In the years (or rather, decades) I’ve dreamt of my first novel*, I didn’t expect I’d end the year that dream came true with a predominant feeling of intense relief that it was over. Whatever 2022 brings, it’s one step ahead through simply not being 2021. That’s the painful truth of debuting in a corona year. Even setting aside the bookstore lockdown, which made it much harder to reach my readers, what 2021 had in store for me personally included a case of covid, resulting in an exhausting period of long covid, followed by a burnout.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. On the contrary: a great number of good things happened in terms of writing. That’s why I’m doing the traditional summary post anyway. What did 2021 have in store for me as a writer?
To start with the hard numbers: I submitted a story or novel 54 times, and had to absorb 36 rejections. Then again, I received twelve acceptances**.
English science fiction and fantasy
I finally succeeded in selling two of my personal favorites: 3-Way Fusion, an SF story about nuclear fusion and romantic relationships, found a home in renowned Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, and The allocuton of Bob Hayward, a mainly magic-realistic tale about two small-time crooks and the escalating conflict with their landlord, finally got me into coveted Aurealis, the foremost SF magazine in Australia. As cherries on this dual pie, Dutch SF magazine HSF accepted my own Dutch translations of both stories, Driehoeksfusie and De bekentenis van Bob Havers. Very happy that these stories can now reach a readership both inside and outside my country!
The French magazine Short Circuit (by publisher Short Édition) struck twice. It’s a magazine that both publishes the selected stories online, and makes them available from their Short Story Dispensers, a device that prints the stories for readers on strips of paper for a small fee. Both flash stories (Echoes and All the spiders) were hard to categorize and sell, but Short Circuit turned out to be the perfect spot for them. And two other stories, which were easier to assign a genre to, Pining for my demons and The Giant and the Thaumaturge, found a place in Daily Science Fiction and Dreamforge Anvil, respectively.
In addition, the fun little flash SF story Pop and the pirates appeared in Daily Science Fiction early in 2021 (I’d sold it to them in 2020), shortly after my old SF story Diamond Sharks got reprinted in the themed magazine Mermaids Monthly. Including the stories mentioned before, that makes 8 short SF and fantasy stories published in 2021 (the stories in Galaxy’s Edge and Aurealis will appear this year).
Of course, the most important moment of 2021 for me as a writer was the publication of my first novel, the thriller Klaverblad, on 18 February. The appearance happened smack in the middle of the corona lockdown, and could therefore be celebrated much less extravagantly than both me and my publisher Meulenhoff Boekerij would have liked. Even so, I made a corona proof celebration of it, with a virtual signing during the day at my regular bookstore Boekhandel Arentsen in Tiel***, and the launch movie I’d created with Boekerij in the evening.
Corona limitations notwithstanding, Klaverblad enjoyed a dream start, with gushing reviews and generous ratings; from the major newspaper De Telegraaf to numerous book bloggers, and from Bol.com (Dutch equivalent to Amazon) and booksellers to the authorative VN Thriller Guide. My firstborn even claimed a place on the longlist for the foremost Dutch thriller award the Gouden Strop (Golden Noose), and won the Shadow Award for the best debut thriller, with a jury report I wouldn’t have dared dream of. Later in the year, the shortlist for the Bronzen Vleermuis (Bronze Bat) was added to the honors list of the book I’ve put so much time and love into.
Even so, I still get the most joy out of readers’ reactions; when another reader lets me know they couldn’t put it down, or is so happy with my strong female lead Zorah, or urgently wants to know when they can read the sequel. (In that respect, it was a great conclusion to the year that Klaverblad was included in the December selection of the Bookchoice book club, whose readers are unabashedly vocal with their enthusiasm.)
And speaking of the sequel: in the last days of November two short suspense stories, Wiegelied (Lullaby) and Zomerfeest bij gaslicht (Summer Party by Gaslight), were published as ebooks by Boekerij, to make up with my readers for the fact that the sequel to Klaverblad is not yet available. Because almost exactly at the same moment, Boekerij and I signed the contract for not one, but two sequels. Bookchoice readers had the scoop: the new version of the Klaverblad ebook, which they got to read first, contained the prologue and first chapter of Kidnap, the first sequel. And if you buy the ebook now, that beginning is included as well.
And despite the corona crisis, 2021 fortunately offered quite a few opportunities to meet with familiar writing colleagues, and to meet new ones.
Given the context of the continuing corona crisis, I cannot imagine a better writing year, and certainly not a better start to my Dutch thriller career!
* While I also worked towards that goal, of course. Writers can dream; dreamers must write.
** The discrepancy (54 does not equal 36 + 12) is explained on one hand by rejections of stories submitted in 2022, and on the other hand by submissions still pending.
*** Later in the year I was happy and grateful for the opportunity to appear in bookstores Stevens in Hoofddorp and Van Noord in Amsterdam-North. It’s so lovely how many bookstores there are, and how much heart they have for books!