V.V. Aku Interview
Hello V.V. Welcome to VRB and thank you for answering a few questions for our readers today.
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I was born and raised in The Netherlands, but soon felt the urge to leave. I never really felt at home in my country. It was too small, too predictable. As soon as I turned eighteen, I took off and travelled the globe. After a few years of aimless wandering, I finally touched down in China. On the border of Tibet I met Anzi Aku, a wild Black-Yi man who lives at the foot of the Himalayas. Despite my desire for freedom, I married him and joined his clan. I do love living among the tribe and its shamans. The Black-Yi have fascinating vampire legends and I’ve witnessed several exorcisms. Life is so different here. People acknowledge the supernatural. It’s a great place to find inspiration for my novels.
What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t writing?
I am an absolute Kung Fu addict. My brother in law studied at the Shaolin Temple for ten years and is now my Shifu (master). I also love rock-climbing and swimming in one of the local rivers.
Where is your favorite place in the entire world? What is it that you love so much?
Although I have travelled the world and seen many places, there’s one spot in particular that is my favorite. It isn’t as spectacular as the pyramids of Egypt or the snow-covered Himalayas in Tibet. It’s a simple place where I feel safe and, most importantly, I can feel like myself. Nestled between two far-stretching rice paddies, at the bank of the Yulong River in Yangshuo (Guangxi Province, China) stands a small pagoda. There’s not much left of it now. The years have scratched away the paint and the roof collapsed about three decades ago. I like sitting there, leaning against one of the antique pillars, gazing out over the crystal clear water with a notebook in my hand. The opposite bank is lined by ominous-looking mountains, drowned by a dense jungle. I can never help but wonder about the kind of creatures that hide in the dark trees. I come here when I need new inspiration or just a moment for myself.
You settled in China after traveling the world after graduating high school; what made you stop there?
Love. It sounds corny, but I literally got stuck there. I needed money for travelling and found a teaching job in Lijiang city (Yunnan Province). My contract was for a year and would provide me with enough money to make it to Africa. I wanted to become a surrogate mom for baby monkeys and tigers in one of South Africa’s safari parks. I still do. But when I met Anzi Aku in a local bar, I knew that I was a goner.
Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to do when you grew up?
I have always written stories. Even at the age of three, before I knew how to write, I was scribbling down the tales that haunted my dreams. But I never had any real ambition to become a writer. I was, and still am, a huge animal lover. I wanted to be a vet or a dolphin trainer. Life has turned out quite differently though.
How did you decide to teach English as a Second Language?
I never wanted to be a teacher, but necessity drove me to it. I needed money and the best way to earn that in Asia is by teaching. I did a quick course to perfect my English then flew to Bangkok to get my teaching certificate.
Is there a particular author that influences your writing?
Stephenie Meyer is by far my favorite author in the vampire genre. I really hope that I can meet her one day. I also love Anne Rice and James Rollins.
I really enjoyed reading The Fire of Dawn. Can you tell the readers a little about it?
The Fire of Dawn is about Leah Koopmans, a carefree teen from The Hague, who discovers on her eighteenth birthday that she is an immortal. When she comes of age, her body begins to change. She can move as fast as the wind. Her skin turns a dazzling gold and her muscles possess an uncanny strength. But with these powers comes the need to drink human blood and an ability so deadly that it could destroy everyone she holds dear.
While her body craves fresh victims and her heart drowns in guilt, she meets inhumanly handsome Max Machiavelli. Infatuation ignites into blistering passion as she joins his coven in Amsterdam. But as the mysteries shrouding her sudden change to immortality unravel, Leah quickly learns that her aversion to taking human life and her uncontrollable ability aren’t the only things that set her apart from this group of herculean strangers. As she tries to come to terms with who and what she really is, she unwittingly finds herself at the centre of a war that has been raging on for centuries.
From the picturesque canals of Amsterdam to the untamed Siberian wilderness, pursued by an ancient brotherhood set out to destroy her, Leah embarks on a journey that will not only reveal her destiny, but will also change the fates of both humans and immortals forever.
Where did your inspiration for the book come from?
