eBook Dynasty October 2013 Resident Writer Q and A: Jen Minkman

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Q: Can you please describe how you started writing? Why do you think you have to write?

A: I started writing because I had a very vivid imagination as a kid, and I read a lot of books. I wrote my first story when I was ten years old, using my dad’s typewriter. I used to write short stories and books I never quite finished when I was in high school and college. Shadow of Time is the first book I actually finished!

Q: Among the world’s writers, who do you think have most influenced you?

A: I think sci-fi and fantasy writers have influenced me quite a bit, like Ray Bradbury and David Eddings.

Q: You have recently published Shadow of Time as a Chinese ebook. What do you try to convey in this book?

A: That true love never dies, and that everything is connected. I also wanted to show my readers a little bit of the history and culture of the Native Americans.

Q: You are a writer in two languages, Dutch and English. How did you train yourself to do so (i.e. not just self-translation), and, in your view, what are the advantages of writing bilingually?

A: I did not really train myself apart from reading a lot in both languages. That really helps when you want to write in more than just your mother tongue. The advantages of writing bilingually are plenty: you get to reach a far wider audience in English, as Dutch is a language that is only spoken by a minority of Europeans.

Q: You are from Holland. What is the contemporary literary scene like in that country?

A: In my opinion, the literary scene used to be a bit pretentious: only books with heavy, literary themes and lots of depressing characters would be taken seriously in newspapers and magazines. Lately though, there has been a shift in what kind of stuff sells: in Holland, people read a lot of literary thrillers, and the YA (young adult) genre is also getting increasingly popular.

Q: Shadow of Time may be defined as a “paranormal romance”. Why are you interested in this genre?

A: Because I love good romantic stories, but I also love mystery and the supernatural. I think my books are more on the spiritual side than the paranormal side, compared to other books in this genre. One of my Romanian reviewers once called Shadow of Time “a book that makes you a better person”.

Q: In terms of writing a novel, what do you think a writer should be aware of when constructing plots, creating characters and managing the overall themes?

A: Do not just lean on one plot device, but have a few subplots on the side. Also, characters should be interesting and easy to identify with. Nobody likes a perfect hero, but nobody likes reading about a clinically depressed person either. Write your characters in such a way that they could be your friends. They will not be loved by everybody, but they will be real.

Q: Have you ever encountered problems while writing? How do you conquer them?

A: The only thing that is bugging me sometimes is that I do not have enough time to write. Also, I have so many ideas in my head that I have difficulty deciding which one I will work on first. However, once I start working on an idea, I can’t stop until it is done. I never work on two stories at the same time.

Q: In your view, what is the most difficult thing about learning a paranormal romance novel? Particularly when your book is set in a place and culture you have never visited before?

A: I think the paranormalcy should not be “overdone”. I like it to be subtle. To me, the supernatural has to feel like a thing that could ALMOST happen in real life. And of course, for that to be convincing, a writer needs to do a lot of research. I spent months on researching the setting and background of the Navajo Indians for Shadow of Time. I did not want to make mistakes when describing their culture. I wanted to honour their tradition.

By the way, I visited Navajo Nation this summer (finally!) and it was even more beautiful than I imagined. I will be back, hopefully soon.

Q: If someone asks you how to become a writer, what will you say?

A: Start writing. Do not be afraid to make mistakes or ask people for their opinion. And read — a lot. You cannot become a good writer if you do not read books. Find your own style and never write what others want you to write – stay true to yourself.

Q: As a writer, in your view, what are the advantages and disadvantages of publishing your writings as ebooks?

A: The good thing is that ebooks are more widely available and they are cheaper too, so you get to sell more of them. The bad thing is that many countries have not discovered e-readers yet and people are more reluctant to buy paperbacks by authors they have not read before, so I am still trying to get a foothold in those countries. Also, nothing beats your physical book being read on the train as a promotion campaign! With e-readers, you can never see what your fellow commuters are reading on their way to work.

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Jen Minkman is one of the 23 English-language author I have translated, published and promoted to the Chinese-world since February 2011. Would you like to have 1.5 billion potential Chinese readers as well? Please support “A Guide to Self-Publishing in the Chinese World” Indigogo Campaign.

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