Never dull under my skull: an interview with Koos Verkaik

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interviewer: Dustin Pickering

Good day, Koos! I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to you about your literary work. What is the secret to your prolific literary life?

Hello from The Netherlands! Thank you for this chance to tell about my books. It is a one-word-secret: write! I started writing stories at the age of seven. Called it my ‘library’ and everyone could lend a ‘book’ for ten cent. I gave the earnings to charity. First publications as the age of 16, my first novel was published when I was 18 years old – a science fiction book about an astronaut who agreed his brain became a part of a spaceship computer. The brain got built in. I still write about these kind of things and one of my recent novels, Nicolaes Nimbus, is all about ancient magic vs modern science. Always interested in the developing of the human brain, in history, in our future. We humans are an odd species… I am always wondering and always writing…

What attracts you to the dark and strange forms of literature?

Well, I always say: “Never dull under my skull”, and that means that a lot is going on in that odd brain of mine. (IBM people once suggested to connect my brain to one of their computers, to see what’s going on when I am writing!) Dark and strange. Yes. Life itself is already so complex, interesting and intriguing – and then there are the miracles, the unexplainable things, the scary sides of our behavior, the imposing wonder of the universe… I am a collector of  nonfiction books and books about the paranormal, alchemy, odd theories… I always wonder what is going on and I only need a single line to start a novel. For instance: how could Neanderthal man survive an ice age? Enough for me to write about tribes who gathered round bonfires and fell asleep – meeting each other I their dreams. My novel Neanderthal Dreams (Outer Banks Publishing Group, USA) caught the attention of a large audience; I’m not the only one who wonders about what possibly might have happened in the past. Everything about history and especially about the mysteries of the past, intrigues me. That is why De Arbeiderspers, one of my publishers in The Netherlands, placed this three words on my book covers: Magic, Mystery & Adventure.

How does life in the Netherlands relate to your literary work? Are there any convergences between the national life and your own works? Does the Netherlands inspire your writing?

I was born on ‘old ground’, as I call it. History goes back to Neanderthals, here were the Celtic and German tribes, the Romans tried to conquer us, we fought the Spanish and French armies, we had our Golden Age and discovered the world. We, the Dutch, had to work together in our fight against the water – building dikes; everyone had his own part of the dikes to take care of. If you didn’t do that properly, a disaster could be your fault. Dutch history, European history, world history, it is all so interesting. Pity that people read less and less nonfiction books and rely on what is to be found on the internet. Hurray for the internet, it made a village out of the entire world, but the social media don’t tell you the real facts most of the time. So, yes, being born and bred in The Netherlands certainly influenced my way of writing.

What writing habits do you have? What do you do while writing? When you are in the process of developing a story, how does it feel for you?

First: I never had a writer’s block and I write every day, also in the weekend. I have a lot to tell and always had that drive. When I start doing research, there is total chaos in my head. And I write down thing on notepads, laptops, sheets of paper, beer mats… I always write the first lines with a ballpoint. Once I know the start is all right, I start writing on a computer. That always feels good, I write with a big smile on my face – page after page. The plot is in my head, but changes all the time, I never know where the story will end. As soon as the book is finished, I start working on a new one. Chaos again and work on and on till it is all done. And I always write two books at the same time, a novel and a new title for one of my series of children’s books.

When did you develop a website and why? What other ways can writers promote their work in the modern global world?

Many, many years ago. Every writer should have his own website to show his work. All my interviews are there, all my books, information about my work. Interviews are important. Having your own Facebook page is also important. It is always important that one is able to find your work. Fortunately, all booksellers are of good help. I have my author page at Amazon, my books can be found all over the world. Barnes & Noble is important, but also Google Books, Apple, you name it.

What stories of yours are your favorites? Which ones were the most exciting to write?

I write novels and series of children’s books, so I will tell about both genres.

