It’s not that often that I run across a Dutch author writing SFF in English. Yes, there’s Thomas Olde Heuvelt, who is twice nominated for a Hugo in the Short Story category, but as far as I’m aware, he writes in Dutch and his work is then translated. So discovering Corinne Duyvis and her debut novel Otherbound was very exciting. I started following Corinne on Twitter and when she mentioned working on organising her blog tour I
subtly wheedled bluntly elbowed myself onto her list. Corinne was kind enough to agree to an interview, which you can find below. Check back tomorrow for a review of Otherbound!
I’m going to start off with an obvious question. How hard is it writing fiction in a language that is not your mother tongue? And what drew you to writing in English, instead of Dutch?
The answer to these questions is linked. I didn’t grow up in an English environment, nor was I surrounded by English speakers as a child, so people were kind of surprised when I suddenly started speaking fluent English in grade school. I must have simply picked it up from watching TV. (It later turned out I couldn’t read the subtitles and needed glasses, so this may have been a factor.)
When I spent more time online and started reading comics and novels in English, my English improved by leaps and bounds. At this point, it feels like my native language even if it isn’t. Even when going about my regular Dutch daily life, I regularly catch myself thinking in English or grasping for terms that just don’t exist in Dutch.
My writing actually spun off from my activities in fandom as a teenager. Since all that was in English (see: internet, comics, etc.), I wrote my books in English, too. It was more of a logical evolution than a conscious decision. I still make silly mistakes—both linguistically and culturally—but thankfully I have a solid team of native speakers behind me to weed out those errors.
To be honest, I think I’d have a hard time writing fiction in Dutch. I just haven’t read enough of it.
Otherbound is your debut novel out today from Abrams. How would you introduce readers to your protagonists Nolan and Amara?
Nolan Santiago is a seventeen-year-old boy with loving but troubled parents, a little sister just entering puberty, and seizures that come with vivid hallucinations: every time he closes his eyes, whether to blink or to sleep, he sees through the eyes of a girl in a different world. These hallucinations have disrupted his life to the point where he’s barely capable of hobbies or homework.
But Nolan knows they’re not hallucinations.
The girl whose eyes he sees through is Amara, a mute servant girl with the magical ability to heal from any injury almost instantly. This led to her being plucked away to protect the sole surviving princess after the rest of the royal family was slaughtered in a coup. Amara has been on the run with the princess for years.
But her magic does more than just heal her. It also draws a boy from another world into her mind—and she doesn’t even know it.
And when she finds out—that’s when things get really bad for both of them.
What sparked the idea for Nolan’s living life through Amara’s eyes?
Honestly, I’m not sure. Otherbound weaves together a lot of different ideas. I can precisely pinpoint the origins of some of them. Others might have magically appeared in my notebook one day, for all I remember where they came from.
If I’m not mistaken, this particular aspect was originally based on two different ideas. I wanted to do something with a character who had someone else piggybacking on their life, and I wanted to do something with a character where something happened every time they blinked. I kind of mashed those ideas together and ran with it.
What’s next for you? Will there be more books about Nolan and Amara? Or are you working on something completely different?
Something completely different. Otherbound was always meant to be a standalone. Over time, I’ve had some vague ideas for a sequel or companion novel, but nothing has gelled yet, and I’m not actively pursuing it.
So for now, I’m working on something completely different. My next book is called On the Edge of Gone, and it’s another standalone YA from Amulet Books. It’s set in 2030s Amsterdam and is about a guarded autistic girl, a generation ship, and an apocalyptic comet impact.
As a book reviewer, I’m all about the book enabling; I can’t help but want to make people read all the good books out there. But I can always use help. What are your top recommendations of books we should look out for in the coming months?
I read an early draft of Beware the Wild by Natalie C Parker (October), which was gorgeous and creepy and has the most stunning concept. I can’t wait to read the final version. I also had the pleasure of reading Illusive by Emily Lloyd-Jones (July), which was a wonderfully fun romp. It’s described as X-Men meets Ocean’s Eleven, which fits perfectly.
In terms of books I haven’t read yet, I’m looking forward to Once We Were by Kat Zhang and Inheritance by Malinda Lo, both sequels to books I really enjoyed. (They’re already out, but their paperback releases are this year, so perhaps they count?)
Most of the other books I’m looking forward to are sequels as well, such as Starbreak by Phoebe North (July) and The Winter Long by Seanan McGuire (September), but there’s also standalones like Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst (October) and Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor (September).
I can go on, but that should keep you busy for a while!
Finally, I have to stay true to my roots and ask a librarian question to finish off with: Do you shelve your books alphabetically, by genre or do you have an ingenious system?
Ingenious system, for sure. It’s dictated partly by genre (adult, YA, and MG are shelved separately, as are speculative and contemporary fiction), partly by publisher/imprint, partly by author, partly by book size, partly by spine color, etc. It somehow all makes sense in my head, but the moment I get a new book I often have to rearrange the whole thing! It’s oddly satisfying when everything is right where it should be, though.
Bio: A lifelong Amsterdammer, Corinne Duyvis spends her days writing speculative young adult and middle grade novels. She enjoys brutal martial arts and gets her geek on whenever possible. Otherbound, her young adult fantasy debut, will release from Amulet Books/ABRAMS on June 17, 2014. It’s a Junior Library Guild selection and has received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and BCCB.