Steven S. Drachman: Torsten Krol’s novel, The Dolphin People, published in 2006, is a modern classic, an acclaimed bestseller about a family of Nazi sympathizers fleeing Germany for Latin America after the fall of the Reich, whose plane crashes in the jungle, and who are taken in by a society of natives. The book was a stunning marvel, an old-fashioned adventure story, a vicious political satire, and – really, not kidding – a sexy coming-of-age story, kind of. The Dolphin People made quite a stir, and was followed a few years later by Krol’s post-911 satire, Callisto, which was even more of a hit; the New York Times called it “nightmarishly amusing … There’s plenty to love.”
This author, this voice: It was inevitable that he would become world famous, hit the talk shows. Just imagine what he would be like in person. Funny, I would bet.
The only problem … “Torsten Krol” is a pseudonym. No one knows who he is, and he has remained stubbornly reclusive. Some of the speculation has been downright silly. Is he Stephen King? Stephen King’s son? Is he a conglomerate of different authors? Is he a woman?
After The Dolphin People, he published his dystopian novel (The Secret Book of Sacred Things), and then he vanished for years.
Now suddenly, he is back, publishing book after book, all Kindle only.
He was kind enough to answer five questions for us (over Twitter DM), though he will not tell us who he is, or even if he is in fact a he.
Still, it was a thrill to sort-of meet him.
DRACHMAN: The Dolphin People is one of my favorite books – a really amazing literary achievement. How did that book come about?
KROL: As a child I was fascinated by South America, probably because one of the first adult books I read was W H Hudson’s Green Mansions. When I decided to become a writer it seemed only natural to revisit the jungle landscape that had captured me as a boy. One of my other obsessions as a youth was WWII, which I regard as the lowest point in human history. These two fixations combined in my head to become The Dolphin People.
You didn’t publish anything for several years between The Secret Book and the Foreverman series, and then many books hit Kindle in quick succession. What is the story of those years? And why Kindle only?
Between The Secret Book of Sacred Things and the Foreverman series I didn’t quit working, I just had difficulty finding a publisher who would accept what I was writing, the lament of little-known writers everywhere. My publisher has restricted publication to Kindle. Maybe when my name is better known that position can change. I’ve now presented all the work that had backed up in the interim. The internet has changed everything.
The Dolphin People has very different themes from Callisto, but they both share a vicious sense of humor and a general pessimism about people and the world. While they are dramatically different from each other, they are even more different from Foreverman, which has a different style and tone, and comes from a more commercial point of view. How do you get from Callisto to Foreverman? What drew you to the themes in Foreverman?
I draw inspiration from the novels that I enjoyed as a boy. One of my delights was Sci-Fi, which has finally become respectable over the years, maybe too much so. What I remember about reading the classics (The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, etc.) was their focus on storytelling for its own sake, devoid of intellectual or literary pretensions; this is what made them work, whereas much of the more recent Sci-Fi has become serious and even a bit preachy. I wanted to capture the excitement I felt as a kid by ensuring the plot was fantastic, the characters interesting and the pace unrelenting. It took two years to pour all that out, my longest sustained period of writing to date.
On the prior question – do you understand why some people might think that Torsten Krol is actually several people? What can you tell us about who you are? Can you confirm that you are one person? A man or a woman? An Australian? Have you ever published books under another name?
I write different kinds of stories because I become bored very easily. Writing has to be fun for the author as well as for the reader. Most writers have a style and subject matter that tend not to vary much at all, but I can’t work that way. This may have created the impression that I’m several people, and in a way I am, but all those people are located inside the one skull. Having asserted that I’m one person, I feel the other questions relating to my identity are irrelevant. Autobiography is the one genre I’ll never tackle.
What is Platinum Needle? It appears to be owned by a lawyer with a whole range of experience, but also seems to publish only Torsten Krol books. What is the current Torsten Krol publishing model, how did it come about, and what does the future hold?
Platinum Needle is a publisher and producer of film, television, and digital entertainment. My association with Andrea Sloan Pink began when she wrote me a fan letter via my agent, who had just died. I was having difficulty finding a replacement (agencies can be as maddening in their snootiness as publishers) so I asked Andrea if she knew any literary agents who could help me out. After we experienced more of what I had already gone through in my search, I asked Andrea if she’d care to take on the task of representing me. To my intense relief, she accepted the challenge. Every writer fantasizes about having an agent who represents just one author, and I find myself nowadays in exactly that very desirable situation. I must have done something to please the gods.
What does the future hold? Excuse me while I dig out my crystal ball and give it a good polish.
Thanks, Steven, for the chance to chance to chat.
Watt O’Hugh and the Innocent Dead, by Steven S. Drachman, will be published by Chickadee Prince Books on September 1, 2019; it is available for pre-order in trade paperback from your favorite local independent bookstore, from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and on Kindle.
Design by Steven S. Drachman, from an original photograph by Emiliano Vittoriosi, Unsplash. It is not actually a picture of the real Torsten Krol. It is just an anonymous face in the shadows.