Matthias Krug is an author and journalist in Qatar who writes about football, society, politics, and culture. Here, he provides an exclusive look behind-the-scenes of writing a book and what an author is really thinking about in our new series – 20 questions.
Since starting on his writing journey, Matthias Krug’s work has featured in some of the biggest publications around the world, including Al Jazeera English, BBC, ESPN, and CNN. And he has now made the jump into writing children’s books, with his most recent works include Swish’s Winning Smile and The Shooting Star. In the past, he has also written Journeys on a Football Carpet about Qatar’s sporting journey over the past 60 years, culminating in the winning bid for the FIFA World Cup 2022.
1. What was the impetus for you to start writing books?
For as long as I can remember, I´ve been fascinated by books and I have had a great love for reading, so it was a long-held dream of mine to start writing books. For me, it is important to narrate stories that matter, that move and inspire people and that help to make or understand the world better, in some small or large way.
2. What did you hope to achieve with your first nonfiction book?
With Journeys on a Football Carpet, my intention was to be the first one to write about the fascinating, untold story of Qatar´s sports and football journey over the years, from the first games played in the desert right up to winning the 2019 Asian Cup and preparing to host the world in 2022. At the same time, the book is very personal, relating the story of my family and how I was born and raised in Doha and grew up alongside a developing sports nation.
For me, the writing process is one of great creativity, yet at the same time you need to bring the passion and the discipline to the table to actually sit down and write a lot of words on a daily basis
3. What is the most difficult part of your writing process?
The difficulty, from what I can gather from almost any writer, is to sit down on a regular basis and actually write. For me, the writing process is one of great creativity, yet at the same time you need to bring the passion and the discipline to the table to actually sit down and write a lot of words on a daily basis. Sometimes, that means not being able to do other things. Sometimes you have to put writing at the top of your priority list.
4. What was something you think all first-time authors should know about the publishing process?
My advice to first-time authors would be to research carefully as a starting point – see what is already out there and what it is that only you can contribute to the publishing scene in the country. What is your special expertise or perspective which no one else has? Once you have found this, submitting your work by following the established guidelines of each publisher and then waiting for constructive feedback (and you have to be open to that as well!) is the most positive approach. And never stop trying.
5. What made you take the leap from writing nonfiction to writing children’s and young adults’ books?
My passion is writing, and I have always wanted to reach as many different audiences as possible to tell compelling stories. For the switch to children´s and young adult books, I was inspired to try new genres and adapt my style according to each audience. The essence, though, always stays the same, and I was very happy to see the results of my first ventures into these new fields as we launched The Shooting Star at the Qatari Authors Forum of the Ministry of Culture and Sports in February.
6. Now that you’re writing for children, what kind of books do you remember reading/wanting to read as a child?
As a child, I remember that I read a lot of books, at school and at home, because I was fascinated by the enthralling worlds they transported me to new places from the comfort of our home. There were many books by Roald Dahl which I enjoyed reading – such as Matilda or the BFG, and of course Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I remember reading many Enid Blyton books, and distinctively remember another book about a character called Roger Red Hat when I was just starting out at school.
The series aims to inspire youth to take up sports, follow their dreams and to see the very real sacrifice, perseverance and dedication that it takes to make it as an athlete at the highest level
7. What is your favorite childhood book?
Matilda by Roald Dahl, because it brought to life in fantastic detail the creative genius that the author was. It stayed with me to such an extent that when my children were of the age to start reading longer books, I bought it for them too.
8. What is the aim of your upcoming young adults’ series?
The series aims to inspire youth to take up sports, follow their dreams and to see the very real sacrifice, perseverance and dedication that it takes to make it as an athlete at the highest level. More than that, it carries the essential message that anyone, anywhere can follow their dreams and work hard every day to make them a reality.
9. How did you choose which athletes to feature in your books?
The athletes in the books have one thing in common: they are all inspirational figures who had to overcome great obstacles on their journey to success, each in their own way. With each athlete, I try to feature the special skills and attributes, but above all the mindset, which made them succeed in becoming the inspiring figures that they are today. The series features both female and male athletes
10. What themes do you explore in your children’s books series?
The children´s book series explores universal themes such as never giving up on your dreams, no matter how difficult they may be. In The Shooting Star, the main character is a star who loves football and wants to play with the moons, even though the stars have always played starball. In the other books, the theme of not judging others based on external appearances is explored.
The books aim to inspire children to dream big, and then to have the consistency, the persistence and the self-belief to make those dreams come true
11. What do you hope to achieve with your books for children?
The books aim to inspire children to dream big, and then to have the consistency, the persistence and the self-belief to make those dreams come true. They aim to increase a love for sports and a love for reading, two of the greatest passions in my life which have brought me so much joy.
12. What do your own kids think about your stories?
They love them! One of the greatest moments indeed has been reading the stories together and laughing and enjoying them. Recently we started doing some fun activities together based on the books – either writing their own versions of future editions or making their own illustrations of the characters.
13. What do you find more challenging: writing nonfiction or writing for a younger audience? Why?
Nothing is too challenging when I´m writing; perhaps the only challenge I set myself is to continue improving and innovating with what I write and the style and tone of each book. Each genre has a different set of skills that you need to bring to the table, but I see myself as a complete writer who can connect with people of different ages and with different interests through the unique connector which is reading words which are strung together into beautiful sentences.
Everyone has their own unique path to follow and they should do so without thinking too much what others think or what others have done before them or will do after them
14. In hindsight, is there anything about your journey as an author you would change?
Nothing at all. I would say everything has been a learning experience which has been useful to reach the place where I am now. Everyone has their own unique path to follow and they should do so without thinking too much what others think or what others have done before them or will do after them. There should be a daringness about your journey.
15. What have you learned about yourself along the way?
Perhaps the most important one is to know when to be patient and when to push for something new you´re looking to achieve. That timing can sometimes be crucial, and can make the difference between achieving great things and having to settle for something which is less than what you are really capable of, if you are honest with yourself.
16. Who has been your biggest supporter?
There have been many great inspirations, from my mother and my father and siblings, to my wife and children. You really draw so much inspiration from your family because they are the ones who are there with you at all the crucial moments, whether it is in the writing process or later on when the book is being published and first appears in bookshops.
17. What advice would you give to any aspiring authors out there?
The most important advice is to believe in yourself and the story that you are writing – and then to have the passion, commitment and persistence to see it through to the end. Never give up on your dreams, take each setback as an opportunity to learn something new, and never stop improving your craft until you feel like you are getting closer to where you want to be. Once you do all that, you´re half-way there already.
18. If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?
I would probably say keep going, you will get there eventually. And to enjoy the journey because it is a great part of what you will be writing about one day.
19. What is your favorite word and why?
Love. It encompasses so many different feelings and emotions and you need a lot of love for literature, for family and for sports to succeed in each area. I have been privileged to bring the three together through my books in a country that is home and that I love: Qatar.
20. Final thoughts?
Read more books, if you can. A book is a magical carpet which can transport children and youth to new learning opportunities. Now more than ever, in the digital age where everything is constantly evolving and changing and we are all being overloaded with so much information, books offer a world of calm and learning which I make sure to visit on a daily basis.