Hi Jen, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Hi! Well, I’m from Holland and I have always loved books. I was always busy scribbling away in notebooks and on typewriters, and later on in life, on computers and laptops! I love writing stories that are a bit ‘out there’ – stories that make you wonder ‘what if’. Most of the books I’ve written aren’t set in my native country, but Sound of Sirens is… although I transformed the Frisian island of Skylge into a mysterious island haunted by Sirens and ruled by an upper class with exclusive access to electricity. This is, of course, not truly what the real island is like.
Besides writing, I also teach English at a local high school three days a week.
Did you become a writer by chance or by choice? How did you decide to write?
I became a writer by chance (or destiny!), but I became a PUBLISHED writer by choice. In Holland, I’m represented by Storm Publishers, and abroad, I am a self-published author. I didn’t have a choice in the matter of writing stories, though. The stories wouldn’t leave me alone until I’d written them, haha!
How long have you been writing and what has your writing journey been so far?
I wrote my first book when I was ten. I still have it! It was a sci-fi story about five girls finding a UFO in the woods. My writing journey has been just like that: for a long time, it was about the journey, not about the destination. Nowadays, it is also about the destination, because being an authorpreneur means you have to stick to deadlines and make a plan as to what to write when. I’m slowly relaxing a bit now, because I had quite a stressful year in 2014. Too much going on… but I’m now back on track with regards to ‘enjoying the journey’ most of all!
What does your writing process look like?
Once I sit down to write, I don’t want to be disturbed. I can write for a couple of hours in one go, but I also do stuff on the side at the same time: research, mostly. Whenever I’m writing something and I start thinking: is this realistic? What does this place look like? If I’m writing about a place I don’t know a lot about, that’ll prompt me to go online and look it up.
Publishing a book is not easy. So is finding a literary agent, at least in my country. Did you face any particular ordeal in this direction?
No, because in Holland we don’t work with literary agents. You just submit your manuscript to publishers. Which isn’t to say THAT’s easy – I was rejected quite a few times before I was accepted by my first publisher (I no longer write for them now, though).
What according to you are the easiest and the hardest things about writing?
The easiest – coming up with good ideas. The hardest – making or having the time to actually write down everything in my head. There’s too much I want to do at the same time.
What is the time that you usually spend in writing a book?
It depends. Sometimes I can do it in two months, but that only holds true for stories I don’t need to do research for. I think a good estimate would be three to six months: three for a novella like Sound of Sirens, and six for a longer novel.
Writer’s block – have you ever been in that zone? If yes, how did you manage to come out of it?
No, not really. I just get a sort of ‘writer’s block’ when I don’t know what to work on first (so many ideas!) and I end up doing nothing at all because I can’t focus.
Do you draw inspiration from real life? Who are/ what is your inspiration?
I do, all the time. Everything is my inspiration! Landscapes, cities, people, the way people deal with adversity or happiness… But traveling to foreign countries is usually my biggest inspiration. I just love exploring new places that are so different from my own native country!
You are based in Netherlands, home to the very famous Anne Frank. Did she have any influence on you as a writer or inspired you? Which writers inspire you?
Having grown up in Holland, the Second World War was an integral part of history education. It’s always quite near – we remember the dead on May 4th and we celebrate liberation from the Germans on May 5th. We have many monuments dedicated to war victims. I can’t say Anne Frank has inspired me as a writer, but the whole ordeal of WWII and my knowledge about that dark period in history does help whenever I write dystopian fiction. People tend to make the same mistakes over and over again, sadly. Even in my books (because I try making them true to life!).
Writers that have inspired me greatly are Tonke Dragt (Dutch author of children’s books), Thea Beckman (ditto), Tolkien (he’s so awesome!), and Ray Bradbury (best sci-fi writer ever).
A genre you wish to work upon in the future?
Maybe I’d like to venture out in hard sci-fi sometime, but I’m not sure yet. If so, I’ll probably use a pseudonym or else my fans will get confused 🙂
What are your pet peeves when it comes to writing?
I guess I annoy myself by always making the same typos in specific words. For example, the word inspiration – I KNOW how to spell that, but my fingers always type ‘inspiartion’ the first time around. Every. SIngle. Time!
Are there any tips that you want to share with aspiring writers?
Go do it. Don’t sit around and wait for something to get you started. As soon as you know who your main character is and what his/her conflict will be, you have a basis and you can write the first chapter, or at least the prologue. World building and writing plans will come later. Just start writing already! 🙂
Share your favourite excerpts from your book(s) and explain why are they your favourites.
If I had to pick one from Sound of Sirens, it would be the ‘romantic bit’ because I’m a sucker for romance!
When I gingerly push the door open, he doesn’t turn around or look up. Maybe he hasn’t even heard me enter. His body is hunched over the keys of his piano and he sits spread-legged on the stool as though he’s riding a horse, holding the reins to control the melody and shape it like the songs of his soul.
Slowly, I tiptoe toward him, not uttering a single word to break the spell. A part of me wants him to acknowledge my presence, but another part wants to just eavesdrop on him unawares – and become a part of his most private emotions. His shield is down, opening the shutters so I can look in from the outside.
When I come even closer, Royce unexpectedly looks over his shoulder to shoot me a look I can’t fathom. His mouth turns up in a roguish smile before he turns back to the piano. My heart stutters. He has seen me. He knows I’m here – and yet he keeps playing. He wants me to hear this.
Of course, the melody has to run its course and dry up eventually. A meaningful silence descends in the room as Royce gets up from his piano bench and stares at me. A few long strides and he’s standing in front of me, towering over me as I look up and rack my brain for something to say.
“You let me hear your work in progress,” I finally whisper in awe.
“I did.” He nods, and the movement makes a few strands of dark hair flop over his forehead, partly obscuring his blue eyes as they search mine. His lips curl up in a smile. “Isn’t that part of the reason why you came?”
“N-no.” My tongue feels like sandpaper. “I just – wanted to…” Say goodbye, I add in my head.
“No?” Royce takes another step closer, prompting me to hold up the LP like a shield. It makes him smile a bit wider, and I turn red. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. “Then what do you want?”
He stands there, clad in those way-too-sexy, ratty jeans and a sleeveless black top. I don’t ward him off anymore when his hand reaches out to touch my cheek. The feeling of his fingers on my flustered skin stops any coherent thought I might have conjured up. He slowly leans into me, his face so close to mine that my breath falters. Meanwhile, he’s pulling me in, tugging on a strand of my long, dark hair.
“Stop toying with me,” I croak, despite the fact that I want to shut up and just wait for him to kiss me. I want this, but I don’t. I don’t know.
“I’m not,” he says, softly and seriously. “You really think I’m playing you?”
“I’m scared.” My whisper is hardly audible.
He exhales. “Me too.”
That admission makes me blink up at him in surprise. Why should he be scared? He’s got nothing to lose.
“Why?” I say, but my question remains unanswered.
Royce moves in and his lips briefly touch mine, the heat from his mouth erasing the words that lingered there. He pulls me into his arms and kisses me again, more insistently, trailing his hands down my back and resting them on my hips in a deliberate gesture. I moan softly and close my eyes when his tongue parts my lips, stirring a hunger in me that I’ve never felt before. And I know this is what I came for. I could tell myself a million other things, but this is what I want. I’ve allowed my sad, hungry heart to lead me astray and make me fall for the wrong guy.
I would like to thank Jen for investing her time for my blog. If you too are an author – newbie or renowned and up for an interview, make it known and I will feature you on my Author’s Interview section.