Posted on June 4, 2019 at 8:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

Today we’re interviewing mystery writer Nick Aaron.

Aaron’s real name is Klaas-Jan Ouwehand, but you wouldn’t know how to pronounce that, and you would certainly not be able to remember it. 

Aaron, who is Dutch, was born in South Africa. His father was a pastor and a missionary worker; his church was called the “Tsonga Presbyterian.”

As a kid, he attended a British-style boarding school, in Pietersburg, Transvaal. Later he lived in Lausanne (Switzerland), in Rotterdam, Luxembourg, and Louvain. 

Currently Aaron works for the European Parliament in Brussels, proofreading legislative texts in all twenty-four official languages.

Recently, after writing in Dutch and French for many years, he went back to the language of his mid-century South-African childhood. 

He realized that he needed to write in English if he wanted to operate as an indie author and go looking for a global readership.

SADYE: How did you come to see yourself as a writer, and what inspired you to seek publication?

NICK: At the age of twelve I started writing poetry in French. This was in Lausanne in the ’60s.

I wrote four poems about the seasons, a rather unoriginal theme, were it not that I had recently moved from South Africa and that the concept of four seasons was completely new to me. And the French language of course.

At any rate, my teacher was impressed and asked me to recite one of my four poems in front of the whole class.

After this first literary triumph, the writing bug never left me. And I spent my whole life seeking publication.

After all these years, one could argue that if Malcolm Gladwell is right that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in any field, then at least I have put in the required number of hours.

SADYE: Tell us something about your writing process that’s unusual or that you haven’t revealed before.

NICK: I’m a very messy writer. That’s because I am really a poet and a short-story writer.

I struggle to even make it to the magical mark of 50,000 to 60,000 words for each of my novels.

That is also why each chapter of any book of mine can almost be read as a stand-alone story. Because it basically is.

But all of these stand-alone chapters are organized around a solid plot so as to form one bigger story: the murder mystery.

Does this mean that I’m a master at plotting such a mystery in great detail? Alas, not even that. In fact I start out with very little.

Just read the blurb of each book: that’s the first thing I write, and that is all I have to go on when I start on a novel.

In fact the whole series is based on this simple crazy idea: what if a crime had to be solved by a blind girl?

There is one big advantage to this approach: while I’m writing, I’m as eager as the reader to find out where the story is going.

Of course each new twist of the plot requires a lot of reverse-engineering of the story, but in the end, the writing of the first draft is just as full of surprises for me as for the reader. Enjoy!

SADYE: What have been the most surprising, rewarding, and challenging parts of your writing career?

NICK: I spent forty years looking for a publisher, but I never got past their slush piles.

Then, one day, the richest man in the world offered me a deal: write anything you want (almost), publish it whenever you want, and keep it for sale as long as you want — a far better deal than any old-school publisher has ever offered anyone.

If you’d told me this fairy tale would ever become a reality, I would never have believed it.

The only downside is that this same deal is on offer for every frustrated would-be novelist on the planet, and hundreds of thousands of us have taken it up.

So writing great stories is not the hard part: whole cohorts of excellent authors are doing just that every day.

No, the hard part is to find a readership. You’re very lucky indeed if you manage to find your niche audience.

And forget about making serious money; that is not likely to happen.

SADYE: What has been the most touching or memorable piece of reader feedback you’ve received?

NICK: Getting reviews from readers is certainly the most exciting part of self-publishing: sometimes rewarding and sometimes challenging.

One gentleman wrote about Daisy and Bernard: “The author has a way of writing that is both light, with outrageous (one might say) scenes and a banter-like repartee and a bit of tongue-in-cheek. Below the surface, however, a seriousness.”

When I read that I knew I’d found at least one soulmate out there.

Likewise this simple remark about D for Daisy: “I fell in love with all the characters. Even the bad guys.”

Wow! Of course I put a lot of care into creating villains that are not entirely bad, and even Daisy Hayes is not entirely nice, but I never thought one could “fall in love” with Chief Inspector Nigel Cockett or Ralph’s murderer!

Bad reviews can be painful, although they sometimes contain unintended compliments.

A lady in the UK was so angry at me that she posted the same two-star put-down three times, under each volume of the trilogy: “What a sad pity this writer cannot live up to the excellent plots he has come up with. The standard of writing is poor but the plots are pretty compelling, so it's a matter of reading on despite it all.”

With such critics, who needs raves?

SADYE: What advice, as relates to your writing career, would you give your younger self?

NICK: Stop writing about yourself!

Of course you’ve had an incredibly interesting life, but so has everyone else, if you think about it.

No, just sit down and make up a story. Try to write something compelling, as unputdownable for yourself as for your readers.

You’ll be surprised by what happens then.

* * *

Learn more about Aaron on his Amazon page, where his books can be purchased. 

Know an author you'd like to see featured? Email us with a recommendation!

Categories: Author Interview

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