interviewed on Oct 4, 2018
Koos Verkaik was born in Holland, near Rotterdam. Worked as a copywriter. His first comics (three pages each week) were published in the magazine Sjors when he was only 16 years of age; he wrote his first novel (sci-fi) in a weekend at the age of 18 and it was published immediately. He wrote many hundreds of comic scripts and published over 60 different books, both children’s books and urban fantasy novels. Koos writes (novels) every day and translated many books from English and German into Dutch.
Q. You started writing at 7, and then never looked back. What made you start at this early age and what kept you going?
I had a head full of ideas. Made stories and illustrations. I had a drive and that drive has never left me. It was obvious to me from the start that I would become a writer. Loved it, as a boy, to sit down and work on new stories.
Q. You have written over hundreds of comic strips and over sixty novels. Which do you enjoy the most- writing novels or comic strips?
When you write comics, you have to tell the artist what to draw and write what the characters have to say. So you have to see it in front of you as if it were a movie. That way I learnt to change situations and backgrounds in a fast but logical way. I have also been a copywriter, working for a big agency. There I learnt to write clear texts, short and to the point. But what I love the most is writing novels - one after the other.
Q. Tell us about your "Alex and the Wolpertinger." series. What is it about?
It starts with the book, The Monster Inn. This is what it is all about:
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.
It all starts when little Alex leaves the Alps and enters Cloverland.
Alex is picking blackberries and carries a wooden bowl with all kinds of fruits and nuts.
Prince Ruff Rumble, a giant, appears on a big horse and wants to know what he’s doing there.
Alex explains that his father is a tinker who doesn’t earn much – that is why Alex has left home and looks for work.
After the ever hungry giant has understood that Alex is able to cook, he takes him with him on his giant horse to Robber’s Nest, his black granite castle. He will set Alex to work in the kitchen of his castle.
In the kitchen of Robber’s Nest Alex meets Old Bury, the cook.
There is also an old, grumpy tomcat, named Shabby Tabby Chum.
Alex turns out to be a good cook and a very clever boy who knows how to adjust himself to his new surroundings.
Then, one day, a carriage approaches the castle at great speed. There is a little man in the carriage, who is desperately trying to lower the sail. It is Halo, the magician.
The wind cart leaves the ground, wheels turn in the air. It flows over the little lake and shatters with a bang against the black granite of the castle. The little man floats around and clings to the bobbing mast, climbs on top of it and wrings the water from his beard.
Halo tells that he is chased by King Clover (Ruff Rumble’s father) and two princes (Ruff Rumble’s elder brothers) Prime and Dozen – Dozen is twelve times stronger than any other giant.
The king and the princes believe that Halo the magician is able to make gold.
Now all the magic books have fallen into the water and the ink has become unreadable…
King Clover, Prince Prime and Prince Dozen enter the castle.
Alex has to serve them a proper meal.
The visitors want to know if there is a magician in the castle.
Alex: “There was a cart with a sail on top. It went down in the lake. I saw it with my own eyes. I also saw how.. a little man jumped from the carriage... and I heard him babble some magic words! Then the little man flew through the air and disappeared behind the sun. Nobody saw him again..!”
So Alex told a lie, in order to protect Ruff Rumble – and Ruff Rumble has locked up the magician in a tower room.
Finally the king and the two princes leave the castle and go searching for the magician again.
Ruff Rumble will only set Halo the magician free, when he has made lost and lots of gold for him.
Halo says that he needs help. Someone has to go and look for help in… the mysterious Downhills, where wolpertingers, monsters and dragons live!
Alex has to go! Halo the magician makes as little as a hare. That way they will be able to crawl under the roots of a magic oak, so they can reach the Downhills. Shabby Tabby Chum, the old tomcat, comes along with Alex – he should be able to protect him…
Alex is able now to talk with that cat (and with all animals and also with all inhabitants of the mysterious Downhills)!
In the oak wood they meet Ludo the wolpertinger. The wolpertinger disappears in the magic oak.
Alex and Chum crawl through the tunnel under the roots and this way they reach the mysterious Downhills. There, in a strange landscape under a red sun, they find themselves standing in front of a wild river.
All of a sudden the water begins to move. There are waves and whirlpools. An enormous water monster appears. It is Ton-Ton, the fatmonster, an almost shapeless mass of fat and has an enormous muzzle.
