WD40 and the 1970s: a step back in time with David Young

Given that my dad’s been driving around in a 1974 Triumph Stag for a number of years (weather permitting), I naturally gravitated towards David Young’s updates on Twitter about his adventures publishing his debut novel, Stasi Child and the latest blog tour for the new release, Stasi Wolf simply because he has a tendency to turn up at book signings in the UK with a 1972 Wartburg 353 estate – until recently, that is.

High time to catch up with David and chat about his latest release and find out what’s going on with the car, I thought.

Please welcome to the blog this week, David Young.


Welcome, David. For readers who aren’t yet familiar with your writing, please could you tell us a bit about yourself?

​I write a series of crime thrillers set in mid-1970s East Germany featuring a female murder squad head, Oberleutnant Karin Müller.

​She works for the state police – but has the notorious state secret police, the Stasi, constantly interfering with her work.

​The series began with Stasi Child  (published in paperback last year) and book number two, Stasi Wolf, has just been published.


What attracted you to writing in the crime/thriller genre? Was there a particular author that inspired you to do so?

In my very early years I was a big Enid Blyton fan – things like ‘The Mystery of …’ series. Then as a teen, I’d devour thrillers by writers like Helen MacInnes and Alistair MacLean. But it was actually a Barbara Vine story that inspired my first effort at a novel, for all the wrong reasons. Her novel was Grasshopper. I’ve enjoyed many Barbara Vine and Ruth Rendell books, but I thought this was a stinker and very unrealistic. So I had a stab at my own crime thriller set on the Isle of Wight. I couldn’t find a publisher, though, so ended up self-publishing about fifteen years ago.


Your novels are based in East Germany in the mid-1970s – what attracted you to that period of history?

The first decision was to set something in East Germany, which was slightly accidental. We were doing an exercise in setting on the Crime Thriller MA I was doing in the evenings to try to escape my day job as a news editor at the BBC. This was in 2012. Four or five years earlier, I’d been lucky enough to tour Germany with my indiepop band – and most of the places that booked us were in the eastern part of the country. So I decided East Berlin would be an excellent setting for the writing exercise – it had made such a big impression on me. My tutor, crime writer Claire McGowan, liked it so much she urged me to turn it into a novel. 1975 felt like a good place to start – before East Germany started to fall apart.


Do you outline/plot, or do you prefer to start at the beginning and see where the story takes you? Why do you prefer this method of writing?

I’m definitely an outliner/plotter – not a ‘pantser’. I like to know where I’m heading. I’ll outline in detail, with ideas written out for each chapter. This might vary slightly as I progress the first draft, but – in general – I stick to my plan.

How do you structure a typical day to ensure you avoid distractions and hit your word count targets?

I set aside blocks of weeks for first-draft writing. So I tend to write in spurts. I’ll set my self a daily word count, and then if I don’t hit it, I force myself to catch up the next day. That’s the best way to avoid distractions!

We have to talk cars – how did you end up with a Wartburg – and how is it at the moment? (For anyone who didn’t see it on Twitter, the poor Wartburg gave up the ghost towards the end of David’s book tour and broke down on the M25 near Leatherhead in Surrey…)

It’s marooned in its lock-up garage near Heathrow, while I figure out what to do or find a mechanic with enough knowledge of Eastern bloc cars to take it on. I bought it as a promotional tool really. It was a plain white 1972 Wartburg 353 estate, left-hand drive, which I saw advertised on eBay in Scotland. I knew it would be fairly simple to turn it into a Volkspolizei squad car, by getting the bottom half resprayed olive green, and sourcing logos and blue lights on the internet.

A relative is a metal work specialist, and he constructed the iconic blue light gantry for me. So it still looks the part – it just won’t go from A to B. The suspicion is the engine has seized. Currently, oil and WD40 is soaking in through the spark plug holes in a perhaps vain hope it might free things up

On a happier note, congratulations on a further three book deal with Bonnier Zaffre – what else have you got planned for 2016?

Many thanks, Rachel. Later this month I’ve been invited to the Quais Du Polar – France and indeed Europe’s biggest crime fiction event, something I’m very excited about. Stasi Child seems to have done well in France and my French publishers have just bought the rights to Stasi Wolf. Then I’m off to Japan for some research into a potential separate series. After that, I’ll knuckle down to rewriting Müller Book 3 – provisionally titled Stasi Winter – before researching and writing Book 4. There’ll be the odd UK festival appearance too

Finally, where can we buy your books?

They should be available in all leading bookshops, and most online outlets. If not, let me know. Some friends have just sent me pics of Stasi Child on sale in Auckland airport, New Zealand, and in Sydney airport, and Stasi Wolf has just been published in Australia too. The Stasi prison museum at Hohenschönhausen in Berlin has even started selling it (in English, as no German publishers have taken the plunge yet, even though many countries bordering Germany have bought the rights). A friend recently saw a German woman reading it on the Munich U-bahn!

David, thank you so much for being a guest on my blog today – and I’ll keep my fingers crossed the Wartburg makes a full recovery soon!

You can find David here:


Buy David’s books from Amazon here:

Stasi Child – Amazon.com
Stasi Child – Amazon.co.uk

Stasi Wolf – Amazon.com
Stasi Wolf – Amazon.co.uk

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