NaNoWriMo Featured Author of the Week: Veronique Kootstra

As you can probably tell from my name, it hasn’t got an English ring to it. I was born in The Netherlands where I did most of my growing up. At the age of twenty-one, after studying journalism for a year, I could no longer ignore the urge to move to another country for a change of scenery. Skip forward ten years and I’m still living in the same place; Edinburgh, Scotland, which I now call home. It took me few years to get back into writing but quickly came to the conclusion that it is what I love to do most.

Looking for new writing challenges helps me to stay focused and, most importantly, to keep writing, even when it‘s sometimes challenging to combine it with a full-time job. I mainly write quite dark flash fiction with psychological undertones. NaNoWriMo is a great opportunity to start the one thing I have, up to now, found too daunting to even seriously think about. Knowing that other writers all over the world are doing same thing will hopefully spur me on until the end.

The NaNo novel I have planned is based on a flash fiction story titled ‘Lost’ which I wrote a few years ago. It’s a seven hundred word story that is somewhat personal and I’ve always wanted to do something more with it. The dedication it will require still worries me, going from writing very short stories to a novel is quite a big leap but one I’m now ready to take.

I’ve not got a polished synopsis yet or a title I’ve settled on, but I’ll try and tell you about it as best as I can. The main characters in my story are Diane, a fifty-five year old woman who has bipolar disorder, and her twenty-six year old daughter, Alison. The struggle for both of them to accept the disease becomes apparent throughout the story. Both find it difficult to let go of the past and move on. Diane’s psychotic episodes are written in such a way that hopefully the reader comes to understand that the things she experiences are very real to her. Nobody can completely understand what goes on in her head, however it does deserve an equal amount of attention in the story as Alison’s struggle to come to terms with her mother’s illness. Alison gets comfort out of reading the short stories her mother used to write on coloured cards and read to her when she was little. Undoubtedly, the subject matter carries baggage but my aim is show different sides of the disorder and not focus on just the negative. At the heart of the story is a complicated but loving mother-daughter relationship.

Some say write about what you know; others are for embracing the unknown. As this is my first attempt at writing a novel, I’ve decided to go for the ‘know’ option, but as it’s a subject that is very personal to me (my mother suffers from bipolar disorder) this is by no means the easier one. It did cross my mind to leave out the fact it’s partly autobiographical, but this could imply that I’m embarrassed about it and that’s certainly not the case. I feel very strongly about wanting to contribute to reducing the stigma of mental illness. As I’m very aware that I can’t just rely on my own experience, I’ve done as much research as possible beforehand. My aim is create a story that is engaging and real.

I would love to connect with other NaNoWriMo writers, you can find me on twitter @vkootstra or if you want to have a peek at my blog: www.veroniquekootstra.wordpress.com.

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