I have had the honour of an interview with Jen Minkman who wrote The Island series, along with many more standalone novels including Shadow of Time. It was to commemorate her upcoming novel The Deep, which is the third instalment of The Island series and will be released June 4th 2014.
1) Hi Jen, thanks for sparing some time for this interview, can you tell us a little about your series The Island, in particular The Deep which is your third and final instalment?
The series started out with a short novella written for a dystopian writing contest in Holland. I translated the novella (which wasn't supposed to be more than 20,000 words) into English and published it on Amazon. I got reactions all across the board. Some people one-starred me and said it was fanfic (which it isn't - I will get to that later) while others loved it because it was original and hadn't been done before. But overall, everybody said that the story deserved more 'space' - more words, more pages, more time to play out. So I was basically convinced by fans to write a sequel. Normally speaking I always write standalone novels, but I agreed that the characters in this book deserved more attention from me, so Book 2 was published in October, and Book 3 was something my mom asked for ('so what happens to them once they cross the sea?').
2) Is there much pressure to finish your series the way fans want, and do you take into consideration their opinions or was it planned long before?
I have no idea how my fans wanted the series to end, to be honest. I only knew how I wanted it to end, and so I wrote it by 'loving' all my characters and by feeling what they needed to experience in order to grow. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to happen, but as the story progressed, more and more ideas popped up in my head which finally resulted in this book not being a 35,000-word novella (like I'd planned) but a 63,000-word novel. Sometimes I just can't stop myself :)
3) How and when did you first realise you loved writing and wanted to be an author? What was the first thing you ever wrote?
I was always busy writing, even as a child. Probably because I was crazy about reading. All the books I read inspired me to come up with some stuff of my own. My first 'book' was a sci-fi novel about a crashed UFO which I wrote at the age of ten. I taught myself how to use my dad's typewriter and also illustrated the story myself. I made a cardboard cover and 'bound' the book with thick thread. I still have it as part of my 'archive of nostalgic items'!
4) Can you tell us about being a self-published author? Does it mean more work or overall is it easier?
In Holland I'm trade-published, which is nice because the publisher takes care of (part of) the PR. The downside is that you have less control over the content - once a book is published, you can't change anything anymore.
In the US/UK, I self-publish and this means I need to promote my own work. It involves contacting a lot of bloggers, advertising sites, and knowing what to upload where and how to get eyeballs on your work. It is a LOT of work and it's not easy, but it's so worth the time because being able to publish exactly what YOU want is an awesome feeling.
5) Do you have any more projects in the works or can you share some ideas for future ones?
Absolutely. I'm in the process of translating another YA Paranormal novel into English for publication in September (title: The Space In Between), I am also planning to work on a sci-fi/fantasy/romance story set on Mars, as well as a YA paranormal story about UFO hunters, Freemasons and angels set on Jersey (Channel Islands) and in the Dordogne (France), and I am also still trying to get a story with Norse influences set in Iceland on paper. I have too many ideas!
6) Dystopian novels have been very popular lately in which world building is essential, how hard is it to build an original dystopian world?
Dystopian worlds are all more or less the same because they all have similar dysfunctional governments, but it's the way you look at those governments that make such a world interesting and relevant in today's world. Does it make you think about the way human society works in the present? How far off are we from a dystopian society ourselves? How far are we willing to go to control the masses? The possibilities to do this are endless, so I don't think it's that difficult to build a dystopian world.
7) How much of your characters are based on your traits or someone you know personally?
I am not consciously aware of being like my characters, but on some level, I guess all my female heroines are a bit like me in the sense that they can't stand injustice and they are willing to fight for what they believe in. If they didn't do that, I wouldn't like my own characters!
8) What are some of your favourite movies, and what actors/actresses could you see playing the main characters from your book?
I loved the Hunger Games movies, and I am also a big fan of Paranormal Romance movies like City of Angels, Twilight, Beastly, The Lake House, Labyrinth (though technically not romance). I'd love that girl from Beautiful Creatures to play Leia, and I think Saoirse Ronan would make a nice Alisa.
9) What scenes were your favourite and least favourite to write?
I love describing tension between people (not gonna tell who, because it'll be a major spoiler) because I am a true romantic at heart. My least favorite scenes were the ones on board the ships because my naval vocabulary is sadly lacking (even in Dutch). I just don't know what all those 'things' on a ship are called or how to describe whatever those deckhands are doing to the sails, haha! In fact, I recently wrote a blog post about my decision to never write books about boats and ships anymore. If people really need to get on board a ship, I'll fastforward to the moment where they disembark again!
10) Do you have a playlist while you are writing or do you listen to your own songs written about the books?
I listened to the new Stop Motion album a lot while writing this story. Actually, this series is the only story so far where I haven't written my own song(s) for the narrative, so that's pretty unique. All my other books feature songs (including the ones I haven't published yet).
Fan fiction yay or nay? Yay if it's done well! I mean, who doesn't love to see two characters getting together when the actual TV series never makes that dream come true? I used to be addicted to Doggett/Reyes (X-Files) shipper fanfic! :)
Ebook or paperback? Both! Ebooks are so convenient to take with you (and are a godsend if you can't wait to start reading something and can just download it to your phone or Kindle instead of having to go to the bookshop) but paperbacks are something to cherish. I always get books in paperback if I'm sure I will be re-reading the book regularly.
Tea or coffee? Depends on my mood. I love green tea and peppermint tea, but I also love lattes!
Zombies or vampires? For romance: definitely vampires. For action and excitement: zombies! (I love The Walking Dead)
Jen Minkman (1978) was born in Holland, in the town of Alphen aan den Rijn. When she was 19, she moved between The Hague, Salzburg (Austria), Brussels (Belgium) and Cambridge (UK) to complete her studies in intercultural communication. She is currently a teacher of English and Dutch at a secondary school in The Hague, Holland. She tries to read at least 100 books a year (and write a few, too!). She is a published author in her own country, and translates her own books from Dutch into English for self-publication.
In her spare time, she plays the piano, the guitar and the violin. For every novel she writes, she creates a soundtrack.