My name is Koos Verkaik. I work and live in the Netherlands. Write my books in Dutch and then translate into English. I wrote more than sixty books under pseudonym to make a living and also wrote more than sixty books under my own name.
Started writing at the age of seven, my comics were published when I was only sixteen (three pages every week in a comic magazine) and wrote my first novel when I was eighteen; it was published right away. Also worked as a copywriter and I have been an editor for several publishing companies.
My newest novel, Nicolaes Nimbus, is published by Outer Banks Publishing Group in North Carolina. It is about the search for immortality…
A group of extremely clever rich German and Dutch scientists hope to live forever. They search for different possibilities to prolong life and spend lots of money to reach their goal. Then they hear about a wizard who was supposed to have lived ages ago – Nicolas Nimbus. If Nicolaes Nimbus is still alive and has found the secret of immortality through magic; the scientists want to find him – to examine him in their labs! But they need master painter Rein Vulpes to set a trap for Nicolaes Nimbus. Then high tech science meets ancient magic…
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
All I would do, if this was really possible, shake hands with my younger writing self. This is what I have often placed on Facebook, LinkedIn etc.:
When I was still a boy,
I drew comics and wrote stories,
got published and interviewed.
Youngest comic script writer in Europe at the age of 16, first novel published when I was 18.
I promised myself to become a writer.
More than sixty books later,
the promise is fulfilled.
When you buy one of my books,
you also reward that boy from the past…
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
It didn’t. It only encouraged me to keep on writing. The publisher had his own printing house. The day my first novel was published, he invited me to come and take a look at the printing process. I stood there and saw the press spit out all those sheets with pages of my book. As a boy I was rather maniacal, I wrote that novel during a long weekend – I hardly slept. It was a sci fi, about a man who donates his brain to science. His brain becomes an important part of a space ship. As soon as that is done, the man can dream anything he likes and he feels happy. But of course that happiness does not last…
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Buying an IBM composer. It was before the computer time. With a composer I could typeset my books and make them immediately ready for print. I managed to write four novels of 125 pages every month. Commercial lecture for women; 500 pages a month. IBM people who visited me, suggested to connect my brain to a computer, so they could see what was going on in my mind while I was working so hard… That was a crazy time. But I never had a writer’s block, always came up with new, original stories.
What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
Edgar Allan Poe. His short stories really scared me. Later I became a big fan of his work. A hard cover with all his stories is one of the most precious books in my library. I must have read it a dozen times.
What did you do with your first advance?
I received a small advance for my first novel. But I don’t remember what I used it for. What I do remember is that I saw my book in a shop window and that was such a surprise. That was worth more than an advance. It made me feel special. That was my book! A miracle had happened in my life…
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
When I was seven, I started writing stories. After some time I had a pile of notebooks full of them. Then I invited people to read them and they had to pay me ten cents for each story. I gave the money to charity. I realized then that language had power. And endless possibilities. Placing the right words in the right order that seemed to be the magic trick.
By the way, I wrote a novel about the power of words; All-Father.
This is, very short, what it is about:
“Peter Jonker has the disposal of special talents.
Once he was a provoked, terrified kid, completely under the spell of painter Poolman and his suggestive, horrible works of art.
Poolman has told him stories about the god of the German tribes, Wodan (also known as Odin and All-father), who comes with the thunder and crosses the sky in the company of his cruel Army of the Dead.
It seems that Peter sees the magical reality behind the legends; the stories and paintings of Poolman almost choke him and in his agony he changes – unsuspected powers come into being. And how human is someone who is able to destroy everything he wants?
Chased by the phantoms of his youth, the adult Peter begins to feel weaker and weaker. He has become a great copywriter – everything he writes down, actually happens!
But his talents are slowly beginning to fade away.
And in this vulnerable period, other people interfere and try to realize their own goals with the help of Peter’s gifts.”
What are the most important magazines for writers to subscribe to?
