Across the Pond to meet Corri van de Stege!
Corri van de Stege
I live and write in England, although I’m a Dutch national. I’ve lived in England for very long stretches of time, studied in London, and worked across the UK. I’ve also lived in The Netherlands where I was brought up, and I lived in Iran during the 1979 revolution. As a consequence of all this moving around the globe I now have a very dispersed family, and this provides wonderful excuses for travelling here, there and everywhere whenever I can!
I’ve always wanted to be a writer and I used to keep diaries and write short stories, but never got round to properly editing or submitting these. I guess this was because, as well as moving around countries and bringing up a family, I had demanding professional jobs. As part of the latter I published some non-fiction work, one as a co-author on a book on student exchanges across Europe and also short articles that were published in professional journals. Nevertheless, I always read (fiction) voraciously and have always wanted to be a fiction writer. At the end of 2013 I decided to hand in my notice and retire from the day job. It was the right decision at it gave me the time to write. I was able to pick up on the various drafts of two books that I had started and almost completed in previous years, one was my memoir of living in Iran during the revolution (based on diaries that I kept at the time) and the other a novel about growing up in The Netherlands within a small and fanatically religious community. The latter had already been through various transformations: over the years I participated in and completed Creative Writing Courses at the OU and at writers’ workshops in Norwich. I submitted chapters and drafts and this helped me to keep the writing candle lit. I was particularly pleased when one of my tutors suggested that my writing was ready for publishing and that I should focus on completing and editing what I had started.
Both my memoir about living in Isfahan during the Iranian revolution in 1979, Half the World, and my first novel, Notes on Anna, were published in 2014. In addition, I published two of my short stories in 2014.
I took a long holiday (well, three weeks) in the autumn of 2014 visiting one of my sons in Singapore. After my return I started my next novel, which is my current project (see below)
What is the first piece you remember writing (from childhood or young adulthood)?
I remember having lined notebooks in which I wrote stories about characters out of the books that I read. Then from teenage years onwards I also kept many diaries and writing notebooks but most of these have disappeared during my moves from one country to the next.
What is your favorite aspect of being a writer? Your least favorite?
I love it when I’m actually writing, when I’m in the middle of something, a chapter or a story and it all just flows and I play around with the sentences. I enjoy this sense that I am in control of what I do and where my story is going, I can imagine whatever I want to imagine. That’s quite different from writing a report, say, when you have to stick to the task in hand. I wrote a lot of quite lengthy reports during my working life. Writing fiction, or a memoir, is exhilarating in that you can let your imagination flow without a bunch of people telling you what to write and how to write it! I need physical exercise to keep my mind going (and to sleep well at night) and so I don’t like sitting in front of the computer for hours on end. In the summer there is the gardening and in winter I play the clarinet to balance the activities.
Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, what is your best tip for beating it? If not, why not?
I’m not sure about that. I think a way of getting round that sense that you don’t know what to write about, or even that you cannot write at all, is to sit with a piece of paper, or with your iPad or laptop and start writing whatever… Another way of getting round it is to do some research, and to write down what you’ve found out. Even if this is unrelated to the story or book that you are writing. I’m always prodding myself into discovering new things and this year I have signed up for a number of so-called Mooc courses (Massive On-line Open Courses: free short courses provided by universities around the world on topics ranging from literature to science and gardening). I am currently following a course on Forensic Science and already have ideas on how I can use some of my newly gained insights by having one of my characters married to a forensic scientist. I don’t intend to write a crime thriller though. Previously I followed a course on Theories of Mind – quite interesting when you think about fictional characters and what they are like.
What is your current writing project? What is the most challenging aspect of your current writing project?
I am writing a novel about a family that, on the surface of it all, is a reasonably well-functioning entity but when an accident happens the past starts to unravel. I don’t really want to say more about this as it is still very fluid. I’m also working on a couple of short stories and have ideas for a few more. So far I’ve published two short stories, which are only available as ebooks and I would like to publish a collection of short stories, which would also be available in paperback format.
We spoke about writer’s block earlier on, but I think the main challenge is to keep focused on the writing, rather than not knowing what to write. I have many interests that vie for equal rights, for example, in the summer there is the garden and learning about new plants, names of plants, and then there are the visitors to your garden such as frogs, different birds, etc. I’m also following up on one my very longstanding ambition, which is to learn to play an instrument and to be able to read music. I’ve bought a clarinet and over the last three months have more or less progressed through grade one material. I practice my clarinet up to two hours a day, which sometimes proves to be an excuse for not writing! On the other hand, playing music can be quite stimulating for the imagination.
What supports you in your writing?
Having my own very wonderful room to hide in, enough time because I’ve retired from the day job, and a husband who is also a writer now and who needs very little attention as he’s usually even more distracted than I am.
What are you currently reading?
I am a voracious reader, mainly of literary fiction but I also read psychological thrillers, historical novels and non-fiction books. In the latter category is a book that was a Christmas present ‘The Edge of the World’ by Michael Pye. This is a fascinating account of how the North Sea made us who we are (here in Europe, and in particular the English and the Dutch –interesting for me as I am a Dutch national living in England). I am also reading Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, for the second time. The book group I belong has put it on the list for one of our next meetings and this is quite good timing in view of the marvelous new tv series Wolf Hall which started on BBC2 recently.
Where can our readers find you and your books online?
I am quite ubiquitous on line: you can find me at my blog www.corrivandestege.com (which will direct you to a blog called 51 stories) and in the about page of my blog are links to my books and short stories.
I also have a facebook author page, and perhaps if you visit you could ‘like’ this page (it’s fairly new): http://bit.ly/corrivandestegeauthor
My books are available in paperback format as well as for Kindle, Nook and Kobo. My short stories are available for your e-reader or kindle. The link to the Amazon UK website for my publications is: http://amzn.to/1kEvirM For Amazon.com the link is: http://amzn.to/1nlbKIL
You can also follow me on twitter: @corrivandestege.