Ton-Ton brings the friends to the other side of the river. There they see the strangest creatures pass. Monsters and fat dragons jump up and down on their hind legs and make the ground rumble. Gigantic ants beat on drums and dance together. Smaller monsters jump against the bellies of bigger monsters and bounce back through the air, turning somersaults. All kinds of creatures make lots of noise and have fun together. They ask the friends to join them: “Come! Be noisy! We’re on a Noise Trip!” And so they join in. They run after the procession and when the purple monster starts to stamp his feet on the ground and yells, they do the same. They all stamp on the ground and start to make funny noises.
They are welcomed by the two owners of the Monster Inn, Waldo the wood mouse and Heros the hare.
Ludo tells them why Chum and he have come to the Downhills.
The wood mouse and the hare don’t like it at all:
“Gold! Gold! Gold! Another bunch of adventurers, who think that the streets are paved with gold in the Downhills. You walk in here, just like that, and of course you want to be fed… and many want to sleep here as well! Can you pay for that?”
Alex has to work in the kitchen. There we meet Boohoo the bat, she takes orders in the dining hall – and Whisper the weasel, she is the cook of the Monster Inn. And there is Spark the daredragon, who fears nothing and nobody and can actually spit fire.
Then there is a meeting in the Monster Inn: one has to decide whether Alex is allowed to travel on or not. It is Ludo the wolpertinger who takes Alex’s side and Spark the daredragon also helps him. Then one decides that Alex can go on – Ludo and Spark will join him on his new adventures, searching for help for poor Halo the magician…
Q. You are writing your 14th book in the "Alex and the Wolpertinger." series. How many more do you plan to write and would they be similar to the previous stories or will have a fresh take?
Eventually I will write 30 different titles. All stories on itself. When you start with book 10, you will understand everything.
Q. Tell us about the latest book published in the "Saladin the Wonder Horse" series. What is the storyline?
Angie looks after the horses of Lord Baltimore.
It is a rough time in England, where Prince John sits temporarily on the throne of his brother Richard the Lionhearted.
The girl plunges into wild adventures when she tries to keep a colt out of the greedy hands of the prince. She meets a mysterious knight, who gives her his horse—Saladin, the black wonder horse.
With the two faithful animals Angie manages to reach the camp of Robin Hood, bringing him an important message.
Silver, the colt she saved, learns quickly from the clever Saladin.
The exciting adventures of Angie, Silver, and Saladin come to a head as the girl resolves to outsmart Prince John.
And of course she cannot achieve that without her special horses . . . and some very special friends.
Q. With three books already published in the "Saladin the Wonder Horse" series, what was the reader feedback and what kind of reviews did you get?
Children love it and the reviews are so very, very nice! Here is one:
Review of Silver and the Ghost Horse Robin Hood is one of those characters that has sparked interest in many for decades if not for over a century. The thought of a man stealing from the rich to help the poor is something that many can easily get behind. I know I for one am a fan of two movie versions of the hero, the first being “The Adventures of Robin Hood”. This version was made back in 1938 and stared actors, Errol Flynn, and Olivia de Havilland. I also am very fond of the 1973 Disney animated classic, “Robin Hood”. I point this one out second as the fact Disney decided to use animals as their lead characters made this version charming.
You may wonder where I am going with this review and I wanted to use that opening to bring you into the world of Angie and her wonder horse Silver, along with her friend Joe and his bear Bruto. So, if you have not determined by this point, the reference to Disney the book I am reviewing here is a children’s book by Dutch author Koos Verkaik. The book is part 3 in the Saladin Series which tells the stories of Angie and Silver and is titled, “Silver and the GHOST HORSE”.
The book’s title does not make one think of Robin Hood and this is why I wanted to open by mentioning the thief(hero) known to have a golden heart, and honor. The reason being is this book takes place during the period of Prince John, the Sheriff of Nottingham, Robin Hood, and his band of men. A period in which many stories have taken place, and where this children’s book finds a great home.
“Silver and the GHOST HORSE”, will start by letting us into the mind of Prince John as he must deal with the demands of his daughter and Robin Hood. The Prince will find himself taking advice that will lead us to some fun encounters within the pages of the books. The choice will be to replace the current Sheriff of Nottingham with a monster of a man, or a giant. His name is Buck Bains and the man truly fight, drink and eat. He, however, will need to have the Prince’s advisor Counselor Rupert with him to help give Bains direction.
