Author Hans M. Hirschi has just released a new novel centering on a gay man's travel to India, which in the process exposes the plight of children in modern slavery. The Fallen Angels of Karnataka
was originally meant to be a travel novel set in the late '80s AIDS outbreak, but then something unexpected happened and Hirschi shifted the focus of the story.
Hirschi has written several books including Living the Rainbow and A Christmas Tale. Jerry Nunn sat down at a coffee shop to discuss this latest work.JN:
(Jerry Nunn) Did you always want to be a writer even when you were very little?HH:
(Hans M. Hirschi) You could say that and I was writing for the longest time, keeping diaries, and writing little stories. I still have some of those.JN:
Where did you grow up?HH:
In Switzerland. I did find some of my writings when I was younger. In my teens was writing Greek mythology. I remember writing a love story about a centaur. I was always writing novels and something would get in the way. I had a beautiful typewriter that was electronic but nothing ever came from it. After high school I went into a banking career. Boom you are working and there is no time to write.
I did self publish a little as a Christmas gift for my friends and family. It is a little short story that will be published for real after 20 years, in English. I am very excited about that. That story is getting a second chance.
I wrote two non fictional books as part of my day job career. In 2012 I had gotten a dream job of mine but it hit after two days on the job that the owner of the company was a psychopath. So I quit. That opened up the opportunity where I can write a story for a few months.JN:
This story came out of that?HH:
This is actually my fourth one. The first one was done in two weeks, the second one was done before I flew to India. I wrote the third one last summer and this one I wrote this year. This one took two and a half months to write. It took a long time in part because of the research. My writing style is extremely fluid. I sit down and I let my fingers do the typing.
I have had some weird experiences. In my second novel my brain kills the main character halfway through the book. I stopped writing for the day and the next day I saved him since he only had hyperthermia.JN:
Talk about this current novel.HH:
I was inspired to write a travel book about a beautiful Norwegian guy graduating high school. All he ever wants to do is travel. He empties his savings account and travels to Oslo. A bunch of things happen that keep him from traveling but finally goes to London. The story takes off from there.
I wanted to follow his growth through travel but it would have been a boring story. My husband came home one day and mentioned a friend of our had been applying for a job at his company. Turns out he was under investigation for having Skype calls with kids and hundreds of photos on his computer. We were both completely shocked because he was a gay guy, married, seemingly in a happy relationship then hit with something like this.
I thought about my own son being around him and I started sobbing like a baby on the tram. I put it in my book with Haakon meeting an Irish dandy named Charles. Haakon is hired as an assistant for his travels. While traveling Charles has sex with someone who is very young and they keep getting younger in the story.
I questioned on my blog if I really wanted to do this story. People know what it is like to be gay and to be accused of being a pedophile. Did I really need to go down this road? In the end I didn't have a choice and needed to get it out of my system.JN:
Sounds like a tough choice.HH:
It was the same thing with my previous novel. My son was born and my biggest fear was seeing him dead in the crib. He slept very quiet at times. As a parent that is your biggest fear. I had to get that out of my system too.JN:
You seem to find inspiration in unusual places.HH:
I find inspiration around me so it seems. It is usually family inspired. I lost my mom when I was very young. A week before this was published my husband lost his dad so we only have to grandparents left for our son. By the time he is a teen he will have most likely loss all of his grandparents. We have to carry on the legacy and tell him where he comes from.
The second book was a love story. It is about a man that sits in his cabin and takes his dog out for a walk around a frozen lake. He is all alone when someone knocks at the door. Obviously you want to find who that person is so I had another novel. I just go with it.JN:
Who would you cast in a movie version of the book?HH:
I am not going to answer that for the simple reason is that I love books. Take the Life of Pi as an example. Being in Pondicherry that French inspired city I could see all of that. I had my images of what that looked like.
It is a beautiful film, don't get me wrong but it is Ang Lee's vision of Pondicherry and the ship. It is not mine. That is the most important difference between books and a movie.
If I gave you answer like I want Brad Pitt in the role of Haakon, which I would not, but if you put that in your article then people will see Brad and not their version of Haakon. I want readers to experience the characters how they want to see them.JN:
What do you want readers to get out of the book?HH:
A good time. I want to entertain people but I want them to think about these issues. I want to be a role model. I want to tell modern inspiring tales on what it means to be gay today. It is not angst and coming out or homophobia. Sure that is part of life and in my books too. I think the gay community has a responsibility to deal with these sorts of things such as trafficking and child pornography. Just because we are gay does not mean people can't abuse their kids. We have been trying to separate ourselves from being pedophiles for such a long time but it happens. I was abused as a child by a woman who was married to a man so she was straight. Most pedophiles go for androgynous and don't care which sex they are but some do choose. It is very complicated.JN:
You have traveled a lot so you were able to put that in the book as well.HH:
The only place in the book where I have not traveled to is the capital of Karnataka Bangalore. I have a friend that helped me place things in the right neighborhoods and some language.
I wanted to take Haakon to the Grand Canyon but he was stopped from traveling to the US because he is HIV positive. The ban was lifted after the book ends in 2009.
I am going to parts of the world on December 30 where the story plays out in Tortola so I am excited like a kid. I get goose bumps and it makes you believe in fate.JN:
You will be blogging about this I bet.HH:
Oh yeah! I get to do an author reading on the ship on this trip.JN:
Are you working on another book?HH:
Not until after the holidays but I want to have another out by next fall.Visit blog.hirschi.se for information on his holiday contribution to Boughs of Evergreen with proceeds going to the Trevor Project.