Dragon Soul Press presents an interview with Barend Nieuwstraten III. He is featured in the following DSP anthologies: All Dark Places 2, All Dark Places 3, Lethal Impact, Wolf Night, Imperial Devices, Spirit, Valiance, Space Bound, Extinct Worlds, Timeless 2.
1. What inspired you to start writing?
I always wanted to write, flirting with it over the years between other creative pursuits. I suppose it came in waves. But the first big push came from reading the Silmarillion by Tolkien. I didn’t realise that stories could be so colossal in scope until I took that epic tale in. That was when I really knew I wanted to build my own word.
2. How do you come up with the titles to your books?
Hard to break down to a process but I like to keep them short, simple, and inviting. Matter of fact but seasoned with intrigue. Usually dangling more information than they might appear to. It’s not a rule as such, but I seem to have an aversion to using in-world pronouns in them for mostly intangible reasons. I suppose I just feel they belong strictly inside the book. They have no context until you start reading. But then neither do the titles I choose, so a proper explanation is probably buried somewhere in my subconscious.
3. What comes first, the plot or characters?
Characters. Typically, I have no idea where I’m going or what’s going to happen when I start writing. I’m as much on the adventure as anyone who reads it, so I at least need to know who I’m travelling with before I take a step into the unknown.
4. What is the most difficult part about writing for you?
The sitting: I’m a terrible slouch. I seem to subtly slip into it without noticing as I work and don’t realise until I’m in terrible pain.
Also, a wandering mind. As I’m always working on multiple things, cross-inspiration can spark at inconvenient moments.
5. How much ‘world building’ takes place before you start writing?
So much and often during. The more stories I write, the more of my world exists. I once worked out that for one specific scene, I created and utilized support documents on various categories that together totalled enough words to create a 260-page paperback. There are so many other files and they keep growing in number and content. Before writing ‘Sackcloth and Silver’ for the Wolf Night anthology, I ended up creating an 800-word document on lycanthropy, just so I’d know what the rules were. I find it strange that the part of me that wanted to write the story refused to budge until the word building part of me quickly made up the rules, as if they already solidly existed in my subconscious and needed to be extracted so that I could read and religiously follow them.
6. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
Four. I’ve written the first two books of a seven-book series and two stand-alone novels. I’m still working on them, but the series is my first love. It’s a project I’ve put on hold to focus on shorter stories for now and I’m very anxious to get back to it. The scale of it is quite large and has multiple perspectives (where my other novels have one). In my mind the series is just one long story, so even though its only two sevenths complete, that’s the one my heart’s tied to.
7. Who is your favorite character?
There’s a monk in my series named Adbry, who always makes me laugh. I hadn’t intended him to be the comic relief, but he just seemed to naturally find his way there. Even though I’m writing it, I’m just surprised by what he says. I’ve even had to censor him a couple times, because he was in danger of undermining the tone of certain scenes.
8. How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one?
For someone who makes it up as he goes along, a surprisingly large pile of ideas haunts my ‘to do’ list.
One I’m excited about is the humorous misadventures of a man who’s dragged out to the woods to be murdered by a gang for unpaid debts but reasons his way out of it, only to end up getting arrested elsewhere, then pressganged onto a pirate ship. I’m curious to see what happens to him.
9. Who is your favorite author and why?
I think I have to go with Douglas Adams. I admire the rare intelligence and insight that went into his work. Though used primarily for comedic purposes, he skilfully deconstructed societal norms to expose them for the absurdities they truly were. I think so much of the great philosophy of our age is hidden in humour.
10. Where can readers learn more about you?
a. What famous author do you wish would be your mentor?
Terry Pratchett. Every beat a story should have is in every story he ever wrote. I think those who work primarily in comedy have the best understanding of what’s most important. Like seeing a little more of the spectrum. While the Discworld books are very satirical, the characters, their relationships, the balance of how everything in the world works, are rich and deep and somehow believable, no matter how absurd things get. How someone could be so wilfully ridiculous and well grounded at the same time is precisely the essence of what every fantasy author needs to possess. Even in the darkest corners of the genre.
b. What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Adding to my future workload by creating cover art for books I haven’t written yet. I sometimes storyboard films. I’m also a musician, working under fourteen different projects. I’m obsessed with Belgian and German beers, though I hardly drink now, and adore old and new British comedy as well old (especially Italian) horror films. I also squeeze in a bit of gaming when sufficient peer pressure is applied.
c. If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
Humorous, Verbose, Distracted.