Interview for Smashwords, 2015
When you are not writing how do you spend your time?
When I am not writing I am either designing something or brainstorming or busy tending to my animals including my donkey Lolita and my (abandoned) adopted dogs that share my plot of land with me.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first longer story I wrote and was passionate about was for my English Literature O level exam. I remember it because from the moment go I couldn't stop writing. The words came to me and flowed onto the page like divine intervention. Funnily enough I don´t remember the content in detail but I remember the magic of the moment and the disbelief on certain faces when the marks were revealed.
Do you remember the first story you ever read and the impact it had on you?
One of my favourite first books was and is called Minoes. It is a Dutch children's book by Annie Schmidt (1911-1995). It was written in 1970 and is about a cat called Minoes that turns into a young lady without losing some of her feline powers. One day Minoes and the shy, struggling journalist Tibbe cross paths and a special, mutually beneficial relationship develops leading to Tibbe gaining confidence and readership and Minoes resolving her identity crisis. It was translated into many languages and turned into a film in 2001. I love cats and I loved Minoes. It is also about the power of friendship.
Where did you grow up and how did this influence your writing?
Due to my father´s job we moved around a lot and I lived in many different countries. As all these influences added an extra dimension to my thinking and development. I would like to believe that it enriches my life and writing. I consider myself Dutch with an international twist. My upbringing has given me helicopter view. The luxury of having landed in various places enables me to take into account more than one view point. I have learned that reality is subjective. But landing somewhere and actually growing roots is two different things. In certain places, if one stays long enough, and where the culture is considerably different, one will be confronted with oneself. In such a situation conflict will develop, leading either to self analysis and the will to adapt or repatriation. When I was younger my friends would ask me if I feel Dutch or South African or English. I was never really able to answer that question until now. Living in Portugal for over ten years has been a personal challenge. I realise I am more Dutch than perhaps I had ever known. Nature versus nurture?
Describe your desk
My desk is wherever the temperature is nice in a given season. I have an office/guest bedroom upstairs that houses a desk and filing cabinets where I keep my files and dictionaries and some books (yes real physical specimens) and my printer. In summer it is too hot upstairs so I will sit at the extra large teak table in the open plan kitchen/dining room. The daylight is fantastic there due to tall north facing windows. Usually my laptop is surrounded by unopened post, a pile of things to do, and a few books related to whatever it is I am working on.
What´s the story behind your latest book?
My first and thus latest book, Djabali and Andalu, is an illustrated storybook with a feel-good factor. It is the adventure of a wild boar piglet that gets lost but finds his way back home with the help of his positive attitude and a couple of unusual friends. It´s based on a real-life encounter on a dusty road in Spain. An online search for illustrators led me to Kristina Muñoz, who it turns out grew up only five kilometres from where I bumped into the squeak! So I looked no farther.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
To share memorable experiences thereby provoking thinking and learning.
What are the last 5 books you have read ?
1. A Wisp of Wisdom-Animal Tales from Cameroon (11 authors among whom Tom Moorhouse) Illustrated by Emma van Biervliet.
2. Als een brandend huis by Antonio Lobo Antunes. Vertaling Harrie Lemmens. Original title - Caminho como uma casa en chamas. Lisbon, 8 apartments, 1 house and the inhabitants.
3. A journey into Russia by Jens Muhling. A revealing glimpse into the Russian soul.
4. Bury me standing by Isabel Fonseca. The gypsies and their journey.
5. Amsterdam by Russel Shorto. A history of the worlds most liberal city through the eyes of an American author who lived in Amsterdam for 6 years.
What are you working on next?
I am working on a compilation of poetry and artwork written and created during my first five years in Portugal. It explores my journey into another culture, its people and its natural beauty. In addition, I have started the sequel to Djabali´s Journeys called Andalu´s Adventure. I also regularly take online courses in creative writing to perfect the craft.