What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?
My name is Jen Minkman, and I am from the Netherlands. I currently live and teach in The Hague, but I am planning to move to the UK in three years!
When did you first consider yourself as a "writer"?
I guess when I realised I couldn’t stop writing! I wrote my first book when I was nine (I typed it on an old-fashioned typewriter!) and I haven’t stopped since. The first time I actually seriously considered to try and publish my work, though, was when I was writing the book ‘Shadow of Time’.
Did it take a long time to get your first book published?
Oh yes! In Holland, the market for paranormal romance is so much smaller than in the US and the UK. On top of that, publishers prefer having the bestsellers from the US and the UK translated over promoting local authors (especially when they are unknown, like me). It took me a year and a half to get someone interested, and it will still take until autumn 2013 until the book comes out in Dutch (which is the language I wrote it in originally). In a sense, it’s weird that the English translation will appear ahead of the original release, but that’s an added bonus when you decide to self-publish: you don’t have to wait for anyone!
Do you work another job as well as your writing work?
Yes, I am a teacher of English and a freelance translator. I am also in a band, but they don’t pay me :)
What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarise it in less than 20 words what would you say?
‘Shadow of Time’: a paranormal adventure set in Navajo Nation with lots of romance, excitement and a little bit of history and mythology!
Who is your publisher? or do you self publish?
In Holland, my publisher is Ellessy in Arnhem. Outside Holland, I self-publish, but my editor is Alexis Arendt from Word Vagabond.
What can we expect from you in the future? ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
I already have more paranormal romance books, but they’re still in Dutch... so I’ll be working on translating those once I have a little bit more time!
Do you have plans for a new book? Is this book part of a series?
I am currently planning to write a paranormal romance set in Wales, and no, it won’t be part of a series. I don’t do series. I just want to tell everything in one book.
What genre would you place your books into?
They fit into the YA paranormal romance mould, but they are still somewhat different. I would rather call them ‘mystical romance’ (which is what my publisher in Holland calls them, too!)
Where do you get your book plot ideas from?What/Who is your inspiration?
It could be anything. Sometimes I would take a stroll outside and see something that would inspire me, or I see a show on TV and am itching to write a story like it, but better, or different!
Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
When I write, I am like a method actor: for ‘Shadow of Time’, I watched about 40 different native American films, read 20 books, learned the basics of the Navajo language, burned Navajo incense while writing, listened to PowWow Radio every night... you get the picture. At some point, I drove my family and friends crazy with my ‘American Indian anecdotes’!
Do you have anybody read your books and give you reviews before you officially release them?ie. Your partner, children, friends, reviewers you know?
I always ask my sister and my best friend to read them and give their opinion. My husband is Filipino, so he hasn’t read my Dutch work so far, but he did read ‘Shadow of Time’ once it was available in English!
Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
Of course! Nothing brings me more satisfaction than read what people thought of it, even if they don’t like it. If they explain why, I might have a shot making my next book better!
Would you ever ask a reviewer to change their review if it was not all positive about your book/books?
Nope. It’s their opinion, and they are entitled to it. After all, I don’t personally like every single book I read myself. Liking books is such a subjective thing; that’s just the way it is.
How do you come up with the Title and Cover Designs for your book/books?Who designed the Cover of your books?
Titles are always difficult! I struggled finding one for ‘Shadow of Time’. The next book I have written, ‘The Boy From The Woods’, actually started with me coming up with the title, so that was easy. And I design my own book covers unless I’m really out of inspiration. I studied Art in secondary school and did my GCSE levels with Art included in the package. Even in Holland, I get to have a say in what the book cover looks like, which is quite rare in the publishing world.
How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
Sometimes it’s like these people already exist, and they come to me when I start writing. Sometimes, I even write in a character that I hadn’t planned because he/she suddenly sort of ‘emerged’.
Do you basic plot/plan for your book, before you actually begin writing it out? Or do you let the writing flow and see where it takes the story?
Both. I make an outline, but when the flow takes me away from the outline, I let it flow.
How do you market/promote your books?
I talk to a lot of people in the blogosphere! I also try to put my book on as many online platforms and social media channels as I can, and I organise blog tours for my books.
What do you think makes a book really good/bestseller?
A book has to be gripping. It has to entertain the reader with many twists and turns, be they emotional or action-packed. It has to be a page-turner. A writer has to have the courage to scrap a lot of stuff from the original draft. Half of the writing job is deleting. Otherwise, you’d bog down your readers with unnecessary information that might have been relevant to you at some point, but not to the storyline.
Have you ever suffered from a "writer's block"? What did you do to get past the "block"?
I sometimes have a writer’s block because I want to do so many different things at the same time! I have a mild form of ADD, so it’s either hyper-focus or brain-scatter for me. To get past the block, I just have to do the other things demanding my attention first to calm myself down. Fortunately, I can distract myself by writing songs... which I actually use in my books. I write soundtracks for my books. There are two songs sung by the main characters in ‘Shadow of Time’ that you can listen to on my website, and there will be songs in my next books, too.
Did you read a lot at school and write lots of stories or is being a writer something newer in your life?
I started reading when I was three. I was very inquisitive, so my parents taught me to read at a young age so I could read for myself and they didn’t have to read for me all the time. Ever since, I’ve been bookworming my way through so many different genres and authors that I couldn’t name a single ‘all-time’ favourite book. But I really like fantasy, sci-fi, romance, time-travel, or a combination of all of the above!
Do you have a treasured book from your childhood? If yes, what is it?
I love the ‘Famous Five’ series very much!
Do you have a favourite genre of book?
Yes, that would be paranormal romance. The same genre I write in.
Are there any New Authors you are interested in for us to watch out for? and Why should we watch out for them?
I am following some young authors from the Netherlands trying to break through in the same genre, and I really like Becca Mills, Susan Bischoff and Keary Taylor in the self-pub field.
What do you think about book trailers?
Love them! I have one myself, too. I made it by downloading royalty-free stock videoclips and playing around with those.
What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?
Write what you want, don’t try to please the crowd, but always have someone objectively look at your book before you put it out there (so that excludes family members or friends). Don’t embarrass yourself by sending out drafts of a manuscript that makes you cringe one year later. Of course, I fell into that trap myself, so I’m glad to share this piece of wisdom with every aspiring writer out there!
If you could invite three favourite writers to dinner, who would you invite and enjoy chatting with?
Ray Bradbury, Margaret Mahy and Thea Beckman. Only Margaret Mahy is still alive, so I guess it would be a rather macabre dinner party :)