The books adventures will take off from here and I found it quite interesting on who would tell Angie about Buck Bains. The now-defunct ex-Sheriff of Nottingham who is under a tree enjoying a beautiful day and no longer chasing Angie, Silver or Robin Hood. Instead, the man will become a fountain of information due to his bitterness over being fired.
“Silver and the GHOST HORSE”, is a unique tale set in the era of Robin Hood. Angie will be found to be quite an energetic, caring and brilliant girl. Her friends rally to her help and with all of them pulled together there will be some interesting and exciting adventures to come. I mean how can one not find themselves reading a book that features a wonder horse, a bear named Bruto and so many other interesting characters. There will be battles of wit, and others of simple lessons in the nature of people.
Author Koos Verkaik does a very good job in pulling a reader, regardless of age, into the story he unravels thru the pages. The characters are well developed and those you may know from past Robin Hood Stories are found to live up to the character you may remember. Verkaik also does a great job in introducing readers to Angie and Silver. The primary characters in the book will be found to be resourceful and loyal to her friends, including both Joe and his bear Bruto.
As it’s a children’s book I do not wish to give too much of the plot away. I will share there are other new characters to find in the book. There is a Sultan who has his eyes on the wonder horse for his master back in another land. There, of course, are townspeople who will have involvement as well, and many find reasons to laugh at Bains. The book is pure fun and something that both child and adult will enjoy. As for the ghost horse in the title, well again do wish to keep a bit of mystery for when one reads the book.
Q. Your latest novel "Heavenly Vision" begins with the discovery of a manuscript with an unusual story found by one of the protagonists around the year 1745. How does the story unfold after this?
Right, it starts with the finding of an old manuscript hidden in an old atlas of the Cape of Good Hope, around the year 1745.
“Allart Vroom climbed down from the ship, and we stood ready to catch him,” wrote Captain Adriaen Kalf. “His clothes, his flesh, his bones pulverized in our hands. He formed a small heap of powder at our feet. Please, believe me—it is not, like someone suggested, the contents of broken hourglasses.”
Jan Glas, an Amsterdam publicist, reads about a machine that could cause the end of the entire world! Of course, he wants to find out the truth about the remarkable manuscript!
A long journey takes him to England and the USA.
A peculiar man crosses his path – Wesley Dunn, Raso Preacher, Center of the Heavenly Vision, Franks Knight, Florida, USA.
This man says that the world will be destroyed by ‘the Machine of Colton’, which is also mentioned in the manuscript that Jan found! Only a few people will survive – the true followers of the odd Mr. Wesley Dunn, and the Raso way of life!
Murder, mystery and intrigue will keep the reader guessing as to what is going on. Is the world coming to an end, and if so, who will survive?
Q. Would you like to share about the characteristics of the main protagonists in "Heavenly Vision"?
Jan Glas is the leading character, the one who has to solve all the riddles. But I also come up with the most odd charcaters - this time with the crazy Razo preacher Wesley Dunn and the slick businessman calles Shrimp.
Q. What is the most plot twisting moment in "Heavenly Vision" and in what direction does it take the story?
There is a plot twisting all the time. We go from Africa to The Netherlands and from England to the USA. It takes the reader on a baffling journy.
Q. Would you like to share some quotable lines from "Heavenly Vision"?
Here is a part of the book:
5: Florida, Five Years Ago
There were six men sitting on the wooden quay at the back of Restaurant Hernando in Nacre Cove, a little port town on the Gulf of Mexico. Elmore, Doug, Pedro, Francis, Otis, and Raphael, business friends from Tallahassee, had driven to the coast to go out fishing for a couple of days and to negotiate together. They had spent the whole day on a fishing boat, but the catch had been disappointing. Only Francis had almost succeeded in fetching in a big marlin. After a violent fight he was ready to get him on board, when the hook came loose, and the fish fell back into the water. It had been the only sensation of the day. There was not a breath of wind. The sun had turned the steel deck into a huge baking tray, and the ocean didn’t seem to hide any other adventures under her smooth surface.
