As I was dealing with interviewers who were either to lax and general, just running down a preset list of questions to really matter, or so hard to the core to prove a point that I was not able to get in a word edgewise. Both are pretty useless as interviews go as it shows nothing about the writer and so I decided to interview myself as the unsuccessful writer.
Interviewer: Good evening.
Me: Good evening. Thank you for having me.
No problem. So. How shall we tackle this then?
I think chronologically would be the best option.
Fine. Then tell me. Where did it start? At what point did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
Well quite honestly I never wanted to be a writer. These days I only call myself a writer because that is what someone who writes and publishes books is called.
So what do you call yourself then?
A dreamer. A storyteller. I just don’t tell the story, I write it down.
And have you always been this dreamer, this storyteller?
A dreamer, yes. From the first days I can remember. Not all dreams were pleasant, but I went through life sort of a loner. I noticed I was different, but never really understood why. At the age of ten you don’t really think about that stuff, it just happens and you accept it as reality. But I never was much of a story teller, as to say that I didn’t tell stories. Most of the time I rarely spoke at all. I favored doing something myself rater than asking someone else to do it for me.
Alright. But when did you notice you were different?
I think it was around half way through the first year of grade school. We were drawing letters to get to know the shapes and I kept squinting my eyes to see the board. The teacher told my mother that I might need glasses and I was tested. I got glasses and the next day I wore them to school, being amaze on how big the world actually was, and not covered in a foggy mist. But that week we grades back from drawing letters, yes, everything was graded, and I had, as always got an A. Later I figured it was because I didn’t see a damn thing of what was around me, I could really focus on the task in front of me. Even now when I really set myself onto something, if I can I take off my glasses and work in the haze.
So what happened?
Well I had just gotten an A and was wearing glasses. And children are bastards at that age, so they started calling me names. Professor was one of the most painful ones. And some time around that period something switched off in my brain, saying ‘well fuck this, I am not doing this anymore.’ I have been a straight C student ever since. I hardly did any homework all through my schooling life and I remember crying a lot in those days, secretly at night, begging to go home, that I just wanted to go home while I was in my own bed, at home. I think it meant that I just wanted that miserable life anymore… I hated it and I hated school. It was too crowded, too many people, too much noise. The world was… too big. And so I retreated even more into my own world of thoughts. Around that time I wrote my first story on my dads typewriter, ending up being around a hundred pages long. I was never read by anyone as it was mine and mine alone.
Well that skips us through quite some time there.
Yes well, it was just more of the same. I think my life really started when I was twenty. Having dodged the military, which was still conscription at that time, on ‘mental issues’ for which my mom had dragged up everything that was wrong with her and my fathers family as evidence, a fun read at twenty I might add, I worked odd jobs through the local agency and had a paper route because my parents couldn’t deal with me doing nothing. My dad called me long haired hippy scum, something that also always followed me around mentally.
Do comments of people often influence you?
Yes. I think they are actually the reason I do stuff in the ‘real’ world. I put real under quotation marks simply because to me the world I have in my head, the world of stories, the world I can control and enjoy watching is just as real as the one we all live in. It’s a one foot in one and one foot in the other sort of deal, knowing I cannot exist fully in either one.
Have you tried? Living in the ‘real’ world I mean?
Yes. But when I do that I cannot write and not writing makes me miserable. I write because I need to write. I live the emotions and adventures with the characters. The only times I really cried was when something bad happened in my world. I hardly ever cry for anything in this one.
So what happened when you were twenty?
My first girlfriend happened. There is a bit shameful story there which I am not going to go into, but I packed a bag and left home. It was never a place where I had felt happy or safe, so I was actually glad to go into the world and find my own way. I kinda moved in with her and helped out her parents, until that relationship went south and to share the rent I moved with a gay friend of hers to an apartment complex.
How long did that last?
Three years I guess… could be five. My memory of time is a bit vague. I have a hard time remembering dates, even my own birthday, basically because I don’t care. I feel no connection to it. Luckily I have family and a few friends who remind me of such stuff so I can show up and pretend I am enjoying myself. Parties are just too busy for me. I am my best when it’s one on one, with a max. of three, possibly five if they behave.
So… We have come to relationships. How did that go?
I went through quite a string of relationships, most of which lasted half a year because back then I didn’t understand I accepted anyone in my arms and my bed just not to be alone. My heart skips for someone new just about every year, longing for the adventure, the passion of that pink cloud. But I think I actually felt a connection to only five of them.
Is there anyone who stands out?
I quite accidentally fell into a relationship with a divorced mother with child that taught me about responsibility. She was dead tired all the time and seeing I was needed I took care of the boy, while working a steady job by then in a copy center. It is the closest to ‘normal’ I have ever found myself and I actually enjoyed it. The job also had night shifts and there I really started writing. I cranked out short stories by the dozens and left them on the table for colleges to read. It was the first feedback I ever got, and so I sent those stories to magazines and saw them published. But that relationship too ended and when in a night shift I got threatened at knife-point I fell into emotional instability and depression, which ate up my two years of sick-leave. I had just moved to a new place closer to work and there I was, without anything anymore. And so I wrote, and I got by, most often on just rice and ketchup. When I got close to being suicidal, I decided I would take a chance and get help. And I got it. I changed my life.
