Willem de Vink
Willem de Vink
English interview
Willem de Vink
Question - To start off, Gerbrand, where were you born?
Gerbrand - On the island of Texel. I was born on October 4, 1932  in Oosterend.

Q - So you saw many birds in your life.
G - Birds and sheep, because as you know, Texel is a famous sheep island.

Q - When did you start writing?
G - Very early. I was about 8 or 9 years old when I started to write stories, and I drew comics too.

Q - Why did you give up drawing?
G - I wanted to concentrate on writing. Furthermore, drawing is not my forte. A tree or a house still looked nice on paper, but drawing people or animals is very difficult. Luckily there are plenty of good illustrators.

Q - How did your family like it that you were always busy with writing and drawing?
G - They liked that very much. My father himself was always writing books and making poetry. He was the folk poet of Texel. He is famous there.

Q - He also wrote children's books?
G - A whole stack. Unfortunately they are already sold out. Sometimes I see one in a second-hand bookshop.
Then I have a good day.

Q - You follow your fatherís example in writing?
G - Certainly! But without this father I wouldíve become a writer nonetheless. Itís a talent inside you. It will come out whether you want it to or not. Some people can play the piano at a very young age. And others carry around a hammer and drill when they are five.

Q - Tell me, is it fun to write a book?
G - Fun? It's pretty difficult you know. One has to think of many things and one never knows whether it will turn out the way one planned. But somehow, I obviously  like to write; otherwise I would have stopped a long time ago.

Q - You think its fascinating?
G - Yes, that's the word! One dives into a story and makes everything in that book familiar with oneself. In the end, I know the people in the story so well that they have become acquaintances. Thatís why a book means so much more to me than just some letters on paper.

Q - Why are you writing children's books?
G - I've also written more than 50 stories for adults.

Q - But still, more than 30 of your children's books have been published.
G - That's true. I do like to write for kids.

Q - Have you always lived on Texel?
G - No, after my seventh we went to Alkmaar. In that city I had many playmates in all possible locations. I walked a lot.
I recently wrote a book about those days. It's called: 'Revolt on Texel.' We returned to Texel in the Ďhunger winterí. There we saw the terrible revolt of the Georgian army.

Q - You're born on Dutch animal day. Do you like animals?
G - When I was little, we didnít celebrate animal day in the Netherlands. We only started after the war.

Q - But you do love animals?
G - Very much so, just read my books and you'll see that.
I write a lot about animals. Not only about dogs and cats, but also about monkeys and birds. Animals are fair and pleasant companions.

Q - Are your books read as often by girls as they are by boys?
G - I'm sure of that. I never write a book just for boys.
Girls  often play an important role in my stories.

Q - Do you think up a story-line while you are writing?

G - No, I think first and then get to work. But while writing, the story often leads you away from your initial plan. Then the book is very different from what you thought up in the beginning.
Once Iíve written ten chapters too much for one book.
It was a pity of the time, but one canít help that.

Q - For what age do you usually write?
G- For boys and girls over eight years old.

Q - Did you read a lot when you where young?
G- Yes, I loved reading, and I also had a few Great-Aunts who read beautifully to me. I have dedicated a book (Shipwreck at the Mud-flat) to one of those Aunts.

Q - Which writers did you like when you were young?
G - C.Joh. Kieviet, W.G.v.d. Hulst, Anne de Vries, A.D. Hildebrand, E. Molt, Jac. v.d. Klei, Nienke v. Hichtum…

Q - Which writers do you take after?
G - That's not an easy question, for in 'Kieviet' I admired that he could write about many different topics. 'Dik Trom' played in a cozy village, but 'The minstrel Fulco' he brought back from Medieval times. Then there was a book named: 'The Secret of the Canadian', which played in the First World War, and 'The Mysterious Cupola' was a complete different book. In writing about many different subjects I recognize myself, because I also like to write about events of the past and the present.

Q - And you also write about the future?
G - Not about the real future of course, because we donít know the future. But it is true that sometimes in my books Iíve invented an imaginary scene (sf) like in 'The Secret of the Doomahj', 'The Lost Code' and 'The night of the rising water'.

Q - How did you get the ideas for your books?
G - Differently. Sometimes I just have an idea off the top of my head and other times I think: this is an interesting topic, lets work on that.

Q - Many of your books talk about faith in God. Does that mean a lot to you?
G - Very much! Without that faith I might write very dull and gloomy books.

Q - Does faith make you happy?
G - Certainly!  Not that I walk around singing all day.
But knowing that God hasnít forgotten about the world, and that He has wonderful plans for the future, then you know there will be other times. He has the last word.

Q - Do you have children?
G - I have four children and
4 Grandchildren.

Q - What kind of work do you do?
G - I've done many different things. The longest Iíve worked in the City Library of Haarlem. Itís a wonderful environment for anyone who loves books. We had books in the vault of more than five hundred years old. We also had beautiful old children's books.

Q - You no longer work in the library?
G - No, I'm retired.
I have plenty of time to write books now!

Q - Do you still have ideas for writing?
G - If only you knew how many...Hopefully I get a lot of years to work those plans out,
because many of them are pretty exciting.

Q - I wish you success!
G - Thank you!

For further information: Christian Children's Books Group and publishing houses: 'Kok  and 'Den Hertog', The Netherlands.

Books for Adults:
Besides his children's books and stories, Gerbrand Fenijn wrote many years for adults. From his hand about 50 stories were placed in magazines and collections. A few titles: 'De Speer van Pinchas', 'In God's wijngaard is het nooit komkommertijd' en 'Hoogmoed houdt niet van humor'.
Nederlands interview