Friday, 29 August 2014
Born in Eindhoven, moved to Accra (Ghana) soon after, and moved back at the age of four to a small Dutch town near the Belgian border. Learned to read before she went to school and read every book the local library had on offer. Wrote, at the age of nine, a story about a trip with the galaxy milk man to the Milky Way Galaxy, and got her first publication, in a national children’s magazine.
Played the piano and the saxophone, discovered the beauty of starry skies and became a regular visitor at the observatory. Took six languages in secondary school, being unfit for any subject involving numbers. Wrote adventure stories instead of doing homework. Regularly went off to Paris. Still got her grammar school diploma, somehow. Worked in Grenoble (France) for two months, went to Vienna (Austria), studied Russian there, also learned how to say ‘I love you’ in Farsi, how to cook the best Topfenknödel, how to see the best operas for only ten Schilling, and made more money playing the saxophone in the Kärntnerstraße than she did with her regular job. Spent one week on a desert island in the river Loire (France).
Studied musicology at Utrecht University. Her master’s thesis on jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt got excellent reviews in several Dutch, Belgian and German jazz magazines. Took up fencing while at university and gave a swashbuckling performance in pirate’s costume in Utrecht’s major concert hall. Flew a Cessna twice but was too broke to take more lessons. Roamed the ruins of Carthago.
Worked as a journalist and editor for a national music magazine and wrote programme notes for concerts and CDs. Played the keyboards and the saxophone in several bands. Studied art at the Rietveld Academy for a year. Was a board member with an Amsterdam-based English-speaking theatre group and flirted with Falstaff in their production of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor. Saw the spring sun shine through the holes in a bombed U-boat bunker in Germany, visited the saddest part of East Berlin, wandered through Stockholm with five ninjas and climbed a mountain to see Barcelona in the autumn sun. Shook hands with the Dalai Lama. Wrote her ‘core-novel’ of six hundred pages, sold a story to a fantasy/SF magazine and decided to get serious about writing.
Enrolled at the Amsterdam School of Creative Writing for the four-year study programme. Started writing her debut novel 'Streken' and took cello lessons to feel more at home with her protagonist’s profession (a cellist). Was offered a contract by major publishing house Querido at the end of the second study year. 'Streken' got rave reviews, made the Libris Literatuurprijs 2007 longlist (a major literary prize in The Netherlands), was selected for the prestigious ‘Schrijvers van Nu’ series by book club ECI, and was subject of a lecture in the ‘Spraakmakende Boeken’ series at Groningen University.
Participated in the 2008 European First Novel Festival in Kiel (Germany) and read an excerpt of 'Streken' in German as well as Dutch to a packed Literaturhaus. Did it with a sense of rhythm apparently, as her Swiss colleague complimented her on her ‘dancing her novel’. Wrote articles and reviews and a monologue, 'Een componist komt bij Constanze' (A Composer Visits Constanze), which was performed in Concertgebouw Amsterdam and other venues, as part of a Mozart programme. Her short story 'De sneeuwman' (The Snowman) was broadcast on Dutch national radio (Radio 4), accompanied by a piece of music by Federico Mompou.
During her work on 'Streken' and the next novel she wrote the first part of something that took more and more the shape of a trilogy in her mind, a coming of age story with magical elements. This became 'De verborgen universiteit: de erfenis van Richard Grenville', the first part of the trilogy, about a university where magic is being studied as a science, which was published in 2011. Spent a whole summer in London working on the sequel in pubs, coffee bars, cemeteries and under London’s starry skies. Survived the 2011 riots. Listened to poetry under the A12 in Hackney Wick. Discovered beautiful biking routes through the city and talked to lots of interesting people.
Published the sequel, ‘Het levende labyrint’ to critical acclaim in 2012 and published her fourth novel, 'De sterren stil', for which she received a grant from the Dutch Literature Fund, in 2013. This novel was also longlisted for the Libris Literature Prize. Completed the trilogy with the publication of 'De stad van de alchemist' in February 2016.
Coaches creative writing students, judged various writing contests. Worked in a homeless shelter in Amsterdam. Loves grungy places, tube stations (but not those abysmally depressing ones in Amsterdam), the smell of a foreign city in the morning, absinthe, the stars, cats, frogs, flying, studying Western esotericism, doing the Guardian crossword puzzles, books (obviously) and words words words...