The ship’s owner had distracted their attention with tall stories and a constant flow of cold beer.
Now the men sat down at a table on the planks, eating oysters and drinking large amounts of white wine. It was evening. The sun would go down in half an hour. From the sea came a cool breeze. There wasn’t much talking. The waitress exchanged the empty bottles for full ones once again and then went back into the restaurant, knowing that the gentlemen didn’t need her any more for the time being. After a couple from New York had paid their bill and left, the six men were the only customers left; inside, all the tables were empty.
Suddenly someone appeared at the side of the quay.
Elmore nudged Pedro.
“Look over there! At the left.”
He said it loud enough for the others to hear it as well.
They saw someone, as careful as a shy stray cat, sneaking up the stairs to the wooden quay. He was a broad-shouldered man about six feet tall, dressed in rags. When he finally stood on the quay, they could see that he was wearing dirty, down-at-the-heel shoes. Long, almost felted hair hung down in thick twists to his shoulders, and he his beard consisted of wisps of different length as if he had cut them recently with a blunt knife. Light brown eyes rolled up and down.
The waitress had cleared the tables, but at one table stood a single glass containing a drop of wine. The man jumped across the planks, fetched the glass, and emptied it as fast as he could. With one hand he wiped crumbs on the table into the other hand, which he held palm up against the tabletop. He brought the crumbs to his mouth, chewed a few times, and swallowed. Then he straightened his back and looked at the six men.
“Gentlemen, please . . . if there are any leftovers . . .”
The men burst out laughing.
“There’s still plenty of everything,” said Raphael. “Bread, mashed potatoes, lots of oysters, and full bottles of wine. But you can’t sit down to the table like that, my friend. You’ll have to wash yourself first. Jump down from the quay. We’ll watch you get a ducking.”
This remark was well received by the others. They decided immediately that a dive into the sea was no guarantee for a free meal. The man should have to do more for that.
“He has to stay in the water,” said Doug, a giant of a man whose chair creaked with every move he made. “Then we can feed him. If he swims around right in front of the quay, he can try and catch everything we throw to him.”
“Right. Catch it like a pelican,” said Elmore, “or dive like an otter. Get a move on, friend, jump!”
The man didn’t hesitate. He ran over the planks and dove into the harbor. The six friends stood up and took their full plates and a bottle of wine with them. Staggering on their feet, bumping up against each other every now and then, they went to the waterside. There they sat down, their legs dangling over the edge. Right beneath was the man, who, in his wet clothes and swamped shoes, desperately tried to keep his head above the water.
“Now start washing yourself!” commanded fat Doug. “Always wash your hands and face before you have dinner.”
The man began to tread water, while he used his hands to wash his face and beard.
“Your feet! Wash your feet!” said Otis, and the men were overjoyed to see how the poor beggar’s head disappeared under the surface and how his feet popped up and how he tried to touch his shoes with his hands. His head came above the surface again, and the man coughed. Now he swam back to the quay and tried to cling to it. Two of the men pushed him back with the hard soles of their expensive shoes.
“Catch!” said Doug and threw out an oyster.
The swimmer tried to catch the oyster but missed. The man laughed at him, and all together they started to throw food at him. Every now and then the man managed to catch something, and then he swallowed it without chewing. Pedro stood up and started to empty out a bottle of wine. The man came nearer, but before he was able to reach the spot where the trickles hit the water, Pedro raised the bottle to his lips. Pedro took a swig and then flung the bottle into the water. He was the first to go back to the table.
The others followed.
“Let’s all have one glass of whiskey and then go back to the hotel,” suggested Raphael.
“A good idea,” grinned Francis. “The bar will be open till late there. We can have a couple drinks there as well. The last one who’s still able to stand puts all the others to bed.”
None of them bothered about the man in the water. They simply forgot about him.
The waitress brought them their whiskey.
The sun went down.
Q. How do you come up with such interesting titles for all your novels?
That's the copywriter in me. The title must be catchy. Heavenly Vision, All-Father, Wolf Tears, The Nibelung Gold... and so on.
Q. You mostly write children's or "sci-fi, adventure, urban fantasy" novels. What other genres would you like to write or read?
Novels and children's books, that's it. I read piles of nonfiction, having a couple of thousand books in my workroom. I know where to find the information I need.