I love vampires. Always have, always will. I’m fascinated by the diversity in legends and myths. As I devoured book after book, I couldn’t help but feel that part of the vampire legend was missing: my own take on the alluring creatures. So I delved into what I already knew about vampires and what I wanted them to be like. I tried to avoid reading any vampire novels or watching series/movies about vampires during the time that I was writing. I didn’t want any other stories to contaminate my own ideas. The biggest inspiration for writing the Fire of Dawn was my personal journey, mentally and physically. When I was Leah’s age and left my family in Holland behind, I was often confronted with my body, my conscience, myself. Guilt, love, and pain ruled my world, but also the drive to stick to what I believed in and the urge to follow my heart. I drew on my own experiences.
Leah’s character was particularly touching. Was she a total figment of your imagination or was her personality based on someone in your life?
Originally, Leah was a lot like me. In the first drafts of the book there was an entire chapter dedicated to her life as a teen in Holland. It described her absolute hatred for high school and any other form of authority. Her take on life mirrored my own — as did her desire to be different, to be special. But as the book took shape, she evolved into her own character.
Who is your favorite character and why?
I love Lili Fan, an ancient Taoist martial arts master trapped inside the body of a fourteen-year-old. The entire time that I was creating her, I envisioned her life on Wudang Mountain, where she has developed several styles of Chinese Kung Fu over the last two millennia. I based her character on an actual Chinese legend. Lili is one of the eight Chinese immortals. If I could choose to be anyone in The Fire of Dawn, it would be her. She is the embodiment of balance, wisdom, and enlightenment. I guess I love her so much because she’s the exact opposite of what you would expect a vampire to be like.
Do you have any other works? Are they in the same genre?
At the moment, I’m working on Black Dusk – the sequel to The Fire of Dawn. I am a columnist for Jij & Je Kinderen, a Dutch magazine for parents and pregnant women. My column is about my own pregnancy and life in China.
What are you currently working on? Can you tell us about it?
Black Dusk, the sequel to The Fire of Dawn, describes the story of Leah and Max after they have settled down in Siberia. The war between the Brotherhood and the immortals is over, but not Leah’s determination to stop the sadistic vampires out there who like to torture humans.
When Leah learns that an alarming amount of humans has gone missing in South-west China and even more have been found dead, brutally mutilated, she sets out with Max and Lili Fan to find out who is responsible. But what Leah doesn’t realize is that she is about to enter the domain of an immortal king with powers far greater than her own.
From holy Wudang to the wild Tibetan mountains; packed with new love twists, action, and nerve-racking suspense, Black Dusk will take you on an unforgettable journey across China.
Black Dusk will be available in stores worldwide in 2013.
What is the writing process for you? Do you have a set time for writing or do you write when inspiration strikes?
I want to tell every aspiring author that writing is a structured process — an organized skill that once mastered can be summoned at will. Although this might be the case for the titans out there, like Dan Brown and Stephen King, for me inspiration comes in waves. Fortunately, once a wave hits me, it feels like an unstoppable force — a tsunami that drenches every part of my being.
I guess that every writer is different. For some, creating a novel takes years. For others, it is a process completed in a matter of weeks. For me, it took less than 3 months to finish The Fire of Dawn. Eighty-six days of non-stop writing. I feel deeply sorry for my husband and kids, whom I hardly saw during this period. I didn’t want to be disturbed, not even for dinner. Every second not scribbling down storylines or character plots seemed like a tremendous waste of time. It felt wrong to abandon Leah in her time of need. I had to know what would happen next.
Can you tell me what the publishing process was like for you?
Difficult, frustrating, and extremely bad for my self-confidence. After ten million rejections you can’t help but doubt yourself. Luckily, I never lost faith in my novel and The Fire of Dawn got to see the light of day. Once that first solid copy was in my hands, I knew that all the aggravation had been worth it. It’s an indescribable feeling to see your creation come alive!
Where do readers go to purchase your books?
E-Book ISBN: 978-90-818771-1-4
Paperback ISBN: 978-90-818771-0-7
The Paperback edition will soon be available in stores worldwide. Also look for the ebook on Kobo, Sony, Barnes & Noble, and Apple iBookstore. Meanwhile, you can get your copy at any of the following stores:
V.V., thank you again for stopping by. Is there anything you would like to add or say to the readers?
Remember the most important thing about life. Enjoy it!