Owen Williams quizzes Nadia Szagdaj – Wrocławian author of the Klara Schulz criminal book series.

Owen Williams: You’ve just released a new book.

Nadia Szagdaj: Yes, my new book is called ,,Nowe Śledztwa Klary Schulz. Tajemnica Nathaniela”. The Secret of Nathaniel.  It opens a new series about Klara, because the previous one, ,,Kroniki Klary Schulz”, is actually finished. This is the fourth book about Klara and the sixth of mine, in general.

Your books are set in Wrocław before the II World War. Why?

When you write a criminal, you can’t make any mistake. You have to plan every single detail with incredible precision. Thinking about the city during writing should be natural and easy. That’s why I’ve chosen my city, where I was born, grew up and where I still live. The period is a trick. It is always easier to create crime in a world with no fingerprints, or DNA tests.

Are there any things you don’t like about Wrocław?

I think that Wrocław, because of its history, is still a city from the outside. Everything here is different: the language, architecture, streets, parks… But also mentality, which is quirky sometimes. Right after WWII, Wrocław was a temporary shelter. People, even in late sixties, thought that soon  they’d leave the city and go back to their homes. This never happened, but the mentality stayed. Thankfully, there are many people, who already started to change it for good.

How would you describe Wrocław in five words?

Happy home. Only these two, because through these words I understand everything that comes from their meaning. I love to come back here, to the place where I feel safe, which I know very well and which I love with all its benefits and wounds.

That was more than five words! How many books have you set in Wrocław?

Five of six… One of them is set in the year 2014, and the rest before WWII. But the first one, and the newest I’m working on, are not. Wrocław has an incredible history. It is good to know it and when you do, you usually share this knowledge with other people.

The hero in The Secret of Nathaniel is Klara Schultz.  Where did the name come from and is the character based on a real person?

Indeed. The real person’s name is quite similar. Klara Schu…mann. I admire Klara Schumann for her amazing strength and patience. Her life wasn’t easy. But she was a brave woman, very supportive to her difficult husband and his talent, although she was talented as well as famous Robert. This is my tribute to her.

Nadia Szagdaj Nowe śledztwa Klary Schulz.

Why did you choose the criminal genre?

It chose me, actually. My first book represent the fantasy genre. But instead of fantasy, I wrote a crime story. And my new publisher just bought it. It was the book about Klara, and to start with, I treated this one as an experiment. However it was also a good one. So here I am a crime writer. But I  like it.

Who are your favourite writers?  Are you a fan of Marek Krajewski?

Marek Krajewski is an inspiring writer, no doubt. But I haven’t read a crime story in a long time. I like to be sure that I have my own style and fresh ideas. My favourite crime writer is Thomas Harris. But above everyone else – Steven King, the horror writer. I like to be scared. I’m horror addicted!

Why should people read your books?

To understand themselves. Instead of writing about crimes, Wrocław or the history, I write about people’s characters. I like to analyze various behaviours. That’s why my book characters are so real.

As Wrocław is the meeting place, tell us about someone or something interesting you’ve met here.

The funny thing is, that the most wonderful people I’ve met in Wrocław are foreigners. I’m also a filmmaker and a producer. During filming recently, I met a lot of interesting people from England, USA, Italy, Norway, France and Germany. Thanks to them, I see my city in different colours and shapes. I like that they are always smiling, optimistic and at the same time hard working people.

Finally, do you know how to say “Nadia” in English and can you tell me how to say my name “Owen” in Polish?

Nadia is probably Nadine. There is a Chuck Berry song called Nadine. But your name is much more interesting. It comes from the name Eugene, Eugeniusz. And this was my grandfather’s name!

Nadia, Nadine, thank you.