Author and digital marketing expert Felix Holzapfel gives readers a new and unique category of science fiction: a “technological” fiction–where real technology is co-mingled into an unpredictable fictional setting. His streamlined and precise writing style will take readers into the lab, among the scientists and into a very unpredictable future. A unique feature about this book is that it motivates thought and action to benefit society in the context of a fictional page-turner.
- Where did you grow up /do you live now?
I was born and raised in Darmstadt, Germany. Darmstadt is a little town close to Frankfurt. When I turned eighteen, I moved to the fourth largest city in Germany, Cologne, which is located in the west, close to the Dutch and Belgian borders. Cologne is well-known for its open-minded and highly social culture—at least by German standards. I fell in love with the city at first sight!
- As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I spent a lot of time with the family of my best friend in elementary school. My friend’s father was a priest, which made me want to become a priest, too. This plan changed when I became a teenager. For a couple of years, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Then I dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur and one day running my own business. And that’s what I’ve been doing now for almost twenty years.
- Do you have children and/or pets?
I have two kids. My daughter Ilenia is four years old, and my son Milo is two. I love dogs, but since we travel quite a lot, we decided against having any pets.
- When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? Or what first inspired you to write?
I’m the youngest of four, so I needed to talk a lot to get heard at all. I guess that’s one of the reasons I’ve been a good storyteller ever since I was a little kid. When I finished first grade, my teacher commented on my report card that I fascinated my classmates with my stories. I’ve also loved reading since I was little, but I was never a good writer. One day, my friend Jana read one of my business plans and told me, “Felix, your stories and your ability to express yourself are amazing, but your writing is horrible! Have you ever thought about shortening your sentences? You know, turning one sentences into two, three, or even four or more?” This straightforward advice, which none of my teachers ever gave me, improved my writing significantly.
- Where and when do you best like to write?
In the last two decades, I trained myself strictly so I could work everywhere, no matter the time or surroundings. The same applies to my writing. But if I have a choice, I prefer quiet spots. I love sitting outside while writing, best-case having some sunshine, warm weather, and the ocean close by.
- When you are struggling to write, when you have writer’s block, what helps you find your creative muse?
I go for a short walk or run. If I move my body, my thoughts move as well. But mostly, I’m a lucky guy because the blockades don’t last long. If I have a strong block I can’t get over, I take it as a sign that the topic is just not meant for me. When I was a kid, my parents didn’t like that behavior at all. They said I always followed the path of least resistance. Today, I understand where they were coming from, but for me, so far, that behavior has paid off—at least most of the time. Besides, I always have more ideas than I can use, so I focus on the ones that work best for me.
- What do you think makes a good story?
I enjoy stories that combine an intoxicating plot with elements that teach me something or make me think. I also love stories that turn complex and demanding topics and knowledge into something I want to learn more about. And if people have something to tell, memoirs can make good stories, too.
- Is there a message/theme in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes! Don’t ever think you’re not capable of influencing the bigger picture. If everybody felt that way, a few would paint the bigger picture for all of us—a picture that’s not likely to match our expectations. If we each contribute our little piece, the bigger picture of our future will become more significant, more colorful, and more beautiful than we can imagine. Contributing is up to all of us.
With this book, I want to encourage as many people as possible to think—from radically new perspectives—how humanity, technology, the economy, and our society might develop in the future. Even better, I want people to think about how they would like our world to change and how each of us can become an active part in the decision-making process that has already begun.
- What was your greatest challenge in writing this book?
I thought my greatest challenge would be writing the book in English instead of my first language, German, but thanks to the support of my wonderful editors Howard and Darby, language turned out to be a minor concern.
The greatest challenge was creating a complex plot with all its layers and linking different storylines and demanding topics across different worlds and times. I’m pretty good at being able to stay focused for a very long time. But writing this book brought me from time to time to my limits. Sometimes my wife or the kids would enter the room and ask me a simple question, or something would distract me for a couple of seconds, and an entire construct in my mind would collapse, forcing me to start all over again. But over time, I got better. And—I’m still married to my wife, and the kids have forgiven me for not giving them the attention they deserved while I was in the zone writing the manuscript.
- On a Friday night, what are you most likely to be doing?
My father-in-law is from Peru. We meet most Friday nights at his house with the entire family and follow a strict routine: First, the children have dinner and go to bed. Once they fall asleep—usually at about 9 p.m.—it’s time for a Pisco sour and a four-course feast that lasts until well after midnight. The first two courses can be ceviche, gambas, snails, or something similar. The third course, which is the main course, is carved in stone: meat with some salad. The fourth course is a desert, usually cheese, ice cream, or fruits—sometimes you can even replace the “or” with an “and.” Now before you even start protesting—yes, the kids get dinner with several courses as well, but without the Pisco sour and with a more kid-friendly menu.
- What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I’m a very social person, so I spend a lot of time with my family. Whenever a global pandemic does not limit us, I also love meeting my friends, enjoying delicious food in popular restaurants, and traveling. I‘m a workaholic who also plays a lot of sports.
- Do you have a bucket list, and if so, what’s on it?