In The Netherlands there is a magazine called ‘Fantastische Vertellingen’; Fantastic Tales. A month ago they published an article about my early work; three books – Psycho Park, All-Father and Wolf Tears. I was surprised by it. And impressed.
This is how the article ended:
“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.”
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Dance of The Jester. It was published in Texas, but not much later that company had to close their doors. A literary agent suggested to send the manuscript to Mr. Bill Thompson, the editor of the first Stephen King and John Grisham books. I said that it was okay. Bill Thompson loved the manuscript and spontaneously invited me to meet him in New York.
This is what the book is about:
“Suddenly, at the end of the twenty-first century, the 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. But Oscar Man appears to be a very strange creature too and he shows the way to freedom; his journey leads him from Switzerland to the USA and back, searching for a special manuscript that will bring the highly necessary revelation.
The enemy makes the poor jester Oscar Man dance. But ultimately the former prince will manage to solve the world’s biggest problems ever!”
How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?
I never have a certain type of reader in mind when I write. It is just that I have a lot to tell and you can read my books as pure adventure. But when you are able to read between the lines, you will find some interesting things… Every reader is a different person with his or her own personality. I can only hope my messages ring through to as many readers as possible. But I do not think about such things during the writing process.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
A crow. Not as powerful as a bird of prey, but an independent explorer. For my book All-Father I studied the old sagas about Wodan/Odin. When he rode through the skies on his eight-legged white horse, he was accompanied by intelligent crows.
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
Book characters are based on your own life experiences. In combination with your imagination. It is an amazing fact that a good writer is able to come up with dozens, dozens and dozens different characters.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
As told, I write in Dutch and then translate into English. After that process I send my manuscript to an editor in the USA. That takes time. I have different books ready for publishing, all perfectly edited. No half-finished books, because I always finish my manuscripts.
What does literary success look like to you?
Besides novels, I also write series of children’s books. One series, ‘Slimmetje’, somewhat like ‘Smarty’, sols over 450,000 copies. In The Netherlands only! That gave a good feeling. Many publishers here printed 20.000 copies of my novels to begin with. Books are my life, writing books is my favorite obsession. I did not start writing in hope to become successful, I started writing because that is what I can do best.
What’s the best way to market your books?
Work together with your Literary Agent and your publishers. The internet makes it possible to market your books while you sit safely in your workroom. Of course I have my own website and I promote my books via Facebook and LinkedIn, have my own Amazon page, do interviews and signing sessions in book shops. For my series of children’s books I visit schools to meet the children and read them stories.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I am a chaotic person. When I do research, I write notation on pieces of paper, use notebooks and computers. In my workroom I have hundreds of nonfiction books. I know exactly where to find the information I need at a certain moment. As a matter of fact I do research every day.
Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
Yes. The process of writing is spiritual and magical. You are creating something that was not there before. That is why I always advise starting authors to be original and don’t imitate other writers. Writing is a precious and unique process.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
No problem at all, in many of my books one of the leading characters is a woman. Like in HIM, After The UFO Crash, that is also available in English now.
How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?
Only one time in my life I had a boss, the owner of a big agency in the city of Rotterdam. He was an ex heavy weight boxer with a big mouth. But I learnt all about copywriting there. Later I have always had work that I could do in my own workroom; being an editor, writing commercial books and scripts for comics. It was a good way to survive. It took years and years to build up my own oeuvre.
How many hours a day do you write?
Wake up at six, start writing at half past eight. As said, I never have a writer’s block. I also write during the weekends. When I was younger, I used to work at night and went to sleep when the sun came up. The urge to write has always been there. As a kid my parents did not allow me to write at night. My father’s bookkeeper gave me a special light bulb that shone a beam on my writing desk, while the rest of the room remained dark. Making use of that light bulb, I wrote till 3 of 4 o’clock in the night. I still have all these texts – hundreds and hundreds of pages written with a ballpoint.
So, I still write as much as I can.
There is so much to tell…
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