Today on CSReview – a one of a kind writer of children’s books, author of Superheroes series. Please welcome a guest from Holland, Marcel van Driel.
Marcel van Driel: I always wanted to be an astronaut, but I also always made up stories. The thought to seriously become a writer came to me when I was 32. Till that moment I was entertaining the idea of becoming a filmmaker. I even wrote and directed two shorts, but thought it was too much work after all. Once I was asked to come up with a story for a feature film, but my plot was not used and the film project was cancelled. That was the turning point when I decided to make a book out of it. That turned out to be my first novel, the only one that was never published because it wasn’t very good – I had no idea what I was doing.
CS: Incredible, it’s the first time I am talking to someone who – for real – wanted to be an astronaut. But, down to Earth now, how many novels have you written in total so far? Does the number matter to you in terms of self-fulfillment?
Marcel van Driel: About forty titles, from fiction to picture books. The number is less important compared to the fact that I get to grow in my craft and continuously expand my scope of works.
CS: Well, for what it’s worth, forty is a good number. After years of writing children’s literature, you’ve recently launched a new project – writing an adult thriller – which means stepping outside of your comfort zone. Is this because you feel you’ve grown to the point when you’re ready, or are you testing your own boundaries? I also understood this is a completely independently funded project. How would you describe the amount of attention, support and feedback you’re getting from your fans for this book?
Marcel van Driel: Actually, the step I had previously made from writing for a very young age to writing Superheroes (Superhelden.nl, Dutch Edition) was bigger than the one I made now away from the series into adult fiction. This doesn’t mean I am not coming out of my comfort zone. I am ready, and I am testing my limits. I’ll be bored without such challenges from time to time. I also think I still have a lot to learn, as far as writing techniques.
CS: During one of your recent school visits, you’ve had a somewhat disappointing experience. What do you think is going on there, why children do not respond? At the same time, during your public appearances do you always know when you’re going to connect and when not? How do you deal with a disappointment?
Marcel van Driel: Twice a year I find myself in front of a class – or in a school – where I just can’t connect. Almost always the reason is there’s something going on in the class or the expectations weren’t met. During my other forty annual visits, the link is always there. For as long as I keep this connection to my audience and don’t fall off the rails, the experience is always fantastic. Both for myself and – hopefully – for the children.
CS: Indeed, staying on track is essential for public speaking, and children are a very demanding audience – they instantly know if you are for real or not, can’t fool the kids. I suppose writing for children and always being around youth is a very rewarding experience – where do you get ideas for your stories, and how do you know that these are the ones that will strike the chord with your audience?
Marcel van Driel: When I write, I picture myself as if I am eleven or seven years old, instead of 45, but living in this time and age. What would I like to read? What kind of stories would I love? Not surprisingly those stories do not differ that much from what I like to read or watch as an adult. But the tone is different, as is the humor, because the eleven year old version of myself has a different emotional background then my adult one. Still, I try to picture my audience as children who, “like me“, are interested in a lot of different things: heroes, games, laughter, but also loss, courage and fear. Exciting stories about real characters with real emotions. And considering my audience grows with each and every book, I seem to have hit a nerve.
CS: Are there any translation plans for your novels?
Marcel van Driel: Germany and Russia expressed an inquiry regarding Superheroes, and my first eight books of the series about Bino the Snow-white Pinguin that I created in cooperation with Vera de Backker are coming out in China, Thailand, Vietnam and Turkey.
CS: Oh, sounds very exciting! Let’s hope the English language translation follows next. Last but not least, what is your ultimate message to the young reader?
Marcel van Driel: Let me entertain you.
CS: Thank you for a great story, Marcel. Wishing you lots of new and successful ones!
Translated from the Dutch by Camilla Stein.
Copyright Camilla Stein ©2012. All rights reserved.