I have read “Watery Ways” and really enjoyed it.
4 stars – Review on Amazon and Goodreads
“I rarely read a book like this, but I have to admit I really enjoyed it. The best way to describe it is as a diary, albeit, a very well written one!
Having lived in Rotterdam for over three years over several years, and having had my first daughter there, I was intrigued by this story, which is on the whole based in Rotterdam. I lived close to the Oude Harbour when I first lived there and frequently went for walks alongside. But, I had no idea about what it was like to live on a barge (apart from the fact I suffer from sea-sickness, so prefer to be on dry land).
My husband’s parents are Dutch too, so I found the descriptions of Dutch traditions and locations really interesting.
I have to admit that many a time I found myself laughing out loud due to some of Valerie's experiences... Especially the one where she falls in the water!
I would highly recommend this book if you have a interest in Dutch culture and would like to know what it is like to live on a barge, as well as the work involved to do so.”
What do you think of my review?
Vanessa, it was really great to read your take on the book because you know Rotterdam, you have Dutch relatives and you are familiar with my world, so it felt as if you were really interested. To be honest, I was a bit nervous when you first mentioned you'd lived in the Netherlands, as I sometimes take the mickey out of my Dutch friends, so I wasn't sure what your response to that might be. It was quite a relief to know you recognised certain characteristics and found my descriptions amusing. (I did indeed!)
Do you find it hard to write about real life? Are there times when you leave things out on purpose? I always worry someone might get offended if it’s real!
Well, as I've just said, I'm usually a bit uneasy when I know people know the country and the places I'm writing about. It was the same with my first book, African Ways, which was about South Africa. I don't find it hard to write about real life, no. In fact, I like it because there are always things you can observe in real life that are funny or strange or make good anecdotes. But I always try and write with affection as well as humour as I am genuinely fond of my adoptive countries and their people. I tend to hope that will come through in my writing so that no one will feel any reason to be offended.
Can you tell us a bit about how you came to publish your book? What was the editorial process like?
Watery Ways is my second book, so you might say I'd already had a trial run with African Ways. I published through the Internet print-on-demand site, Lulu.com, and they used to have heaps of useful tutorials about editing and formatting. I'm afraid there are fewer of these now as they try and sell those services, but when I started, these were a huge help. I've written all my life, and I used to do marketing and copywriting for my job in South Africa, so I've been pretty used to the whole editing process for years. All the same, I made a lot of mistakes with the formatting of African Ways, and I tried to correct them when Sunpenny Publishing offered to publish Watery Ways for me. Each new book has been a learning process and since I've now published five books, I hope one day I'll really get the hang of it!
Do you think social media is important? If so, how do you prioritise your time?
Yes, I do think it's important, especially these days when so much is done online. Most books are sold as e-books now, and people get to know about authors on the Internet too, so you can't escape it really. Unfortunately, as I have a busy day job as a teacher, I don't have much time for social media, so I try and do a bit in the morning and in the afternoons or evenings between classes and marking assignments, but I never really manage as much as I know I should. I usually end up doing a splurge before I go to bed, but since that's when everyone else is going to bed too, I probably lose most of the benefit that might bring. It all disappears into cyberspace!
Do you have a favourite author or genre? Did anyone inspire you to start writing?
I don't really have a favourite genre, no. I like detective fiction as long as it's not too gory, and I also like historical novels, but I try to read contemporary literature as well because I really love beautiful writing for its own sake. I'm a big fan of Graham Greene and John Steinbeck for that reason. I also read a lot of non-fiction, and I love books about living in other countries. It was Peter Mayle's Year in Provence that inspired me to write African Ways, actually.
Would you ever write a fiction book? If so, what genre?
I have actually written two novels. One is the story of a barge skipper's son (The Skipper's Child) and it's an adventure set on the Belgian waterways in the winter of 1962. It's targeted to young teenagers or YA, but it's really for all ages. The other is a humorous book about a girl trying to do the self-sufficiency thing back in the 1970's. It's loosely based on my own attempts at smallholding (a euphemism for pretending to farm). I don't really know what genre it is except humour, but maybe you could call it women's fiction.
Personally, I loved living in Rotterdam. Can you tell us your favourite places there, and why?
What can I say to that except the Oude Haven where I have my barge? I have loved it there ever since I first saw it. It's lively and quirky and eclectic. It's also very noisy, which is why I nearly always go away at the weekends. But I also love the Witte de Withstraat which is the arty area. It still has the old classic buildings and it has a great vibe too.
Can you name a Dutch dish that you love and another you hate?
Aah Dutch food...yes...I actually quite like it. For instance I really enjoy stamppot - you know, when they mash veggies into potato and pour gravy over it. I also love stroopwafels, those syrup wafer biscuits, and gevoelde koek, the almond filled crispy cake things...yum. One, no two, things I loathe are raw herring and eel. To me, that is totally gross!
If you were to write a book about your youth, can you tell us something that comes to mind that we would enjoy reading about? Come on, I bet you have some good ones…
Well, you could say I've done it already. The humorous book I mentioned earlier, which is called How to Breed Sheep, Geese and English Eccentrics, is full of things I got up to in my youth, such as carting sheep around in an old Renault 4 and even in a VW Beetle. I had a lot of fun back then, which is why I decided to write a novel and weave those true anecdotes into the story. I was a real hippy back in the day, so maybe that will come out in another book sometime!
Where we can find out more about you and buy your books?
I have a blog, Vanessa. In fact I've been blogging for more years than I care to remember! It's about anything and everything I feel like writing about, so it's very mixed, but it is sometimes about my writing, and my fellow authors too - people like you come and join me there now and then.
My books are all available at Amazon worldwide, as well as through the Book Depository and of course on Lulu.com. There are also four of them on the iBookstore, which is thanks largely to Lulu.com.
I tell you what. I'll put all the links below here, so anyone who's interested can follow them.
Thanks a million for having me here Vanessa, and I hope you'll also come and join me for a visit to mine when the weather's a bit warmer!