Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I am a Belgian/Flemish author who was born on August 8th 1953 in the sandy soil of Antwerp’s Kempen, where according to the cliché ‘pig-headed clodhoppers’ live 🙂 . This perhaps explains why I started to write short stories at a particularly young age. Some speak of "science fiction", but I prefer the term "social fiction" for that earliest work. A number of these stories were published in English, French, German, Spanish, and Slovenian,
I made my debut as a novelist in 1985 with Nachtspel – Night Game and quickly became known for my ‘un-Flemish’, colorful, and kaleidoscopic novels in which the fate of the individual is closely related to broad social transformations. International flair has become my trademark.
I became a full-time author in 1990. As a freelance travel writer, I explored conflicts and trouble-spots across the globe from 1990 to 2003. Echoes of my experiences on the road in Somalia, Liberia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sudan, Gaza, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar – to name but a few – trickle through in my novels.
During the Bosnian war, I spent part of 1992 in the besieged city of Sarajevo. Three years later, I was working for MSF – Doctors without frontiers – in the Bosnian city of Tuzla during the NATO bombings. At that moment the refugees arrived from the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica. I was the first writer from the Low Countries to be given the chance to speak to the refugees. My conversations with them resulted in a travel book: Srebrenica. Getuigen van massamoord – Srebrenica. Testimony to a Mass Murder. The book denounces the rape and torture of the Muslim population of this Bosnian-Serbian enclave and is based on first-hand testimonies. I was the first writer who concluded that mass murders had taken place in Srebrenica, an idea that was questioned at the time but later proven accurate.
I am the author of 38 traditionally published books in Holland and Belgium, and, since a few years, some of my work is published abroad in different languages.
In 2007, I won the Hercule Poirot Prize for best thriller of the year with De Wraak van Baudelaire – Baudelaire’s Revenge. In 2013, the French translation "La Vengeance de Baudelaire" was published in France and in Canada. The English translation "Baudelaire's Revenge" was edited in the US in 2014. Also in 2014 came the publication in France and in Canada of "Le Mensonge d'Alejandro", a second novel (Alejandro's leugen – Alejandro's Lie) in French translation. "Baudelaire's Revenge" won the USA Best Book Award 2014 in the category "mystery/suspense". In 2015, the short story collection "Dangerous Obsessions" appeared in the US. The collection was voted "best short story collection of 2015" by the San Diego Book Review. Translations were published in Swedish, Italian, Brazilian (Portuguese). and Spanish. "Месть Бодлера," the Russian edition of "Baudelaire's Revenge", came on the market in 2017. "Return to Hiroshima," the English translation of "Terug naar Hiroshima" was published in 2018 by the Crime Wave Press in Hongkong. Also in 2018, The Anaphora Literary Press edited my second short story collection "Heart Fever" in the US. "Retour à Hiroshima," the French translation of "Return to Hiroshima" is recently finished.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
"Dossier Feuerhand" – The Firehand Files appeared end of 2017 in Holland and Belgium. It is inspired by the work of the famous Flemish Dada poet Paul Van Ostaijen and his stay in Berlin in 1921 when Germany was on the brink of civil war as a consequence of losing WW1
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Don't tell anybody :-), but I regularly play a tape of a choir singing the soothing Tibetan mantra OM SO HUM while I am writing my high-tension novels. Listen to it on YouTube, where it's also available, and you'll understand that it brightens my mind by the hypnotical quality of the sound.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Oh, so many great Masters to whom I bow deeply, too much to enumerate! But if you want a few names that pop up in my memory: the Italian dandy-writer Curzio Malaparte with his bitter but oh so elegantly written war-memories, the brethern De Goncourt with their vile, sublime, brilliantly stylistic memoirs, Gustave Flaubert's collection of fabulous Letters, Schopenhauer's sour and refined opinions about humanity, and so on….
What are you working on now?
I'm 65 and not in very good health anymore, sad to say, and the promotion of my translated novels takes up a lot of my time, combined with the caring for our four horses around our house, my great friends and companions, and wise teachers, in whose company I can be found many hours per day, soothing as they are for my blemished soul. So, for the first time in my life, I'm actually not working on a new novel, although, at the perimeter of my consciousness, I can feel a new idea building up…..
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I don't have any method at all. I write cross-over between literature and the suspense novel, which results in novels that stand out of the ordinary and are not for everybody, shocking as they can be. My books have to speak for themselves as much as possible. This said, I understand – and notice every day – that authors currently have to do much more self-promotion than in past decades. I comply with that, but I'm not following methods, or I don't read articles like "5 excellent ways to get your book up front" and all these advices to promote here and promote there and promote everywhere. If my books get a lot of attention, fine; if they get much less attention, then they are still the books I wanted to write and would write again if I had to do everything anew….
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Be kind to yourself, be patient, be ambitious but gently, remind yourself that every writer's true dream is to become the best writer….Not in comparison with others, but in choosing your own, unique, heart-felt way.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Rewrite. Then rewrite again. Then let your manuscript rest for two months. Then rewrite again.
And when all that is done, rewrite one more time, just to be sure 🙂
What are you reading now?
Martin Cruz Smith: Wolves Eat Dogs A nostalgic post-Soviet novel with the sad and tired investigator Renko roaming around in Chernobyl's Zone of Exclusion…Brilliant….
What’s next for you as a writer?
"Baudelaire's Revenge" and "Return to Hiroshima" are two of my novels that have been published in English. I would like to add another two: "The Shadow of the Mole" and "Alejandro's Lie".
What is your favorite book of all time?
"Under the Volcano" from Malcolm Lowry is a novel that should be like a Bible for every author…..