My novels – Dance of the Jester is one of my favorite novels. The jester plays a big role in many of my books, starting with my book All-Father and especially in Wolf Tears. I have become a kind of a jester myself in the course of time; a jester can say everything that comes up in his mind, without getting in trouble. The jester can tell the truth to kings and queens.

Bill Thompson, editor of the first books of Stephen King and John Grisham read the manuscript of Dance of the Jester via a literary agent ant invited me to the USA to discuss the plot – I went there and back in The Netherlands I did the final touch. It has become my masterpiece. But… many more new novels to come!

My series of children’s books – most important is my series Alex and the Wolpertinger. Available in English now (the first 7 titles on the big A4 format, illustrated) and later also in different translations: French, Spanish, Russian, Japanese and Hindi, all done by Pharos Books in India and Uno Printing. I am working on book 14 now (write in Dutch, then translate into English) and intend to write at least 30 different titles. Mr. Mahip Bhatia from Pharos/Uno Printing comes to visit me here in The Netherlands to discuss animation film for this series and to discuss all the novels they publish for me in different languages.

How do you relate supernatural and horror elements to your stories? Is there anything unconventional about your style compared to others in the same genre?

Supernatural and horror are main ingredients. I admire Edgar Allan Poe and have all his short stories in my workroom. It is very important for every writer to read a lot of books, but it is also important to create your own style. Imitations are never as good as the original. I soon found my own style, when I started writing novels as a boy. I am not easy satisfied with my own work and I learnt to understand how it should be done.

I always give an explanation about my work, when someone have read the final lines, he will know exactly what it was all about.

And I take the reader with my on an adventurous trip and it is up to him (or her, many, many readers these days are women) to enjoy the story on itself or read between the lines. Because in my books there is always more than just the plot, I also tell about the important things that makes life so miraculous; the darkest things, the deepest feelings, our past, our future.

Historian Max Moragie wrote an essay about me not long ago and he said: “Anyone who has read or reread a novel by Koos Verkaik (I am now rereading it for the second time) has enjoyed a story that continues to fascinate and surprise, even if you know the outcome, but is also encouraged to muse about the essence of existence. A pulp writer doesn’t make you think like that, sometimes a literary author, but apparently a Verkaik always does.”

That makes me proud, of course. It is a compliment on itself that someone takes the trouble to dive into my pool of books and come to the surface with such nice comments.

Tell me about your journey as a writer. When did it become part of your life? What doubts have you had about the craft and how did you overcome them?

As said, I started writing at the age of seven. Was a copywriter for some time when I was seventeen and learnt there how to describe things short and to the point. In the mean time I wrote script for comic artists and made several recordings. Writing has always been a part of my life, it goes with my character. I can be all by myself for long times and concentrate on my work. No doubts. I am not a self-confident person at all, but when I write I am sure of myself. Can see things different, in both ways, I can understand the hero and I can understand the bandit.

Thank you so much for your time, Koos. Would you like to promote your next book in conclusion of the interview? What can we expect from you in the future?

Many new titles to come, I signed 14 different contracts with Pharos Books India, Outer Banks Publishing Group USA and Angry Eagle Publishing USA.

Here is the info about some of my most recent novels:

Legio, 10,000 years BC:

“I proudly present you the Greatest Show on Earth,” said Maurice, the swindler, the failed illusionist, the alcoholic, “and the price for a ticket is set to one million British pounds. . .”

Africa, round 1920: Hector Fabry, the great adventurer, is dying from malaria. A strange figure kneels down next to him and puts his hand on his forehead.

The next moment Hector is alive and well!

The strange man who saved his life is following him now – Hector gives him a name: Okapi.

And one has ever seen an odd man like Okapi before.

This strange man needs help. He is from another place in time and he is suffering from a deadly disease.

Only Hector can help him – he has to travel back in time, to legendary Legio, and come back with the right medicine to save Okapi.

