When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always been drawn to books. I was a “book nerd” even before that expression existed. However, I started writing only at the ripe age of 57 after having, as I call it, 3 Past Lives in this lifetime.
I’ve been an archaeologist, a top manager in high-tech companies and health institutions and, for nearly 30 years, a personal coach, trainer, and motivational speaker while owning and running the fastest-growing training centre for entrepreneurs in The Netherlands.
But after doing all that, I came to realise that I’m not growing anymore. I still had more things I wanted to learn and develop, which is how I came to challenge myself with a new career as a writer. Being heavily dyslexic, as a non-native English speaker, writing novels or scripts seemed like a Mission Impossible for me. Add to it years of non-supportive beliefs that I’m bad at writing and that I am not creative enough, that sounded like a good challenge to tackle and grow through.
What inspired the idea for your book?
“Things We Do For Love”, is based on my own family experience of having to deal with Alzheimer’s. I wanted to write a book that would show that even though this disease is a devastating one, we can all use this period of a loved one who lives with it as a grace period. I believe that if we realise that what this disease does is that it strips off the person’s personality, and what we are left with is the essence of a human being, which is so pure and so gentle, it is impossible not to love that person.
I also wanted to debunk that famous sentence of Tolstoy: “All happy families are the same.” No, they are not. Each one is happy in its own special and unique way. Therefore, it is a story about the Bach sisters who have to take care of their elderly parents.
What part of the book did you have the hardest time writing?
The hardest part for me to write was the ending. I knew I wanted a “happy ending”, but how exactly I wasn’t sure. I wrote four of five different ones, and each time, I got vital feedback that it didn’t sit well or that the audience wanted a more “Hollywood” type of ending. In the end, I decided on the book’s ending, trusted my gut feeling and went with it, even though I still got feedback that it might upset certain readers. I’ve learned through this process that it is MY story at the end of the day, and I need to trust myself. Feedback is excellent, but there comes a time when, as a writer, you should listen to your gut feeling.
How do you develop your plot and characters?
In the battle between “Plotters” and “Pantsers”, I am definitely on the side of the “Plotters”. I can’t think of starting to write without a structure or a goal for that specific writing period. The thought of staring at the blank page is so scary for me. I have to start by having a clear idea, structure, and goal before even sitting down to write the poetic part of the writing.
I start with a huge Whiteboard that I have on the wall in my office, and from there, I use the Beat sheet option in Final Draft Software, whether it would be for scripts or novels, I MUST have a beat sheet before I start writing. As part of my “Plotter”, I create the “Bible”, where I describe the characters in general, but not too many details as otherwise I will get lost. That way, I know where I am going, but I leave space for the creative part to appear once I start writing and the characters take off the page and lead me.
If your book were made into a movie, which actors would play your characters?
The truth is that “Things We Do For Love” started as a movie script, which I called “Like Mother, Like Daughter”. I had a very clear idea who I would have “died” to play the main characters, even though I knew that this would never happen in a million years. Only after pitching the script for over 2 years and getting feedback that it is an excellent script… BUT…” did I decide to turn it into a novel.
In my dream cast, Emma Thompson would play Iris, Rachel Weiss will be Daisy and Emily Mortimer would be Heather. Glenda Jackson as Variety, but that was before she did her amazing role in Elizabeth Is Missing, so I didn’t think that would happen and Ian Mckellen or Anthony Hopkins as Sol. As I said, it was a dream cast, which I knew would never happen, but one can dream, isn’t it?
Are there any books or authors that inspired you to become a writer?
This is an unfair question. I have so many of them. I used to be a lonely child, and books were my haven. I used to say that people can disappoint and betray you, but books are always there for you, so I surrounded myself with books.
I would go through periods of reading the Classics like Dickens and Jane Austin and the Bronte Sisters, and then expand to Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy and Kafka and, on the other side of the world, authors like Gabriel García Márquez and Paulo Coelho.
Today, my favourite genres are historical fiction, fantasy and women’s literature. Still, I also read many non-fiction books about philosophy, personal development, spirituality and, of course, the craft of writing.
So, as you can see, I have an eclectic influence. What they all inspired me is to write about was human nature and human relationships. They inspired me to write stories that would bring light into the world, even during hard and dark times, stories of hope, kindness and love.
What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?
I think my best advice would be – NEVER GIVE UP. This one goes together with keeping learning, experimenting, and most of all, making sure you learn and grow through writing.
What are your favourite blogs or websites for writers?
My favourite blog and Facebook group is Bang2Write. Lucy V. Hay is a fantastic mentor, coach and inspiration. Her down-to-earth tips and advice are priceless, and she has so much free material on her website that it is incredible. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing novels or a scriptwriter she has tons of material worth GOLD.
Another website that I value very much when it comes to writing scripts is Go Into The Story of Scott Myers.
What book (or books) are you currently reading?
I read several books at the same time. So, right now, I finally got around to reading “All The Light We Cannot See” and on Book #5 of The Wheel Of Time series called “The Fires of Heaven”
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I work on our farm, depending on the season, either planting for the next season or picking fruits and vegetables and preserving them, taking care of our chickens and birds, and going for long walks in the forest where we live with our dog, Kesem. In the evenings, you would probably find me watching movies or watching the sunset and stargazing which are amazing at our place.
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