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Help Support Features Interviews Wolfgang Hohlbein
Wolfgang Hohlbein interview
by Shipwreck - posted on March 18, 2003
click to enlarge

Armed with visitor questions, as well as a few of his own, James Bradley has provided us with a rarely seen view into the European version of our famed adventure hero.

Wolfgang Hohlbein has written over 160 fantasy and adventure books, each filled with the vibrant world of a remarkable author. Hohlbein is most noted by visitors for his Indiana Jones novels.

Official site:

You're not a familiar author in the United States, but we'd love to get to know more about you, so, why don't we start with how you became a writer?

I didn't start out as a writer, of course. For a time I worked as an industrial clerk. When I started to write novels I found out that the best time for me to work was at night – so I worked as a night watchman for a time while writing my first stories. Since a few years ago my success allowed me to be "just" a writer. I still work at night after the kids have gone to bed and the house has become quiet.

I was shocked at the number of books you've written. Could you tell us how you approach writing one?

click to enlarge
Hohlbein in front of
the books he wrote.

*laughs* Yes, it surprises me all the time when I’m being confronted with it, too. There are over 160 books to date wearing my name or an alias from earlier days. There is a number of ways I start a book. Sometimes it’s a meeting with friends where we start a plot out of nowhere. Then again the idea comes from a conversation with my wife and co-writer Heike. It happens during the holidays abroad or while I’m driving somewhere. I drove by an old monastery in the Taunus (mid Germany) – and while I was driving on, a story formed in
my head. Most of the time I do not know what the next chapter will bring and I often am surprised of the outcome. I do not write a storyline before writing the book because I feel it narrows the ways a story can develop.

Which form of story do you prefer writing, i.e. Fantasy, Adventure, etc., and why?

click to enlarge
Hohlbein in front of
an Aztec pyramid.

Most of all I like the fantastic. It happens everywhere, in far away lands or right in front of our eyes. Sure, the "heroes" in my books always manage to get into really weird situations but I like it when people say about my novels that it "just could have happened to everyone". Fantasy is an interesting genre, too, but there is so much really good fantasy in the stores right now, I don’t think my stories are in any way special. During the last years I have written more and more mystery, "real fantasy", historic novels and a bit of horror. All of it fantastic and sometimes far out – that’s what I like.

What brought your writing experience into the world of Indiana Jones?

That’s a nice way of putting it. As a matter of fact the Goldmann Publishing House approached me and asked me for it. They had the name – and needed some stories. But as soon as I had started writing I was caught up in the action and world of Indy.

How much was Indiana Jones' creator, George Lucas involved with what you were writing?

Not at all.

It appears, from what I have been able to read of your work related to Indiana Jones, that you didn't have a set "timeline" in which to follow. Is this true and if so, can you share with us why?

The timeframe for the stories, the 1920's - 1940's, have already been set by the movies which show Indiana as a grown archaeologist. So I moved within this time. One of my novels plays a little out of line, as "Indiana Jones und die Gefiederte Schlange" is set in 1929. As for the rest of my novels, 8 altogether, play between 1938 and 1944.

Were you given limitations on what you could write about? If so, can you give us an example?

Indiana Jones and the
Feathered Snake

There is just one thing I do remember and it’s more an "informal reprimand" than a limitation: The lecturer called me one day and told me I couldn’t use a specific insulting word for the Chinese ("slit eye"). So they replaced it with another... ("Reisfresser") I don’t think there was any sense to it. But limitations? No.

What kind of response did your books receive on the open market and why are they limited to sales only in Europe and not on the shelves in countries like the United States?

Most of the IJ books I wrote are out of stock and somewhat valuable to fans I've been told. None of my books have been translated into English so far… none at all. Maybe it had something to do with the Publishing houses, I honestly don’t know.

Who created the cover art for you Indiana Jones novels and did you have some say in what the covers would look like?

That also was solely the work and decision of Goldmann. I had no saying in it. Mostly I saw the cover for the first time when they sent me a copy of the book. But since the pictures reflect the novel’s story or some detail of it I’m quite happy with it.

Ashley asks:
Which was your favorite Indiana Jones film and do you think anyone else could have played the main character if Harrison Ford had been unable to?

Indiana Jones and
Genghis Khan's Sword

Harrison Ford is and has been a very good Indiana Jones. Probably if another actor had grown into the role like Ford has he would have been an equally good Indy. But since the directors seemed to be so happy with him it was only natural they made the role as much "Ford" as possible. For example the scar from the whip – it’s Ford’s scar but he has had it from the first movie and since it is explained where he got it in the third movie it is absolutely plausible to everyone and it belongs to Indiana Jones just like the whip and the Fedora. My favorite Indy movie is "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" because to my mind it is the funniest and most entertaining of all of them.

Now that a fourth Indiana Jones film is in pre-production, what are your views about a new Indy film and would you be willing to write the film adaptation?

Actually I have never thought about that. Since my stories are all well contained in itself it surely would be possible. But I’m afraid that my adventures lack the special effects it would take to make this movie a success.

Any plans on getting your works translated into English?

No, unfortunately not. They have been translated into most European languages: Russian, French, Spanish… but the English speaking market is in my opinion, to well fed for British or American Publishers to take the risk of publishing a writer completely unknown in the US or Great Britain.

Finally, do you have any plans for the future and are you currently working on anything new?

Indiana Jones and the
Lost People

I am always working on something new… there are a few books I am writing direct or indirect sequels to, two children’s books I wrote with my wife are published soon and currently a huge project around one of an earlier books of mine and Heike, called "The Greif" is taking shape. So far an audiobook and a music version "inspired by" so to speak, have been released, including famous German rock and pop artists. At the end of this year or in the beginning of 2004 the music and parts from the story will be taken to the stage. The website for each and every detail regarding this fantasy media event is

Although the site is in German you're all welcome to look around and probably leave a footprint in the guest book - the webmaster will be happy about international visitors. And then there is of course my official website with all the information about all my books and other stuff.

James Bradley would like to thank Wolfgang for the generosity he has given TR.N! We would also like to thank his resident "Alien" for providing the translation to this fun interview and the guests of for providing their questions.


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