And so Hector ends up in Legio, 10.000 years BC, and must try to survive in this crazy civilization…

Nicolaes Nimbus:

High Tech Science Vs. Ancient Magic

Scientists and wealthy owners of high-tech companies have pumped millions of dollars into the search for immortality. But does the future look bright or is there disaster waiting behind the horizon of time? The world is getting more complicated by the day, but who’s actually in charge?

A group of scientists in Germany have unmasked a cheating visionary. An intriguing phenomenon from the past turns up. Who is Nicolaes Nimbus? Is he an immortal man of flesh and blood from our ancient past? The hunt is on! The secret is priceless! Who is in control, the scientists or the mystic? The intriguing novel NICOLAES NIMBUS embraces modern developments… and warns against ancient magic that never dies, waiting for the right time to manifest itself. Read on and shiver…but keep the lights on.

All-Father:

Peter Jonker has special gifts at his disposal. As a provoked, frightened child, he has come under the spell of master painter Poolman and his evocative, terrifying canvases. Poolman has spun gory tales about Wodan, god of the Germanic tribes, and the fearless Scandinavian berserkers. And now it seems Peter has seen the magic truth behind those sagas. In his agony he discovers unknown talents, and soon it is said he has the possession of immortal powers!

Haunted by the fantasies of his youth, the adult Peter is going downhill, and in his vulnerable state strangers intervene trying to reach their own dubious goals by taking advantage of him.

Wodan is looking for him and wants him to join the Army of the Dead – Berserkers who carry death and destruction… Peter’s life becomes a choking nightmare. Is he responsible for the death of four people, or being set up by unknown forces? Brought under hypnosis, the horrible truth may come out…

Wolf Tears:

A mesmerizing supernatural tale of immortality, jealousy and tortured love, a hunger for blood and the appearance of a scary jester…

Wolf Tears is the story of Paul Brand, who comes to the incredible realization that he has been reinventing himself for centuries in order to keep the knowledge of his immortality a secret, even from himself.

Brand, a talented musician, is befriended by Francis Beck, a world-famous composer who possesses a unique psychic power to make his audience see, think and feel whatever he wishes through the music he plays. Terrifying visions, rapturous love, his listeners are his unwitting pawns.

When Beck is apparently killed in an automobile accident, Brand opens an envelope left for him by Beck and finds inside a photo of the two men taken in 1932 – long before Brand thought he was even born.

This is a tale of jealousy, and of a terrible clash over a beautiful woman, that leads three friends, Brand, Beck and Miethe, to an alchemist’s lair in the woods of Germany, where they are given the gift of almost eternal youth.

Dance of the Jester:

Suddenly, at the end of the twenty-first century, world changes.

The tycoons rule and name themselves kings.

They are times of extravagance and decadence, extreme power and richness.

The world is one big party.

And there is chaos!

No one seems to wonder how this all had come to be. No one seems to wonder what is actually happening. No one seems to care about anything anymore. Except for some odd outsiders. One of them is Oscar Man, the illegitimate son of tycoon Otto Man.

Once he was a prince; then he became a pariah, with nothing to lose for himself and so much to win for the world…

In these turbulent times, the Second Renaissance, strange creatures come into power and try to subject every single human being to their will.

They make the poor jester Oscar Man dance. But ultimately Oscar will manage to solve the biggest the world has ever faced!

Koos Verkaik, is a prolific Dutch author of fantasy, science fiction and horror – a master at creating sensational work full of magic, horror, mystery and adventure. Verkaik has written over seventy titles. He is one of the most productive writers of this time; many new books will follow! He calls Dance of the Jester his most intellectual book, referring to the daring plot, fast changing scenes and all the odd characters…

Thank you for this opportunity to tell about my work, greetings from The Netherlands – Koos Verkaik.

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1 Comment
  1. DENNIS DE ROSE says

    You did a fantastic job interviewing Koos. And yes, he is a prolific writer. I had the privilege of editing Nicoleas Nimbus for Koos and I hope to be able to edit for him in the futire. Job well done!

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