Tell us about yourself.
My name is Koos Verkaik, I was born in a little village near Rotterdam, in The Netherlands. I live with my family in Zoetermeer now, a town between Rotterdam and The Hague.
Who is your favorite author and book?
I love all that Edgar Allan Poe has written. But my favorite book is from the American sci-fi author Jack Vance: Tschai. It contains four books: City of The Chasch, Servants of The Wankh, The Dirdir and The Pnume. Jack Vancw was a great writer with an incredible fantasy.
What is your preferred genre?
I write different genres. For adults I write novels and I can only describe them as ‘typical Koos Verkaik books’. In the Netherlands several publishers showed three important words on my covers: Magic, Mystery & Adventure. And I love to write different series if children’s books.
Outer Banks Publishing Group in North Carolina has published a series of four different titles, Saladin the Wonder Horse. In The Netherlands – a small country – the series sold 80.000 copies.
Outer Banks also contracted me for another series of children’s books: Alex and The Wolpertinger. I intend to write about 30 different titles and work on book 14 right now.
How did you start this journey to become a writer?
I have told this often before. Will tell it in short now: started writing when I was 7 years old, published comics in a weekly when I was 16, wrote my first novel at the age of 18 – during a long weekend, without sleep! – and it got published right away. Only realized that it was real, when I saw my own book in a shop window. It made me very proud.
What have you written so far?
I wrote over 60 different titles under my own name.
To make a living, I also wrote under pseudonyms – and I have written countless books for the mass market. There was a time that I wrote four paperbacks in a month. There was a deadline, the printer and the publisher counted on me. I was always on time. So you might say that I learned writing the hard way. No time for a writer’s block, just work – day in, day out.
Tell us about your current book.
Many different books have been published lately. And many more to come! Here I want to tell about the first book in the series of children’s books Alex and The Wolpertinger: The Monster Inn.
This is a story about Alex, the boy from the Alps. A long time ago he went in search of adventures in the land of King Clover, in Bavaria. People never stop talking about his special friendship with a wolpertinger…
What are wolpertingers? Where do they come from?
Are they little monsters or friends, teasers or helpful creatures?
When the dandelions grow in the Alpine meadows, they suddenly appear.
But they do a lot more than eating yellow flowers and swimming about in icy cold brooks…
Alex knows all about it. For his best friend is Ludo the wolpertinger.
Together they search for gold. By order of Prince Ruff Rumble, the giant son of the king…
The story enacts in the middle ages in Cloverland, an imaginary kingdom in Bavaria.
What is the inspiration for your current book?
The fun! Yes, the fun of writing it. There are so many odd characters and the entire idea of the series differs so much from anything else that has ever been written, that it is a great pleasure to sit in my workroom and continue the stories. It is a big, big, big adventure that never stops. I said I would like to write 30 different titles, but I have the inspiration to write more. The characters have come alive, I know exactly who they are and how they act.
Who was your favorite character to write and why?
Hm. There are so many odd creatures in the series. Well, there is Uncle Balloon, who shows up in book number three. Looks very much like a mammoth and is as thin as a rake. But he can blow himself up and after he has tied up his knot, he can fly (he has little wings). He flies Alex and the wolpertinger through the Downhills. But when someone tells him a silly Downhills joke, he burst out laughing – his trunk unravels and then he crashed!
Downhillers love to shout silly jokes when Uncle Balloon flies over…
Is there anything of you in that character?
No. Maybe I am a little bit like Alex, the main character: adventurous. Maybe I am also a bit like Ludo the Wolpertinger – always playing tricks, always making fun.
What sets your book apart?
I don’t like rules. I don’t like restrictions when I write stories. This series come straight from the heart and it is pure adventure. Imagine a lean, mean wolpertinger who makes humans and giants jump out of their skin. Imagine a boy like Alex, who outsmarts all the royal giants in Cloverland. And then there are the mysterious Downhills, where wolpertingers, dragons and monsters live. There is the famous Monster Inn, where all the strangest creatures gather… As I said, I don’t mind rules. Giants drink beer straight from the cask. Kings act in a stupid way, wolpertingers are mean, mean teasers. I write books for brave children with imagination. Come with me, I’ll tell you about great adventures!
What’s your favorite part in the book?
This is one of my favorite parts – little Alex has reached the mysterious Downhills and finds himself in the kitchen of the Monster Inn:
At first I did not know what to do and was in the way of the weasel and the mice. I met Spark, a small dragon who could spit fire. He kept the fires burning, and I helped him throw wood onto the fire. Spark said that he was a daredragon—he was afraid of nothing and nobody, he said, and would do anything, really.
