Bernadette Calonego war born in Stans, Switzerland. She now resides and works as a freelance foreign correspondent near Vancouver, Canada.
She writes regularly for newspapers like “Süddeutsche Zeitung” in Munich, “Der Standard” in Vienna, Austria, “Tages-Anzeiger” and “Finanz und Wirtschaft” in Zurich, Switzerland, and a range of other important German language newspapers.
Bernadette Calonego`s stories have been published in magazines like GEO, Vogue, SZ-Magazin, natur + kosmos, foto magazin, Börse Online, EMMA, abenteuer + reisen, Häuser and in newspapers such as Neue Zürcher Zeitung and Weltwoche.
She has a diploma from the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) where she focussed on modern languages. Her career has included working as a reporter/editor for Reuters newsagency in Zurich. From 1990 to 2000, she was the foreign correspondent for “Süddeutsche Zeitung” and “Der Standard” , reporting from Switzerland.
In October 2005, her first book Nutze deine Feinde (Make use of your enemies) was published by Bloomsbury Berlin Verlag.
In August 2007, her second book Unter dunklen Wassern (Under dark waters) was also published by Bloomsbury Berlin Verlag.
In November 2011, her third book Oh, wie schön ist Kanada! Leben unterm Ahornblatt (O, how beautiful is Canada! Life under the Maple Leaf) was published by Ullstein Verlag.
In June 2012, The Zurich Conspiracy was published by AmazonCrossing (you can read an excerpt on the page “Books”).
Available in book stores and on the internet.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I don`t remember the exact moment but, from an early age, I always wanted to write stories. Eventually I aspired to become a reporter but I took a detour, studying at university to become a teacher. After six years of teaching, I switched gears to become a journalist. As an author I am somewhat of a late bloomer, starting my first book in the late 90s. But sometimes a detour is a good thing because you learn a lot along the way.
When were you first published?
I was eleven years old when I sent a fairy tale to a Swiss newspaper. They published and illustrated it which made me very proud. It was a tale of a king, and three princesses had to compete for the “position” of becoming his wife.
Not exactly a feminist topic, I`m afraid…
Where do you get your ideas?
My ideas arrive from everywhere and everything: people who tell me about their lives, newspaper stories, my own experiences – but mostly from my own imagination.
As a child I was always daydreaming and losing myself in the most intricate stories.
My job as a journalist takes me to places and people I may never have seen and they become important sources of inspiration.
Why do you write mystery novels?
Firstly, I love to read mystery novels and thrillers myself. Secondly, I revel in developing a plot that drives the narration.
But basically, I see my books as tales of adventure in which the characters, while perhaps searching for a murderer or love, become involved in the kinds of action that I would like to experience myself.
(An astrologer friend of mine noted that my having a horoscope with so much Scorpio influence has destined me to become a mystery writer! So there you go.)
How long does it take you to write a book?
As I am a fulltime foreign correspondent I am able to write my books only when my work is done, mainly early in the mornings or on weekends.
Unlike many other authors I don`t have a daily routine which would allow me to write whenever the urge arises.
However, my beloved job presents many opportunities to see and hear unusual things, go places and meet interesting people all of which generate many ideas for books.
On average I would estimate I spend about two years writing a book, including editing and reediting.
Do you have the entire book planned out before you write it?
No, I never do that because the best ideas come to me during the writing process.
Sometimes I don`t even know who the murderer is until I have written half the book. To a certain extent I let the characters in my book guide me.
I’m sure some of the unexpected twists and turns would never have occurred if I had planned every chapter before actually starting to write.
Of course, from the beginning, I know the approximate direction of the narration and main themes but the rest comes spontaneously. I find that by surprising myself the creative process stays fresh.
Who are your favourite authors?
This is always a difficult question because I am a literary omnivore! I have an eclectic taste and I read everything from biographies to romance novels. I read travel tales and non-fiction detailing deadly avalanches, maritime disasters or true crime.
Although short stories are not my preference, I love those by Canadian writer Alice Munro.
As a child, I devoured all the books belonging to my three brothers: Ivanhoe (whom I fell in love with), the Leatherstocking Tales, Treasure Island and Huckleberry Finn. I sped through the forbidden romance novels from my mother`s shelves.
Which mystery writers have inspired you the most?
Mainly female writers such as Minette Walters, Tami Hoag, Joy Fielding and Anne Rule. I very much like Anita Shreve`s “The Pilot´s Wife” and “Testimony”.
How can I become a writer?
I am not an expert but generally I would suggest by reading, reading and more reading.
Also choose different authors to experience different writing styles.
And of course through the practice of regular writing. It helps to write something every day, even if it is just one sentence. You cannot wait until the spirit moves you, it rarely does. But you can tempt it. Self discipline is hard but an asset. Once you are in the flow, the thoughts and words will drift with you.
Because I have never attended Creative Writing courses, I cannot comment on the helpfulness of these.
Books I found very intriguing are:
“On Writing” by Stephen King.
“Reading like a Writer” by Francine Prose.