So therapy worked for you.
I think it can work for anyone if you just give it a chance. You might get pick up what you wanted to learn, but I learned a lot there, especially from therapists I hated the most. I also got my autism spectrum test there and was declared Pdd-NOS, which means as close to ‘he’s off, but we don’t exactly know what it is’. Though all my life I had learned to hide so well that I had lost my real self, my identity as a person. I was who someone near me needed me to be, a friend, a lover, a parent. I played roles and I actually still do. I cannot not do it, but by doing so I found I could see the perspective of several people, even why murderers and rapists did what they did, what duty was for a police officer… I even watched the human race from an alien point of view and found that was as close as I could get to being me, an observer, writing what I saw in fictional settings.
So that is where the writer really kicked in?
That is where the writer really kicked in. I think in doing this interview with myself is the purest form I can find of being me, as I can reflect back and forth, but have no one to cater to in an attempt to make them happy and like me. I am always looking to be liked, to be admired even. The one thing I crave is being seen and accepted.
And are you?
No. Or at least, not yet as there is always hope for the future. Quite honestly I don’t know if I am respect worthy as I might just as easily be a general sub-par hack as the next literary Van Gogh. A times that bothers me and I wonder if this is the right path for me, but when I write, I feel the emotions of the characters, emotions I don’t really feel when not writing, but anxiety and fear just take over. The world is still too big. And I think I don’t want to be acknowledged in some way, as then people will see me and want to talk to me. I just want to be left alone and write, and maybe possibly make my way with my writing. I am happiest when I am alone and writing, but through experience I also know that being alone is the most destructive thing I can do to myself as I also need people around me. Being alone just sends me in a spiral going down to suicidal thoughts. I need to see other people doing normal stuff to understand that my world, the world inside my head, is not the only world that exists. Which is why I sometimes write in coffee places, indulging myself with overly expensive coffee and friendly waiting staff. That, in a nutshell, is my life. It’s not much, but it’s mine. I have created this path for myself and actually I am okay being here.
So, you are happy as you are now?
Basically, yes. Of course there are ups and downs, I get very disoriented when a storm is about to hit and the cold of winter depresses me, but in general I think it all balances around a six or seven on a scale from one to ten.
So again a six, the average, good enough to pass.
Well I think like is all about averages, not about moments. I have dedicated my life to what makes me happy, set aside the things that didn’t and sacrificed certain luxuries because of that. I write, which makes me happy and when I am happy, I write. I was damn lucky to meet my wife, Wendy, who understood and accepted, which are two different things, that while she was following her dreams with her career, I was following mine. Being together just made life easier on the both of us as I don’t mind doing dishes and the washing and she doesn’t mind doing the shopping and cooking. I still feel the same way about her as the first day I met her, amazed that this person wants to be with me, be with this broken train-wreck of a man, and through that that there must be something she sees in me that I don’t see. If I am loved it means that it can’t be all bad or maybe even that being me isn’t as bad as I think it is. She lefts me up and in turn, I lift her by making sure she has what she needs.
As a final question, do you have any heroes, people you model yourself and maybe your writing after?
Yes. I have great admiration for George Carlin for the honestly he brought to the stage, just by saying things and naming names on how stupid some things were. He often, especially n his later years, talked about that observer feeling which I also have, the having taken a step back from society and just be on the front row seat with popcorn for the greatest show on Earth, watching how people destroy themselves and how everything goes to shit. And Neil Gaiman, as I like his writing, but most of all I like his vision on choices to make in life and what publishing is becoming. I sometimes contact him for advice and he often replies. I hope that if I ever reach a certain level of fame I will be able to carry myself as he does.
And as an encore there was a message, something you wanted to say. The reason for this interview?
Yes. I just wanted to to say to everyone reading this not to be jealous of someone with a lot of free time being able to do what he wants to do. I have built my life with as little commitments as possible and as a result I don’t have a decent paying job and so I don’t have much money, which means no holidays. I am actually happy where I am now, so for people who are jealous I say, don’t be. I made my choices and live with them. But if you are jealous there apparently there is something lacking in your life, a hole you need to see to. It’s all a matter of making a choice, going for your dream, and being ready to give up something in return. Do you want the free time I have to follow my dreams? Then quit your job. As a result you won’t have an income, so what will you do? How will you grab hold of your life, become a controller of it instead f just a pawn and become happy? Because that is the only question worth asking yourself. I write because it is inside of me, I cannot not write, but who are you? Am I really that unsuccessful now that you have read my life?
So that explains the title then. Good stuff. So this is all the time we have, thank you for this interview.
And thank you for letting me.
Sooo… that was Martin van Houwelingen, author of Foothold of Tethys, a science fiction novel, An Autist view of Scotland, Sipping from the Writing Well among other stories and with several books still to come in the coming year, and am I correct in saying that Foothold of Tethys is free to download as a PDF through the name-link added and all books are available on Amazon?
That’s right. Foothold of Tethys is a totally free PDF download as a promotional stunt for people to get to know my style as a writer.
Excellent. So that is all we have time for. This is Martin van Houwelingen, it’s 1.55 AM. Signing off. 🙂