Hello, everyone! Today I’m thrilled to host an interview with Marieke Nijkamp!
Marieke Nijkamp is a YA and MG writer who suffers from wanderlust and wants to grow up to be a time traveler. In the midnight hours of the day she is a storyteller, and most of her stories–ranging from literary to fantasy–have a sprinkling of magic to them. She holds degrees in philosophy, history, and medieval studies, and is more or less proficient in a dozen languages. Marieke is one of the founding YA Misfits and organizer of DiversifYA.
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✖ Could you give us a glimpse into your childhood?
I started writing with the intent of being published when I was twelve, I think. I finished my first full manuscript when I was about thirteen, actually revised it—sort of—and sent it to several publishers. One sent me a very lovely personalized rejection. One sent me a rejection slip and I’ve held on to that ever since. I mean, it was my very favorite publisher, whose books I read without hesitation. And they’d seen one of my stories! It was a good reminder that—while the story wasn’t at all in publishing shape—I was out there and all I need to do is to keep trying.
One day, I hope they’ll buy foreign rights to one of my stories.
✖ Can you tell us about your latest YA novel We Are Opportunity?
We Are Opportunity is a contemporary YA. It follows four characters during the events of a school shooting. The entire story takes place over the course of fifty-four minutes, and all of it in and around their high school—Opportunity High.
It’s a story about family and community—and survival, of course.
✖ What exactly inspired We Are Opportunity?
In February I visited a friend of mine in New Jersey. Over a lunch at a lovely Japanese restaurant, we had a long discussion about gun culture and the subject of school shootings came up. It made me wonder what it would be like to experience something like that. Those few moments when your entire life and everything you thought you knew is turned upside down. From there, the characters just started whispering to me. So when Alex suggested books to read—I knew I wanted to write one instead.
From there, I did a whole lot of harrowing research. I read non-fiction books about school shootings. I listened to emergency calls. I watched interviews with survivors. I talked to people with personal experience. It scared me so much—and in many ways it still does—but at the same time that fear was exactly what convinced me to write about it.
✖ What was your personal journey like toward agent representation? Do you have any words of wisdom you’d like to share with other querying writers?
I queried several manuscripts before this one, and I always loved querying. Don’t get me wrong, I racked up my share of rejections, and I totally understand the frustration that can come with querying. But I loved being part of the game. I think sometimes it’s so easy to be focused on the results—signing with an agent, being published—that we forget to appreciate the journey to get there. It’s so easy to want it all, and want it now, that we don’t have the patience for the full ride, with its highs and lows.
So any words of wisdom would be that: anyone can tell a story, but to do it well takes talent, dedication, and a lot of hard work. Be patient. Keep working. Don’t expect dream to come to you, but reach out and grab them. And sometimes taking that chance means you’ll fail, but that’s perfectly okay. As long as you don’t let it get you down. As long as you get up again.
✖ What’s the most recent thing you’ve learned as a writer?
The most recent thing? That I’m definitely not without neurotics (ha, right?!). These last couple of weeks were pretty intense and with a lot of moments of utter shock. I wouldn’t have stayed sane without my CPs and friends to support me.
✖ Lastly, you’re in a foreign country and headed to jail. What did you do to get yourself into this predicament and what’s your escape plan?
One of the main characters of my current YA work-in-progress—codename SpyFantasy—would like to answer this question if you don’t mind. She says she either got caught on a spying mission—theoretical, it could be possible—or more likely she got herself arrested on purpose. Jails do hold such interesting people. But since no one checked her for lock picks, getting out shouldn’t be too much of a hassle. Getting out with the right information though… that’s going to be fun.