Q. You have a contract for films for your books. How did this opportunity come across and how was the deal finalized?
One of my literary agents, Mr. Albert T. Longden, started a company for film and TV and a publishing company, both in Princeton. He asked me to sign for 12 different titles. First my novel HIM, After the UFO Crash will be published, followed by Dance of The Jester. They are ready for the movie industry and Mr. Longden and his friends work hard to get me there.
Q. Tell us about some interesting or memorable incidents from your life.
Here is the short foreword of Dance of The Jester:
My agent in the USA suggested I ask Bill Thompson to read The Dance of the Jester.
Bill was the editor of the first books of Stephen King and John Grisham, a charismatic man of great reputation. He read the manuscript and invited me to discuss it with him.
On a scorching hot day, we found ourselves in his office in the Empire State Building in New York and together we revised and polished the manuscript and made changes in the plot. He was more than satisfied with the story, and in the meantime, he has read more of my manuscripts.
I thank Big Bill Thompson for his help and friendship.
So that was quite an adventure for a Dutchman...
Q. What importance does creativity hold in your life? How vital has it become to explore this side of you everyday?
It is my work. I write every day, never had a writer's block. Being creative is the most important in my life. I cannot sit still. When I finally sit down, I grab one of my guitars to play.
Q. Tell us about the first comics that you started writing at age 7. What was it about?
About animals. I had a plastic hedgehog that went on holidays with me and I wrote about it. Later I made up other stories; piles of notebooks full of texts.
Q. Talk to us about your growing years and your home. How did all this influence your writing?
Do writers have a pleasant youth? Well, I left home several times, I went my own way at an early age.
Q. What role has your family played in your writing career?
Q. What is your writing process, a typical writing day routine?
I get up at half past six every morning, sit down at my desk in my workroom at half past seven. Work till about 5 o'clock in the evening.
Q. What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I have my own website, of course. Facebook is important and also LinkedIn. Interviews like this help a writer to become more known.
Q. What do you think makes a book sell, or makes a reader buy it?
A good story, and always something unique; no need to come up with things thast are already done by others.
Q. What’s the most moving or affecting thing a reader has said to you?
I did a book signing in The Netherlands. A girl came up to me, who loved my Alex and the Wolpertinger series. In the stories, the Wolperingers eat dandelions. They leave the mysterious Downhills to look for them in the German Alps. The girl gave me a bouquet of dandelions. Far more worth to me than the most expensive roses.
Q. What are your favourite three books, and why?
Non fiction. They keep me informed, they keep me sharp.
Q. Who are your favourite three authors and what do you like the most about them?
I am reading Yuval Noah Harari now: both Sapiens and Homo Deus. About our past and future. Amazing! Amazing! Amazing! And everyone knows I adore Edgar Allen Poe's work. Writer three: the great Jack Vance!
Q. Tell us about the books that you are currently writing and their progress.
I write three books at the same time. One new Wolpertinger book, another children's book and a new novel. I never tell what exactly I am writing, that remains a secret until it is published.
Q. You have published with several publishers, the recent one being Outer Banks Publishing Group, USA. How has your publishing experience been and usually how does the interaction start with the publishers?
This is special. Anthony Policastro, the owner of Outer Banks Publishing Group, has become a good friend of mine. We have a good contact. He published Saladin the Wonder Horse first, then Alex and the Wolpertinger. And after the novel Heavenly Vision he will publish my novel the Nibelung Gold. I am a Dutchman, just a 'bloody foreigner' and I am so proud that important people in the USA believe in me and my work.
Q. What challenges do you think are faced by writers, what’s the worst thing about the book industry according to you?
A writer must write. That is the most important. The world changes. No problem. I will survive. And believe me, the printed book will never disappear. You have to do your utmost. Only the best writers will stay.
Q. Apart from writing, what goals do you want to achieve in life?
Getting old... to be able to tell everything I have in mind. I play guitar, drums, bass etc. and have my own recording equipment. Have to record lots of new material. My goal in life is to publish more and more books and of course I would be very proud if Mr. Longden sells my books to the movie industry.
Q. What message do you want to share with budding writers?
Told this often before; it is easy to warn starting writers against all kinds of troubles. But when it is in your blood, you will write anyway. I have experienced the hardest times, but refused to give up. Looking back I am proud of it...