Published on October 8th, 2012 | by Jenah0
Welcome Jan Jacob
Where are you from and what do you love most about your hometown?
I’m from Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. One nice thing about it is that we have a lot of interesting architecture, although the reason for that isn’t so nice. The town was virtually destroyed when it was bombed early in the Second World War, in 1940, so it had to be almost completely rebuilt. Fortunately the people in Rotterdam have a “can-do” attitude – a motto we have here is “no words but actions”, and that’s another thing I like about it.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? How has that childhood dream affected your career?
Like many children, I fantasized about being an astronaut and similar crazy and unrealistic jobs, but I never really had any concrete ideas about what to be exactly. In fact, I still don’t… I think that’s why I decided I’d better be a writer – I don’t know how to do anything else, and that way, I can be whatever I want to be through the fictional worlds I create.
Tell us about your latest book. Do you have anything new in the works and can you tell us a bit about it?
Right now I have a few things in the works. Early next year I’m going to release two new short story collections, one of which features Jewel Friedman, the detective character who I created especially for a short story, and who proved to be quite popular with readers (not to mention myself). I’m also a handful of chapters away from completing the first draft of a dystopian novel, for which I’m going to launch a preorder campaign on IndieGoGo, so be sure to keep an eye out for that.
Why did you write this book?
The reason I wrote Struglend Tales is because I wanted to practice my writing skills by creating a series of loosely connected fantasy stories. As I wrote it though, it became apparent that these tales wanted to be more, so I reworked them into a book, which became Struglend Tales.
How did you come up with the title?
I was just looking for a name that sounded sufficiently fantastical, while still being grounded in the real world. I imagined Struglend, the place where the book starts out, as a place of struggle. That word is derived from Middle English “struglen”, and by appending a “d” to that, I arrived at a name that sounded pretty cool to me. The second part of the title is rather obvious, since it’s a series of tales connected to Struglend.
How did you choose your genre?
I like making up things, worlds, stories, so the fantasy genre seemed a given. Whichever genre I’m going to write in, there will always be outlandish elements in my stories, since I like exploring the caverns of the human mind. That said, I also enjoy a good joke – especially British humor – so I added a lot of comedy as well. That’s another thing that I think all stories should have. Even the most serious story can be lightened up by a little joke here and there.
What inspired you to be a writer?
I’ve always dabbled in writing, making up stories for as long as I can remember, but what really set my wheels into motion was studying history in university. That’s when I found out that I’m a pretty good writer, and not just that – I really enjoy writing.
Who is your favorite character in your books? Why?
That’s a tough one… characters are a writer’s children, and it’s hard to pick a favorite. If I had to choose though, perhaps Horatio, the jackdaw in Struglend Tales. I like watching animals in nature just doing their thing. Jackdaws in particular, which are very intelligent birds, inspired me to feature birds rather prominently at the start of Struglend Tales. I think Jewel Friedman, the detective I mentioned earlier, may soon take the top spot, however, since I put quite a lot of myself into her, but she’s also got plenty of strong characteristics of her own. She’s very interesting, and I love exploring her character in her murder mysteries.
Have you ever used contemporary events or stories “ripped from the headlines” in your work?
Not as far as I can remember, although things are bound to linger after you hear from something in the news. I do tend to look up stuff related to what I’m writing at the moment, and sometimes I’ll come across articles, news or otherwise, that contain interesting information that I can use.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?
Yes. Writing. One of my favorite writing quotes is this one from Thomas Mann: “A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” I find that this is very true. The hardest part for me is just sitting down and writing, trying to get into that state of mind where the right words flow out of your brain and onto the screen.
What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
Have fun! First and foremost, you should write a story that you’d want to read yourself. If you didn’t enjoy writing your book or story, it will show. But if you poured your heart and soul into it, it will also show. Don’t worry too much about how to phrase things at first, that’s what the editing process is for. Also, never forget to stop and smell the roses. There’s inspiration waiting for you everywhere, but you wouldn’t know it if you close your mind to it.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
Yes, I do. I find that usually it’s because I just don’t know what should come next, because I didn’t think it over properly. Sometimes it helps not to force yourself to write, instead just taking some time off to think about your story. Maybe take a walk or do something else entirely, and plan out (whether in your head or on paper) where your story should go. Another thing that helps for me is music – I tend to create playlists for each specific mood or subject matter I’m writing about at that time.
Who is your favorite author and why? What books have most influenced your life?
For Struglend Tales, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books were a pretty big inspiration, but I’m not sure if I could pick any one favorite author. I like reading a lot of different authors, and I learn from every one of them. Tolkien, Agatha Christie, Chekhov… I wouldn’t say books have really influenced my life though. Apart from the Bible, I couldn’t name one that managed to do so, although some books are so profound in one way or another that they always stay with you. 1984 and Anna Karenina are two such books, books that make you think about the world, about human nature.
How did you deal with rejection letters?
Since I decided to self-publish from the get-go, I skipped the rejection letter stage. It was just easier for me, an English-language writer in the Netherlands, to go indie, not to mention this is the perfect time to self-publish, with things getting easier all the time for indie writers. One thing to keep in mind though if you have to deal with rejection letters, bad reviews, or any sort of criticism of your work, is that people are not rejecting you. Try to learn from everything people say about your work, positive or negative, and incorporate the good suggestions in your future work.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
A brain, preferably an imaginative one, and a device (computer, pen, typewriter) to release your stories from said brain. Other than that, I find myself using Google’s “define” function and thesaurus.com quite a lot. Finally, writers definitely need to read a lot, so books are indispensable.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done in the name of research?
I don’t think I’ve ever done anything really weird. In this digital age, it’s very easy to look up things online, so I use that option a lot. It is important not to write about things you don’t know about though, so as a writer you have to be prepared to learn about new things all the time.
Visit On The Web!
Struglend Tales on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Struglend-Tales-Saga-ebook/dp/B00756I41E/
Struglend Tales on Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/129173