Yes, and I’m lucky to have already checked off many big tickets on my bucket list. Tops was having my own family. Next was founding and selling my own company, then traveling the world for a year, finishing a marathon, and visiting places around the world that I have always wanted to experience first-hand. But whenever I think I’ve achieved many of the items on my bucket list, new ones pop up. I already finished an Ironman 70.3, so now long-distance is calling me to travel to places I’ve not yet been like Patagonia, South Africa, Indonesia . . . I would love to write a NYT bestseller. Yes, I love to dream and think big.
- What’s the best writing advice you ever received?
I’m almost ashamed to admit it because it’s so basic and the 101 of writing. But sometimes, the easiest things can be the most challenging: “Show, don’t tell.”
- If your book was turned into a movie, who would you like to play the main characters?
On the one hand, of course it would be amazing if some famous Hollywood celebrities played the main characters in my book. On the other hand, I’m a huge fan of talented underdogs. If I dream big and wild, somebody like Christopher Nolan or Quentin Tarantino would produce the movie and create a cast of actors hardly anybody knows yet. Together they would turn my book into an international blockbuster that would win several Academy Awards and make all of them rich and famous—with me remaining in the background enjoying everyone’s success.
- Why does a German write a book in English and publish it in the US?
Writing my first novel was just not challenging enough. So, I decided to write it in my second language. (I’m just kidding.) Many of today’s challenges covered in my book know no human-made borders. The same applies to my target audience. Whether I visit Barcelona, Berlin, Chicago, Denver, Lisbon, London, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Seattle, Sydney, or Vancouver, I always feel at home and meet plenty of like-minded people. The vast majority communicate in and read books in English. English is the common denominator if you want to tell a story on a global level.
In addition, the US feels like my second home. I was fourteen-years-old the first time I visited. In 1997 my brother Klaus migrated to the US and became a citizen. Since then, I have visited the US at least annually. In 2002 I founded a company based in Germany and the US. My wife has family in the US, so we’ve visited many big cities as well as plenty of smaller towns and villages when we traveled through the countryside in an RV. No other country—besides Germany—have I visited so often or spent so much time. Best-case: This book creates even more reason to visit, and, if so, I hope to see places I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
- You took a one-year sabbatical to travel the world with your wife and your two children. You say that you found a lot of inspiration during this journey that helped you hone this book’s idea. Can you give us examples of what inspired you?
While we were traveling, so many things inspired me every day that it feels unfair to pick out just a view. But let me try:
In many places we visited, nature reminded us of how unimportant human beings are. We are just short-term visitors—often behaving, unfortunately, like we are the owners.
We met plenty of different people with plenty of different backgrounds at plenty of different locations. We were lucky and had many insightful conversations about such topics as the different social and cultural standards in other regions of the world; the use of technology; life in general. Many of these conversations found their way into this book.
Traveling with a four-year-old and a two-year-old slows you down perfectly and healthily—especially if you have as much travel time as we did. Instead of rushing from one destination to the next we stayed at least three days at every place we visited. The little ones are excellent in teaching that it’s often not the big but the alleged small things in life that matter. While adults are excited by large highlights like the sequoia trees in the Yosemite National Park, children have much more fun throwing small leaves into a rapid at Lewis Creek.
- Your book’s main objective is to motivate people to think about future challenges in technology, society, and humanity, and—best-case—to actively participate in decision-making happening right now. How can each of us contribute?
This is an excellent question. Our world is moving faster than ever. Thus, that people can’t see the forest for the trees is no surprise. In Catch-42, I try to take people by the hand, step back, and look at the big picture.
If Catch-42 somehow makes readers think, then they can become active participants in decision-making by following three simple steps that I list at the book’s conclusion. The bottom line for readers is: learn more about the book’s topics that catch your interest, talk with others to gain new perspectives and create a grassroots movement, and don’t let others paint the bigger picture for you. Everyone needs to become an active part of the decision-making-process!
In addition, I included examples of fundamental questions that we should all think about from time to time and try to find consensus—even though we may thoroughly disagree on the answers.
- What qualifies you to write Catch-42—a book that covers not only a wide range of technologies but also questions fundamentals involving today’s way of life, our society, and our core values?
One of the key points I make in Catch-42 is that to understand the full impact of converging technologies, connecting the dots among different disciplines may be more important than ever. To be an expert in every aspect is almost impossible because of the variety of topics. Nevertheless, I tried to gain as much knowledge as possible and melt different worlds into one fascinating story.
In my over two decades working in the IT and marketing industries for some of the world’s leading brands, I acquired extensive knowledge in a variety of areas in a short time. The experience trained me to ask the right questions while I gained invaluable insights from clients across a wide range of categories—some tech-heavy, others related to social behaviors, desires, or people’s everyday needs. We created solutions for different target audiences across all imaginable social demographics.
In addition, I benefitted from my family background in writing Catch-42. I grew up in an environment where talking politics was valued. My grandmother co-founded a publishing house that publishes the annual book of all politicians who are part of the German government. When I was a teenager, I visited her daily. During lunch, we discussed past and current political developments. These conversations were just one of the influences that shaped my interest in global politics that I’ve had to this day.
These factors may not make me the perfect candidate to have written this futuristic call-to-action book, but I’m confident that at the least Catch-42 will enable readers to look at life fundamentals from different perspectives. I know that I went above and beyond to pack as much passion, knowledge, and creativity in the book as I could.
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