Whisper, the weasel, saw me busy with the wood and nodded.
“Well done, little man,” she said. “I can see that you are trying.”
She came to me and wiped her greasy hands on her fur. The weasel looked tired and dirty. Her whiskers were burnt, and her snout was covered in spots.
“You are always on the go here,” she sighed. “It is always busy in the kitchen of the Monster Inn. Now we are in trouble! I thought that I knew everything about cooking. I have been the boss in this kitchen for many years and have fed countless monsters and dragons.
But now there is a fat lizard in the dining room that does not like anything. The mice brought him fly soup, but he didn’t eat it. Who doesn’t like fly soup? He wouldn’t touch a plate of sour cream with rotten mushrooms, and he doesn’t even want a glass of oil. He doesn’t drink creep water and doesn’t eat shiver porridge—he wants nothing at all, but he is hungry and is getting impatient. Do you have any ideas?”
“I am used to cooking for giants,” I said. “I don’t have much experience with monsters and dragons.”
“What do giants like?”
“Prince Ruff Rumble likes bread with melted cheese. I made that quite often for him. And he likes to drink a few kegs of ale to wash it down.”
“Make bread and melted cheese,” Whisper said. “And take it to the fat lizard at table . . . uh . . . at which table is the impatient lizard, Boohoo?”
The bat flapped her wings.
“At the moment he is jumping up and down on table thirteen, Whisper. He is knocking over mugs and throwing plates through the dining hall. I have never seen such an angry lizard!”
“Quick!” Whisper said to me. “Try the cheese!”
“Can Spark help me?” I asked.
“Of course. The daredragon can also come with you to the angry lizard. He knows no fear!”
I found a large, round cheese in the kitchen, and there was plenty of bread. I cut a few slices of cheese, put them on a slice of bread, and asked the daredragon to spit fire. Spark took a deep breath, opened his dragon’s lips and started to blow flames. Soon the smell of melted cheese filled the kitchen. I put the food on a stone plate and took it to the dining room, followed by Spark. Suddenly it was quiet in the large hall. Everybody looked at me, and soon all the guests started to make sniffing noises. The fat lizard stood motionless on the table.
“What is that nice smell?” he said.
“This is for you,” I said. “Bread and melted cheese. “The favorite meal of the prince I work for.”
“Come here! Quickly!” the lizard shouted, who now sat down and patted his fat belly with his legs. “This will be good! At last they have something I like, I am sure of it. Hurry up, little one, why are you staring at me?”
The daredragon gave me a push. I went over to the lizard, and he tore the plate from my hands. Hungrily he started to eat, and soon the bread had gone.
“More! Much more!” he shouted. “Bring more plates with that stuff!”
When I returned to the kitchen, Whisper the weasel patted my shoulder proudly. The wood mice laughed kindly at me. Boohoo the bat flapped over my head and started bringing new orders:
“Bread and melted cheese for table four . . . bread and melted cheese for table nine . . . bread and melted cheese for table forty . . .”
I cut the cheese and put it on the bread. Spark the daredragon spit fire, and the wood mice took the plates away. Everybody wanted to try it. The fat lizard came into the kitchen to thank me, and later the two caretakers of the Monster Inn, Waldo and Heros, came to shake my hand.
“You are a good cook,” Heros said. “What else can you cook?”
“All sorts of things,” I said. “I am not a real cook, I am only a kitchen hand, but I have learnt a lot from Old Burny. I can make soup and pies, bean dishes, hot porridge with syrup. I can make jam from berries and brambles, sweet cookies with honey. . . .”
“I would like to try all of them,” the hare said. “You have been a great help today. A pity that you are a gold digger. We don’t really like visitors who only come here to find riches. But for the time being you will work in the kitchen.”
I was glad when Chum came back. He looked wide awake. He told me that we had a beautiful turret room. For me there was a real bed and for him a bale of straw.
“It is very nice here,” the cat decided. “I have never seen so many strange creatures. Who is that small dragon who is constantly spitting fire?”
“That is Spark, the daredragon,” I said. “He is afraid of nothing and no one. I think he is a nice dragon.”
Soon I discovered that the inhabitants of the Downhills were even more greedy than King Clover and his sons. A snake poked his head in the kitchen and opened its enormous mouth.
“All wood mice assemble!” Whisper the weasel shouted. “A porridge snake has come in!”
Over thirty mice went to work at once. They put large kettles above the fire and poured white porridge in them. The little dragon spit fire and made the wood burn. As soon as the porridge was hot, two mice took a kettle and tripped to the open mouth of the snake. They emptied the kettle, and I heard the snake swallow.
