Interview with Jutta Motz

by Gisela Lehmer-Kerkloh and Thomas Przybilka

Question: Why crime fiction?
J. Motz: Because observations gained from everyday life can be used so wonderfully in crime fiction. It’s a great medium for resolving your frustration with all the big and little injustices of everyday life. Crime fiction is a way to tell stories – serious stories, funny stories, tragic stories – and it’s very comforting and reassuring to be able to kill off horrible people.
Question: What do you think of when you hear “German crime fiction”?
J. Motz: Hansjörg Martin, Helga Riedel. Back then, when the rororo publishing house started publishing them, they stood for quality. And let’s not forget the founders of Das Syndikat (the German Crime Writers Association) – when I think of them, I think of fine writing, fine handiwork!
Question: What or who is overrated?
J. Motz: Crime fiction written by men. At Bouchercon 2004 in Toronto, Sara Paretsky said, "We found a book by a man was seven times more likely to be reviewed in a national publication then a book by a woman was. So we said, maybe men write twice as well as we do, but we don’t think they write seven times as well as we do."
Question: And what or who is underrated?
J. Motz: Crime fiction written by women. Why do you think I’m a member of Mörderische Schwestern?
Question: Is crime fiction a literary genre?
J. Motz: Is the bible a literary genre? What a source of murder, manslaughter, slander, fraud, people stoning each other to death, cheating each other out of inheritances! Where do you find facts, historical facts, falsified any better than in the bible? Crime fiction is made up of words like any other literary genre. If they’re well-chosen and the story has more than a trendy and short-term value, why shouldn’t a well-written crime novel be literature?
Is crime fiction a separate genre? Yes, indeed! It has its own rules, its own guidelines, and the author either has to obey them or modify them playfully, artfully. But all by itself, a dead body doesn’t make a crime story!
Question: Why did you begin to write crime fiction?
J. Motz: What I experienced in my daily professional life during the 1990s left me with two choices: I could have gone crazy or gone into psychoanalysis, and I didn’t have the money for psychoanalysis! So I started to write crime fiction in which women are confronted with the everyday nastiness of life in business. In other words, I started writing out of frustration. Today, it’s a pleasure.
Question: Your favorite weapon?
J. Motz: Intelligence, common sense.
Question: Does there have to be a murder?
J. Motz: White-collar crime is pretty dull, so it really does liven it up to have a couple of corpses caught in the economic tangle of the plot.
Question: Why do you write?
J. Motz: For pleasure. For the thrill of making things up. I always write too much and have to tighten the text.
Question: Do you try to “map” the present in your crime fiction?
J. Motz: Yes. It’s a reality I want nothing to do with.
Question: Where do you set your novels?
J. Motz: Everywhere but on a deserted island. I’m a city girl. Too much nature’s bad for me.
Question: What significance do eating and drinking have for you?
J. Motz: I find food and drink very important when people come together and talk, whether in crime fiction or real life. I hate fast food and self-service. If I want to serve myself, I eat at home. It’s better and cheaper.
Question: Sex in crime fiction?
J. Motz: Why not?
Question: If yes, then why?
J. Motz: When it’s useful for the story or to amuse the reader, I think it’s fine.
Question: If no, why?
J. Motz: –
Question: Is there such a thing as a “women’s crime novel”?
J. Motz: Yes, there is a women’s crime novel. It’s more defined in the American market, but you find it in German-language crime fiction as well.
Question: What kind of readers do you write for?
J. Motz: For anyone who can read and loves to read.
Question: Plot development – what’s your starting point?
J. Motz: The crime: a case of white-collar crime that is embedded in the everyday course of events of a few completely normal, sensible people who are then revealed to the reader, throughout the course of the novel, to be much less normal and sensible than you’d think.
Question: Do you make notes? Where do you get your ideas?
J. Motz: I read a lot of international newspapers, especially the business section. And I collect newspaper clippings. That’s how it starts.
Question: Where do you write?
J. Motz: I always have a small notebook in my handbag, and I write a lot by hand when I’m traveling or going somewhere.
Question: Does the computer interfere with your writing?
J. Motz: No. After all, it makes it so easy to correct text, insert things, shorten them, turn plot elements upside down...
Question: What was your favorite book when you were a child?
J. Motz: Erich Kästner, Emil and the Detectives
Question: And today?
J. Motz: That changes dramatically. Every season it’s a different crime novel.
Question: Who’s your favorite crime fiction author?
J. Motz: The Swedish writing team Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö
Question: Your favorite film?
J. Motz: Anything by Hitchcock.
Question: Your favorite drink?
J. Motz: Peppermint tea – even if you don’t believe me!
Question: Do you cook?
J. Motz: Not very often, but passionately.
Question: Do you like to eat out, and if so, where?
J. Motz: Yes, I eat out quite a lot. I enjoy it. I like to go where I can meet friends for a meal.
Question: What’s your favorite piece of clothing?
J. Motz: That depends on the weather.
Question: Soccer – does the topic interest you?
J. Motz: Only if I get to play.
Question: Men – are they important to you?
J. Motz: Of course, but not as a problem. They’re a source of fun.
Question: Your favorite city in Germany?
J. Motz: Berlin
Question: Your favorite country?
J. Motz: England, but actually just London. There’s not a city anywhere with more theaters, that’s why.
Question: What do you love?
J. Motz: My daughter!
Question: What do you hate?
J. Motz: Stupidity.
Question: Your best school subject?
J. Motz: Mathematics.
Question: And your worst – and why?
J. Motz: It was always Latin. I never learned the vocabulary.
Question: Your dream job?
J. Motz: Writing, writing, writing.
Question: Do you have any idea why you answered all these questions?
J. Motz: Well, to do you both a favor. And because Thomas asked me so nicely when we were all in Amsterdam!


* translation: Mary Tannert   

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Jutta Motz ...

... has an M.A. in archaeology and a Ph.D. in art history. For many years, she worked at various publishing houses in Zurich, Switzerland, where she has lived since 1978. During the 1990s she published a series of translated crime novels under her own imprint.

In 1995, Motz began to write crime novels herself, novels featuring women detectives who combine careers (law, for example) and family. Jutta Motz is particularly interested in white-collar crime and the underbelly of high finance.

* translation: Mary Tannert



  • 2011 AIEP - Meeting of crimewriter in Zürich in June
  • 2009: Soko Singen, Vorbereitung der Criminale in Singen am Hohenthwiel
  • 2003: Mordstage, mit Katarina Graf, ein Treffen der Schweizer Kriminalschriftsteller in Zürich



  • PEN, Switzerland
    PEN A World Association of Writers
  • Member of the Syndikat, German branch of AIEP
  • Swiss delegate of AIEP/IACW
  • Member of Authors in Switzerland AdS
  • Mörderische Schwestern, Germany, Austria, Switzerland