Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I’m Dutch, I was born in South Africa, and while growing up I lived in Lausanne, Switzerland, for many years. For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a writer and I spent several decades writing many books—let’s say a dozen, most of them in French, none of them very successful, though I did publish a few. Eventually I went back to the language of my mid-century South African childhood. I decided to try my hand at murder mysteries, and recently I completed the three volumes of the Daisy Hayes Trilogy, of which “D for Daisy” is the first one. I am currently working on a fourth Daisy Hayes novel.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest book is “Daisy and Bernard”, and it is inspired by the first two volumes of the Trilogy. In the first volume Daisy Hayes is between 16 and 27, and she takes us along with her through World War II. The second volume brings us to the Swinging Sixties, Daisy is then 44. And finally in the third book she’s 66 and it is 1989, the year the Berlin wall came down. I liked the idea of an older lady looking back on an already long life, even though, as she says, “In my mind I’m still the eighteen-year-old girl who married Ralph. That is who I will always be…”
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Yes. I am really a short story writer at heart. I struggle to even make it to the magical mark of 50,000 words. That is also why each chapter of my books can be read as a stand-alone story. Because each chapter basically is. But all of these stand-alone chapters are organized around a solid plot so as to form one bigger story: the murder mystery. Does this mean that I’m a master at plotting such a mystery in great detail? Alas, not even that! In fact I start out with very little. Just read the blurb of each book: that was the first thing I wrote and that is all I had to go on when I started writing. In the case of “D for Daisy”, I had just finished reading a study about the bomber war (“Bomber Boys: Fighting Back”, by Patrick Bishop), when I had this crazy thought: “What if a bomber pilot got murdered during a raid on Berlin?” Then another idea hit me: “What if his girl was blind since birth, and she had to find out who killed him?” I was desperately looking for ideas of course. Then the character of Daisy Hayes really caught on in my mind. And these two “brain-waves” together became the organizing principle of my first novel of the series. There is one big advantage to this approach: while I’m writing, I’m as eager as the reader to find out where the story is going. Of course each new twist of the plot requires a lot of reverse-engineering of the story, but in the end, the writing of the first draft is just as full of surprises for me as for the reader. The only difference being the extensive editing that is needed afterwards. But if you as a reader have the feeling that there is something interesting happening in almost every paragraph: that is exactly what I felt too!
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Georges Simenon and his “Maigret” novels are a major influence. Unlike Agatha Christie and the other proponents of the British Golden Age, Simenon and Maigret showed the way to a more intuitive approach to crime fiction, which I prefer.
What are you working on now?
I'm working on my fourth Daisy Hayes novel. This one will obviously be outside the original trilogy. It should become a stand-alone murder mystery. The working title is “Honeymoon in Rio”, and it is about Daisy’s honeymoon after her marriage to Richard Clayton, her love interest at the end of “D for Daisy”. He takes his new wife on a flight to South America. The plane is sabotaged and the honeymoon couple are stranded in Rio. They are victims of the murderous plot of an international criminal network. Daisy, blind since birth and brainy, and Rick, war hero and man of action, form the perfect team to defeat the villains. Apart from a murder mystery, it is really the story of a honeymoon. Anyone who has been married as long as I have been should try sometimes to think back to that magic time when you and your wife were newly-weds, and couldn’t keep your hands off each other!
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I would say that a giveaway on “Goodreads” is a good way to start. That should get you your first reviews on Amazon. Then try “Freebooksy” or “Bookbub” or any other site of that kind, including “My Book Place”. Getting the first novel of a series to become permafree on Amazon is also a good idea.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
First you must do all you can to find your strengths and correct your weaknesses. Then, when you’ve achieved that, you must try to do something completely different. Get out of your comfort zone and think outside the box.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
I met a famous Dutch writer (Willem Jan Otten) at a literary do once, and I told him: “As a writer I've tried everything, and now I think I’m finished.” And he simply answered, “A real writer is never finished.”
What are you reading now?
I’m reading up on the historical background of my fourth novel, but I’m always a great lover of YA, like the John Green novels. My latest heartthrob was the memoir of a Finnish-American poet, who happens to be blind, about living with a guide dog: “Have Dog, Will Travel”, by Stephen Kuusisto. I can also recommend “Outside Myself”, by Kristen Witucki, a blind YA author.
What’s next for you as a writer?
They say the best marketing strategy for an independent author is to keep writing new books. I guess I’ll try to do just that.
What is your favorite book of all time?
“The Great Gatsby”, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It’s a short novel, but it has everything. That is always what I will strive for as well.
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