Good morning Jennifer and welcome. Can I start, as always, by asking you a little about yourself?
Thanks for having me, Jo! I’m a long-time expat, an American who’s been living in the Netherlands since 2004, and the author of two novels, Down and Out in Kathmandu: Adventures in Backpacking and The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery.
In America I worked as a journalist and multimedia developer until massive burnout lead me to quit my job, buy a backpack and head off to Nepal as a volunteer English teacher for three months. As cliché as it might sound, this trip ended up being a life-changing experience.
After several years on the road, I moved to the Netherlands. I ended up here by pure chance. After a 24 hour layover in Rome turned into a two-month tour of Europe, I arrived in Amsterdam on Queen’s Day and immediately feel in love with the city, country, culture and people. Several months of paperwork later, I returned to Amsterdam to study art history and never left!
After completing degrees in art history and museum studies, I worked for several museums before the economy crashed and the cultural sector imploded.
While apply for jobs, I wrote my first novel as a way of keeping my mind occupied. Writing about my adventures in Nepal and Thailand also helped curtail my wanderlust! I finished it between contracts, but never pursued publication.
After my son was born, I had the luxury of staying home to raise him. Writing became a way to connect with ‘grownup’ life, and gave me an excuse to visit several museums and archives I’d always wanted to check out. The Lover’s Portrait was so well-received by everyone who read it, I decided to publish both of my books and see what happened. I’ve been absolutely blown away by the overwhelmingly positive reception so far!
When did you first decide you wanted to write and how did you begin that journey?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, though in my younger years I focused on poetry and short stories. One of my favorite childhood memories is of my father and me thinking up storylines together. During college I majored in journalism and worked as a columnist, investigative journalist and newspaper editor before life took me in other directions.
Have you a favorite place to write?
There are a few small cafes in Amsterdam I love to go to when I get the chance. I’m not sure if it’s the friendly personnel, beautiful views of the canals or great background music, but I always find it easy to write when I’m there.
Can you tell us something about your current WIP?
I have two upcoming releases I’d like to share.
In January I’ll be releasing a travelogue about my real journey to Nepal and Thailand, Notes of a Naive Traveler: Adventures in Nepal and Thailand. Since Down and Out in Kathmandu’s publication, I’ve been surprised by the number of readers who want to know which of the events described in my debut novel really took place. Very few, I’m afraid! Now everyone will have a chance to read about my actual journey and experiences gained while volunteer in, and traveling around Nepal and Thailand. I’ve also included several photos of places I’d visited, many of which were destroyed in the massive earthquake that rocked Nepal in 2015.
Last week I finished the first draft of my third fiction novel, an art-related mystery set in Amsterdam and Papua New Guinea about bispoles (religious objects akin to totem poles), American anthropologists, and Dutch missionaries. I’m planning on releasing it in the summer of 2017.
You’ve done a lot of travelling. Is there any one place which has been really memorable for you?
It’s true; I’m addicted to traveling and love learning about other countries and cultures. I’ve spent a total of seven years living out of a backpack while traveling through more than thirty lands.
Nepal was the first country I visited, aside from day trips to border towns in Canada and Mexico. It couldn’t have been more different than Seattle. The amazing people, cultures, and religions made it so memorable; Nepal will always have a special place in my heart. Simply thinking back on all of the wonderful people I met – their resilience, kindness, love of life and ability to be truly happy when they possess so little – is humbling and constantly reminds me to enjoy what I have.
And lastly, if you were able to invite four guests to dinner, who would they be and why?
Amelia Earhart is someone I’ve always admired because she dared to follow her dreams and live the life she wanted, despite society’s expectations of women at the time. I imagine it would be fascinating to talk with her about her journeys.
A guilty pleasure is watching a clips show called Ridiculousness. I’m a huge fan; it’s my favorite way of turning off my brain and completely relaxing before going to bed. The host, Rob Dydrek, is the kind of guy who’s met and partied with pretty much everybody; I bet he would have some great stories to tell.
Herman Koch, a Dutch comic and author of The Dinner (Het Diner), always comes across as an interesting, funny and well-read man in interviews. I expect it would be a stimulating conversation.
Alex Garland, author of The Beach, would also be high on my list. His debut novel blew my mind, and those of many of my generation. Thanks to books like his, I dared to write Down and Out in Kathmandu. I bet we could have fun swapping travel stories.
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