novel material. Because it’s not so rushed and stuffed. The viewers get to know the characters, there is also an image that is shown a bit longer and can have a good effect. Then I can get over it if the showdown doesn’t take place at Frankfurt Airport at the end, but somewhere else (laughs). The ending is definitely touching and well done.

Can you briefly summarize what it is about Mother’s Day goes?

My investigative team finds the body of an old man in a house in the Taunus. The man had a dog, which they find half-starved in his kennel. The dog dug a hole in the ground, three women’s bodies are found. Of course, the suspicion falls on the man that he was the serial killer who killed the three women. But it gets even more exciting. Because the investigators find similarities with other cold cases. The American profiler David Harding supports the investigators with crucial tips to solve the case.

The first Taunus thriller was filmed in 2013. What was it like for you when the characters you came up with suddenly appeared on the screen?

That was a bit strange for me. Especially since the cast of the main characters was, in my opinion, too young at the time (laughs). In my head, Oliver von Bodenstein and Pia Kirchhoff (now Sander) were in their early or mid-40s. I recently said to Tim Bergmann: “You’ve aged wonderfully into the role. Now you finally fit.” Seeing his fictional characters in a movie is always a bit difficult. Everyone has their own mental cinema, whether it’s me as the author of the story or my readers. And when the characters turn into flesh and blood, it’s a bit of a shock at first. But when they’re well cast, like in the case of Michael Schenk, who plays the character Kai Ostermann, I’m absolutely fascinated.

Felicitas Woll is no longer there, Annika Kuhl will be her successor. Does she live up to the role of Pia Sander?

Yes absolutely! Felicitas played the role beautifully and the audience remembers her as Pia Sander. I think Annika Kuhl is great! She is a seasoned woman, that’s how I see my Pia Sander. She plays the role very intensely. I was particularly impressed that she called me to talk about this role and the character Pia Sander. No actor has done that before her.

What did she specifically ask?

She wanted to know more about the character, about the background. What moves Pia. what she is afraid of. What made her decide to become a police officer. All this background was important for her to get an idea of ​​this character. For me it was an interesting insight into the work of an actress that I hadn’t had before.

“As writers we are lone wolves”

As a writer, how much influence can you have on the films?

Not as much. If you assign the film rights, you part with your work to a certain extent. You make it someone else’s responsibility. Fortunately, the UFA involved me a lot. I was allowed to read the script version, we discussed a lot, for example about the portrayal and relationships between the characters. And I was allowed to co-write the dialogues, which made me particularly happy.

And you got a guest spot. How did you experience that?

Yes, I got a cameo. That was fascinating. As writers, we’re lone wolves, sitting alone in our offices. And suddenly you come to a huge film set where 50, 60 people are jumping around. That really impressed and touched me. That things I’ve come up with cause so many people to engage with them. Then I had to put on makeup and experienced the whole procedure like a real actress. I received instructions from the director on how to watch and how to react. I managed that quite well, I think (laughs).

You hold books in your hand during your brief appearance. Is it your own?

yes they are my own There’s a little wink behind it. It was filmed in Koenigstein, the neighboring town of my home town, where many of my books are set. And especially this bookshop in the pedestrian zone, in front of which I stand in the film, has in reality a large part in the fact that I am Nele Neuhaus today. The bookstore gave one of my books, which I had published myself at the time, to a representative of Ullstein Verlag. That’s how I came to the publishing house and made this career. What’s almost funnier is that a few years later I met my now-husband at an open house in front of this very bookstore, right where I’m standing in the film. So I actually found the cameo at that point to be a very charming idea from the director and producer.

“It’s not about the region as such, but the microcosm”

There are Eifel thrillers, there are Allgäu thrillers and Friesland thrillers and there is the Taunus thriller. Why is it evident that rural areas are so well suited as a backdrop for crime stories?

I think it’s not about the region as such, but the microcosm it represents. Everyone knows it because we all live somewhere in a self-contained area. When crime breaks out somewhere, it affects us much more than when it takes place in any big city or fictional area. I’m very much in dialogue with my readers and I know what tension and repercussions it causes when they get past a certain point in the book. For example, at the footbridge someone fell off in the “Snow White Must Die” book. That’s exactly what makes the tickle. We all know that from “Aktenzeichen XY”. We look at all the posts, but the one that’s set near where we live causes us extra excitement and horror. That’s why I think that these regional thrillers, which make the reader believe that crime has invaded an ideal world, are particularly fascinating.

The Taunus is actually a very tranquil area. Do you sometimes feel guilty about portraying it as a crime scene?

It goes like this (laughs). The real chief of police once said to me with a smile: “Ms. Neuhaus, the way you’re driving up our crime statistics, that’s really a thing! It’s actually so peaceful here.” And the Taunus is indeed an area with very little crime. But I think it’s fun for the people here in the Taunus that their homeland gets this kind of attention. It’s a somewhat underestimated region. You drive past Frankfurt on the Autobahn and only see the airport and the skyline. But the Taunus, which is hidden behind it, is worth a second look.

You already mentioned your large following. How often are you spoken to?

Daily. I grew up here, everyone knows me. I’m nothing special here. When I’m shopping or walking the dog, I’m sometimes asked when the next movie is coming, or I’m told that someone liked my last book. This happens on a very personal level. But I also get a lot of fan mail, via Instagram and Facebook, but also in the form of letters in my inbox. Letters are mostly written by very young people, I also write horse books for girls. This is really great and awesome.

How many ideas for Taunus thrillers do you still have?

In any case, I still have enough ideas that I was just able to sign a contract for three new books. So there will definitely be three more Taunus thrillers.

The author: Nele Neuhaus is one of the most successful crime writers in Germany. The author, who was born in Taunus, has so far written ten crime novels set in her homeland with the investigative team Bodenstein and Kirchhoff, nine of which have been made into films. She also writes children’s books on horses under her maiden name Nele Löwenberg.

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