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Aliefka Bijlsma: Interview and Book Feature!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

If you could travel in a Time Machine would you go back to the past or into the future? Until about five years ago I’d have said “future”. I think looking back and longing for the past intensifies as we get older. I suppose so little of life makes sense and the more we live it, the less we understand. So we hope to find answers hidden in the past, at a time when the present seemed disposable as our lives were relatively clear. And as a writer, closely looking at the past, even if it’s very recent, goes with the job. Simply writing down something someone said means you’re looking back.

If you could invite any 5 people to dinner who would you choose? John Coetzee, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Susan Sontag, Obama, Janis Joplin

If you were stranded on a desert island what 3 things would you want with you? My son (albeit I’d not want him there if I thought it was dangerous J), my two sisters. The three of those people combined would mean: adventure, medical care, practical insight.

If you were a superhero what would your name be? Pepi van Dongen (we used to say that combining your first pet’s name with your mother’s last, would make an excellent porn-star name, so why not superhero…).

If you could have any superpower what would you choose? Reading thoughts. Actually, maybe that would freak me. Uhm: X-Ray vision?

What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? Caramel

If you could meet one person who has died who would you choose? My grandma

What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Yoghurt and fruit

Night owl, or early bird? Early bird

One food you would never eat? Insects of any kind

Skittles or M&Ms? M&Ms

Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book. Because you don’t want to make the same mistakes in life my characters did.

Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects? I have an idea for a new novel which is set in Ghana (Kumasi). It could well be my first historical novel, although I’d like to write it as if we’re on (or under) the skin of the protagonist: the wife of a British governor. Steamy and from the senses.

Future projects: I’m hoping the two screenplays I’ve been working on will enter a next stage, and I’ve currently been commissioned to write a Kid’s TV Series.

What inspired you to want to become a writer? I always wrote as a child and teenager, but never considered it as a profession. I became a lawyerm but woke up one day not being able to speak. The struggle to speak lasted almost two years until I found a proper balance in treatments (I have a neuroligical disorder which I won’t bore you with). Writing was my outlet. Slowly but surely, I allowed myself to see writing as not just a hobby, but a craft.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published. When readers find me through the internet and say my novel touched them in some way.

If you could jump in to a book, and live in that world.. which would it be? Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

What is your dream cast for your book? Stephen Fry as the Consul General. Penelope Cruz as Leandra.

What’s one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors? Keep going, persistence is key.

If you could be one of the Greek Gods, which would it be and why? Achilles – fast and a good warrior, yet vulnerable.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be? Somewhere peaceful… which is?…

When you were little, what did you want to be when you “grew up”? Various things at various stages. Dancer, actress, lawyer, doctor.

How did you know you should become an author? A piece I had written was turned into a play, and my words had an affect on the audience, to such an extent that one woman cried and thank me. She came from the Caribbean. The theme of my piece had been that we all have our struggles, despite our skin colour or ancestry. A white women can have an equally hard time finding a place in this western society.

Who are your favorite authors of all time? Shakespeare.

Can you see yourself in any of your characters? I am in all of them.

What’s the craziest writing idea you’ve had?  If we were to undo the wrongdoings in history, starting with a president who ships all ancestors of slaves back to Africa…. What would happen to the world?

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you? Know your strengths and don’t waste time trying to turn your weaknesses into strengths. My ex-husband told me this. It sounds so simple but it’s incredibly hard for me.

Hidden talent? Dance (flamenco, salsa, merengue – all of it!)

Favorite Food? Indonesian

Favorite Candy? Potato chips

What movie and/or book are you looking forward to this year? I hate to admit, but the new Bond movie… apart from that, I usually take things as they come. Also in terms of books.

What was your favorite children’s book? This one’s really hard to answer. I suppose just simly the Grimm fairytales.

Nickname? Alief

How do you react to a bad review? I don’t react, I just go catatonic for a few hours and then allow myself to be depressed for a day or two. After which I’ve found anough arguments to peel the criticisms off me.

If you were a bird, which one would you be? Swallow. Or let me put it this way: I’d hope to be a swallow. They are so playful and elegant at the same time.

If you could have a signed copy of any novel what would it be and why? John Coetzee’s Disgrace. He writes with such elegance and precision. It’s mindblowing to study his sentences, his technique. Not a single superfluous word. Sometimes it seems almost mathematical and I wouldn’t like that, were it not for the fact that he brings across such intense emotions in his portrayal of human failure and nature. On top of it, the themes of Disgrace and the story itself is such an accurate depiction of the post-colonial drama, in my opinion. There’s such femininity to it too, it’s almost like I’ve met the people he describes. It’s the novel I would have wanted to be able to write myself.

You have won one million dollars what is the first thing that you would buy? A small rackshackle getaway by the sea. The sea somehow always manages to open up my mind.

Which authors have influenced you most and how?  This is a hard one to answer. Every book I read, every author influences me in some way. Either I learn something or gain insight. Or feel inspired. Sometimes, a book or author can be so good that I feel unnerved. Joan Didion for example. Or Iris Murdoch.

What do you do in your free time? Play with my son, or go on outings/adventures with him. I like to see as many classical concerts, plays, films, exhibitions as museums my budget and time allows. Discuss music and life and love with my boyfriend who is a conductor. Dinners with friends. I love dinners with friends.

If someone wrote a book about your life, what would the title be? Turbulence

What’s your favorite season/weather? Summer. Heat. I was born in the tropics and lived most of my childhood right close to the euqator. It’s not a like, it’s a need.

Who or what inspired you to become an author? First, my voice problems ruined my career as a lawyer and triggered my writing. But then it was my mother, who had come to see my first play. It was hard for her as the play was all about mother-daughter relationships. She was quite moved by the themes. It was like I was speaking to her, but through the actors, and she understood. We didn’t need to discuss it because I could see she felt exactly what I was communicating. I was a little scared of her reaction to it. But she took me to lunch the next day and said “you have an obligation to pursue this talent.” This was a pivotal moment in my life as my mother had always advised against pursuing a creative profession of any kind. In retrospect I understand why: she is an artist herself and knows how hard it can be, for both yourself and your immediate surroundings.

How did you celebrate the sale of your first book? After the book-launch, which was a moment in time I felt so proud, so like “Me”. It felt like a coming-out. I had incredibly talented friends who played music from the island I was born, in the Caribbean. And after the launch we all went and had drinks, there were many special people there, the people I love most and who understood how much of a struggle it had been for me to get there, in my life.

What is your guilty pleasure? Catching a movie midday alone, and eating my own box of sweet popcorn.

What TV show/movie/book do you watch/read that you’d be embarrassed to admit? Xtreme make-over type programmes.

Finish the sentence- one book I wish I had written is….The Bible. (I’d probably have turned Jesus into a woman).

Favorite places to travel? I go to Curacao a lot because I was born there and many friends that are dear to me live there. But it’s a love/hate relationship with the island. I’d like to travel in Africa some more.

Favorite music? It varies, depending on what I’m working on or interested in. Right now, I’m listening to a lot of Marvin Gaye. But half a year ago it was Carmen.

In your wildest dreams, which author would you love to co-author a book with? Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie

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Genre – Contemporary Fiction

Rating – R

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