After the tenth kettle, the porridge snake said, “I am hungry, but the porridge is always the same. Can’t you think of something to change that?”
“Porridge is porridge,” said Whisper.
“There is a large diamond under the tip of my tail,” the snake said. “You can earn it, if you make the porridge tastier. And whoever gets the diamond should also scratch the tip of my tail, it is itching!”
Chum looked at me. I looked at Chum.
“I will take care of its tail,” the tomcat said. “If you can scratch Ton-Ton, you can also scratch a porridge snake. Will you make a tasty porridge?”
“Do you have an idea, little man?” the weasel asked. “How can you make the porridge tastier?”
“We shall add some berries,” I said. “In the first kettle we will put blackberries, in the second blueberries. Grapes in the third, apples in the fourth. Come on, wood mice, get going!”
The mice poured porridge into the kettles. Spark kept the fire going. The weasel and I stirred fruit into the porridge. And the porridge snake liked it! Only after the mice had poured over a hundred kettles into his mouth did I hear him sigh and say, “Now I have a full stomach! Another ten kettles, and that’s it. Can I have another kettle with blackberry porridge and a kettle with black currants?”
Chum and I jumped on the flat head of the snake and walked down his large, long body. The animal had slithered through the whole of the castle. We went through the dining hall and across the courtyard, and then even further through the gates and across the drawbridge. The tip of the tail lay in the middle of the red grass. While Chum dug his claws in the tip of the tail, I took the diamond the gigantic snake had offered. It was a stone as big as my fist. The porridge snake bartered the diamond for a hundred and ten kettles of porridge.
Once again the two bosses of the Monster Inn, Waldo and Heros, were grateful that I had helped them. Thanks to me they had earned the diamond, and the porridge snake had promised to come back one day.
Chum and I slept in our beautiful turret room.
Now I dreamt about weasels, hares, wood mice, bats, dragons, porridge snakes, and wolpertingers. And I also dreamt of the great, little magician Halo and a mountain of gold.
What was the most difficult part to write?
No difficult parts at all. The story was to my liking from the very begin and I always know where it leads to. More than often I write Alex and The Wolpertinger texts with a big smile on my face. There are so many books lately about education, about rules, about how one should behave. I am not teaching, I am writing adventures. I wrote other series of children’s books; there has been a series of twelve titles that sold (in The Netherlands only!) over 450.000 copies. Also pure adventure. When I read Alex and The Wolpertinger books in schools, it makes me so happy when I can make the children laugh. That is what it is all about, giving my readers a good time.
What was your favorite book to write?
Children’s books: The Monster Inn. For sure!
Novels: HIM, After the UFO Crash, Dance of The Jester and The Nibelung Gold, three of my favorite books for adults. I wrote them with pleasure. You can read them as pure adventure, or discover some interesting views by reading between the lines.
How do you write? Do you have a set time or place? How many hours a day?
I write in my workroom, between a couple of thousand books (mainly nonfiction). I get up at half past 6 every day and start working at half past 7. Then I work till 5 o’clock in the afternoon. Mostly I also write during the weekends.
Why did you want to be a writer?
Actually, I never asked myself that question. I started writing at the age of seven. After I wrote my first novel, I started working as a copywriter for a big agency in Rotterdam and there I learnt to explain things the best way, short and to the point. Later I also wrote countless scripts for comic artists. That was a good combination; copywriter and script writer; I was forced to write in a way that readers could picture the scenes. Don’t bother the reader, make him/her feel comfortable when reading your work – come up with entertainment, with adventure and suspense. That is why my publishers label my work: Magic, Mystery & Adventure!
How do you get your ideas?
I read lots and lots of nonfiction books. I know exactly where to find things that I can use for a book. Before I start a book, there is total chaos in my head. I write things down on small pieces of paper, on computers and laptops, in notebooks and beermats. Only after I typed THE END, when the new book is finished, the chaos has gone. And then it starts all over again with the next book…
What do you have planned next?
New Alex and The Wolpertinger books, of course.
But there is much more. This year Outer Banks Publishing Group will publish my novel The Nibelung Gold.
And two other books will be published soon: HIM, After the UFO Crash and Dance of The Jester. Publisher: Righter’s Mill Press in Princeton, for film: Three Corner’s Entertainment in Princeton. Both companies gave me a contract for ten different novels. Exciting times for me, this gives me the chance to show my work to a large audience.
What advice would you give new writers?
In one word: write! To be more specific: don’t listen to negative people, stay positive and believe in yourself. Don’t imitate big writers, always try to be yourself and do things your own way. Make contact with publishers, search for a good literary agent. And: don’t give up.
How can readers get in touch with you?
My e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
My website: www.koosverkaik.com