"I was born in the Netherlands forty four years ago. Just before the turn of the century, and at the height of a successful career as a television cameraman, I decided to move my family to the Caribbean to pursue my dreams of living a life like Sandy in Flipper. After living on two different islands and a short stay in Florida, I now reside on St. Barths where I parent, surf and write (often while under attack by blood thirsty mosquitos rather than being cheered on by the laughter of jolly dolphins). In addition to three novels, I have written several screenplays."
David is a relative newcomer, but persistent and consistent in his correspondence. His two books are connected, and anybody out surfing the winter swells at St. Barth's must be cool. He puts a lot of info into the Q&A, so I'll let him talk:
1) How long have you been writing?
I knew writing was something I wanted to do before I was ten years old, but I really started writing while in middle school. I wrote short stories, poems and I started a first screenplay that I never finished. But don't forget, when I was young there were no computers. I wrote by hand, and when I was about 12 I found an old typewriter in the trash that I cleaned up and used to write with for the rest of my teen years. In the end, the ink ribbon was so worn, it barely made an impression on paper.
I've taken the time to write more seriously in the last ten years. I started writing a techno thriller that I must have rewritten at least ten times, but it allowed me to learn and improve my craft. A couple of years ago I found some of my old stories and poems back, mostly from my early teens when I was very angry with the world. I was bullied a lot and it reflected in my writing. I decided to take the things I wrote back then, and write a story about a young boy being bullied at school, and having no place at home. I wrote the first few chapters of what would later become PAINTING BY NUMBERS. But while I was writing I created a character who was an online friend to the protagonist, and found that I was pouring another side of me into that character. I decided to pull that character from the novel and give him his own story. This was the start of ALL THAT YOU CAN LEAVE BEHIND. Then I started writing these ideas in a 'reality blog'. I wrote the story of a young boy from California who had moved with his apathetic mother to an island in the Caribbean. I just wrote what he would be doing from day to day, and the things he would be thinking about. I was hoping from some feedback to sharpen the character, but to my great surprise the blog became hugely popular practically overnight, just two weeks after I started it. Then I was faced with the choice to either quit, or just go ahead and write the whole story with the audience I had, and which grew along the way. I ended up writing a complete story with an entry every day for 7 months. The blog got over 350.000 views in that time. Writing the story in front of an audience helped me to shape the story and the characters. I was guided by the comments people left, so I knew when I was taking things too far, or not far enough. Of course, after 7 months, I had a manuscript of over 800 pages, so I had to edit and cut it back to the 300 pages it is now. It was an interesting experience, which I ten tried to repeat with the character of PAINTING BY NUMBERS, but the story was too different, and I ended the blog after a while. But I kept writing the story, and in the next two years I toggled between the two stories, which is why I finished two novels at the same time. But there is a lot of myself in both these novels, but two very opposite sides of myself. In the end, I turned out to be more like the protagonist in ALL THAT YOU CAN LEAVE BEHIND, but I could very easily have become the protagonist of PAINTING BY NUMBERS.
2) How are you marketing your books?
I asked a few bloggers to do reviews, so the first ones are now pouring in. I also created a blog (www.allthaticanleavebehind.blogspot.com) and a Twitter (davidthyssen). I try to participate in forums, and leave comments on other blogs, but it takes so much time, and I also wrote screenplays that I also have to promote. I have tried to increase my internet presence over the last month. I'm trying to get certain keywords to link to my books or my blog through Google. For instance, bullying is a main conduit in PAINTING BY NUMBERS, so I hope people will find the book through that keyword. The one thing about self-publishing is doing all the marketing yourself, and while it can be fun, it is a lot of work that takes up a lot of time in which I could be writing new stories.
3) Tell us why readers will like your latest book.
ALL THAT YOU CAN LEAVE BEHIND is a story which has already proven its value when it was a blog. It is an inspiring story of a tormented boy who finds that he carries his own key to happiness inside. It's really a story about the innate human drive for life and love. I received so many comments that people were waiting for the book or the movie. Well, I don't know about a movie, but the book is here, and I hope people will get as inspired by it as they were by the blog.
PAINTING BY NUMBERS is a psychological story which takes the readers deep into the dark mind of a very disturbed teen. It's not just the bullying which drives him to kill his fellow students and teachers, but also his home situation. There are times where you will hate the character, but you will also laugh at times, and feel for him. This story is also written as a blog, and it has a few I.M logs and poems, but mostly the protagonist tells about his life, both at home and in school. It is not a story for the faint of heart. The character has been compared to Holden Caulfield, but he's really much darker. But the book will give you a realistic look into the mind of an emotionally disturbed teen, and will possibly help you understand kids like Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, and other high school shooters we have seen over the years. And how many kids are out there right now with these same thoughts? I hope readers will become more aware of the teens in trouble around them, and react before it's too late.
4) How do you edit your books? Do you have help?
I edit by writing and rewriting until I get to a point where I barely make any changes or corrections. This is how I always work with everything I write.
5) Where are your books available?
(Click the hypertext to link)
(Click the hypertext to link)
6) What have your reviews been like so far?
The books have only been out for a month, so I'm still waiting for reviews. ALL THAT YOU CAN LEAVE BEHIND has reviewed two very positive reviews:
7) What do you deal with at your blog/website?
I only started the blog a few weeks ago. I write about my books, but I'll write about other subjects too. I want to write more about the craft of writing, both novels and screenplays. I will keep readers posted about developments, and post sample chapters. The last two entries are about bullying because it's a subject close to heart.
8) Have you found reader discussion groups for your genre?
Yes, but I wish I had more time for these. If anyone knows a group, or would like to invite me into theirs, please let me know.
9) Would you like to review your favorite Smashwords writer?
Yes, I have mostly done screenplay reviews recently, but I would like to read more books. When I have time to read more I'll do reviews.
10) What are you working on now?
I'm working on several projects at the same time. I'm spending a lot of time promoting, and have virtually no time to actually write anymore, but I have a few ideas for screenplays and I'm still working on a new novel. I write very fast. Most of the screenplays I wrote in about a week. A novel takes a lot more time, but I have written a few chapters of a new story, and I'm certain that if I could take the time I could finish the first draft in about a month. It's a very different story of what I've done so far. It's very edgy, raw, written from the perspective of a small time criminal. I can't wait to write it!