- What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a detective when I was young. I read Dutch detective stories, and Enid Blyton’s novels, translated into Dutch. Solving mysteries was what I wanted more than anything else! I also wanted a dog to help me solve them.
I realize now that working on stories is a little like being a detective-it’s a like a puzzle you have to solve…
When I was in high school, I acted in the school play. I loved it, and actually considered becoming a stage actress. That experience actually also comes in handy now, as I often make faces and postures in the mirror as a reference for my drawing.
- When did you realize you wanted to be a writer/illustrator?
I drew a lot as a kid, and went to Art School because I loved drawing. When I moved to America in 1997 I started collecting picture books, because I was in love with American picture books. The colors! The art! I really felt like they were pieces that belonged in a museum! The Stinky Cheese Man and Math Curse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith made me fall in love with picture books. When I read those, I realized I wanted to create picture books too! I was hooked.
- What’s your first childhood memory?
One of my very first memories is when I discovered a pear. I was probably about three, and I played in my neighbor’s backyard. His mom gave us a pear to eat, and I remember being so surprised by the sweet taste and the soft, grainy texture. I loved it. I thought pears were much better tasting than apples!
- What’s your favorite childhood memory?
I did many silly things as a kid. I once made an entire cowboy outfit out of paper and wore it to school. I also created a sugar cube dispenser out of legos. I showed it to everyone-my family, my teachers, my friend’s families-so they would give me sugar cubes to demonstrate. I ate them all until my belly hurt!
I also remember sitting on my dad’s shoulders on Queen’s Day, to watch the Queen and her entourage go by in a gold-plated, horse-drawn carriage.
- As a young person, who did you look up to most?
I looked up to my dad, who was cruising around the world in a submarine. I hardly ever saw him, but loved it when he returned from his trips, because he would bring back gifts from faraway places.
- What was your worst subject in school?
- What was your best subject in school?
Art and Math
- What was your first job?
In Holland, many kids will peel tulip bulbs over the summer as a first job. We would ride our bikes to the tulip farms early in the morning, peel bulbs until one PM, and then ride to the beach, where we would swim the rest of the day to get the nasty black clay out of our ears and noses and fingernails.
- How did you celebrate publishing your first book?
I jumped and danced and laughed and cried. Then I had champagne with my husband. And with my critique group. And with my neighbors. And with my friends. And with my agent. A lot of champagne was sipped that week!
- Where do you write/illustrate your books?
In my studio, in my house in San Francisco. It’s 100 years old this year and has creaky wood floors, round bay windows and high ceilings. My family says our house reminds them of a “herenhuis” (row house) in Amsterdam.
- Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
Everywhere! On the street, in my local coffee shop, at the movies, in the mirror…
- When you finish a book, who reads it first?
My critique group, The Revisionaries, read all my stories while I am writing them. And after I have finished. And again during revisions.
- Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I am a night owl. I love sleeping late, and love working at night, when everything is dark. That’s when my creative juices flow.
- What’s your idea of the best meal ever?
Dutch bitterballen (sort of a breaded, fried meat stew, which doesn’t sound so good, I realize) with Belgian fries and mayonnaise.
For dessert, Ciao Bella Valrhona chocolate gelato.
…but I can eat sushi any day of the week too!
- Which do you like better: cats or dogs?
Dogs! I had a German Shepherd growing up. He was the sweetest dog and smiled at everyone!
- What do you value most in your friends?
When they tell me what I need to hear; not just what I want to hear. And when they make me laugh. Just not at the same time.
- Where do you go for peace and quiet?
The beach. The sea holds a magical power over me.
- What makes you laugh out loud?
The movie “Best in Show,” by Christopher Guest. My brother, when he does his imitations of people. My husband, with his silly, dry Dutch humor.
- What’s your favorite song?
Fly me to the Moon!
- What are you most afraid of?
Snakes, heights, dishonest people, turbulence on airplanes.
- What time of year do you like best?
The San Francisco Fall, when the sun is low, slow, golden and long.
- What’s your favorite TV show?
MI-5, a British TV series about the intelligence service.
- If you were stranded on a desert island, who would you want for company?
My man Peter.
- If you could travel in time, where would you go?
I would visit myself when I just graduated from college, and have a little chat.
- What’s the best advice you have ever received about writing/illustrating?
To avoid the solution that feels easy, familiar and comfortable, and explore the solution that feels scary and uncomfortable. When a solution comes easily to me, there’s usually something more interesting out there for me to explore.
I do my best work when I am pushing myself into new territories.
- What do you want readers to remember about your books?
I aim to show emotion in my characters. I hope readers take this away from reading my books.
- What would you do if you ever stopped writing/illustrating?
I would love to design sets for operas, or create costumes for films, which is sort of what we already do being an illustrator, so I prefer to stick with my current gig.
- What do you like best about yourself?
I really enjoy being by myself. Which comes in handy when you write and illustrate!
- What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
It was my greatest dream to come to America and live here in San Francisco, but I didn’t have a green card. I joined an American corporation in Holland, and worked my way to their head office in America, where I finally received a green card after seven years. This was a winning lottery ticket to me! It allowed me to stay in America, and ultimately made my move to San Francisco possible!
- Where in the world do you feel most at home?
In my home studio in San Francisco.
- What do you wish you could do better?
I wish I was a better dancer.