I decided to purchase a copy of Malaika, a book written by author, Van Heerling and I wasn't disappointed. In fact, I was intrigued by the book and decided to visit Van's website. When I read the story behind the story, I became intrigued by the author, as well.
Being the busy family man he is, I can tell you I was proud, indeed, when I learned that Van was willing to take time to answer my questions. I've decided to share his responses below.
Norma: What does being an author mean to you?
Van: For me, being an author is nothing more than having the opportunity to share something of myself with another. I hear from people all over world and for me there are few things better than to receive a message or call from someone that has been moved by something I have written.
Norma: When did you first realize that you wanted to write and publish a book? How old/young were you at the time?
Van: Well, I can tell you when I decided that I would NOT be a writer; I was eight years old. I must have had my studies on my mind because I remember thinking something along the line of, “Why on earth would anyone in their right mind ever want to write for a living?” I was not a great student. I was well behaved and well adjusted, I suppose. However the prospect of writing hundreds or thousands of pages as a means to make a living was synonymous to a fork in the eye. To say I loathed the written word would be accurate.
Fast-forward through my awkward and painful junior high and high school years: I soon found myself in my early twenties living in Hollywood, California. In my shabby one bedroom, roach infested apartment, I was consumed by a muse. It was there she whispered in my ear and, to this day, I have not stopped listening to her sweet soft words.
Norma: From its inception, how long did it take you to write and publish your first book? Was the experience mostly rewarding or filled with varying levels of frustration?
Van: I think it took about a year, maybe a year and a half from start to finish. However there were months where not a word was written.
As for frustration, I don’t force myself. When a manuscript calls to me, I pick it up again. I listen for my muse.
In my opinion, deadlines are for cookie cutter storytellers. I have nothing against anyone with contractual deadlines; all I wish to say on the matter is that I am not interested. I want nothing to do with pumping novels out on an assembly line. If over my lifetime I am able to write a half dozen works fraught with human experience, depth and meaning, I believe I would be a very happy man, indeed.
Norma: Are you currently working on any other writing projects? If so, tell us a little about them.
Van: I do have several projects in the works. However, it is my process not to disclose them until I have at least the first draft done. This is not a form of arrogance, but rather a self-preservation mechanism. It ensures that I won’t get distracted by the comments of others.
Norma: What is your ultimate dream, in terms of being a writer/author?
Van: I haven’t thought of this in a while. I can’t say this is my ultimate dream, but it is well up there near the top.
Okay, so I am boarding a plane and, as I walk down the aisle toward my seat, I see a woman with a copy of, Malaika.
“I have seen that book around. How is it?” I ask in passing. She says unimpressed, “Eh.” I nod and move on without her ever knowing who I am.
Yes, sometimes my humor is dark and self-deprecating.
Norma: What is one of your favorite quotes? It can be from a book you wrote or something you heard throughout your life. If it's not your own, please cite the source, if possible.
Van: “Don’t drown. Do whatever the F#$! it takes.” This is from a movie called, Win Win with Paul Giamatti. In fairness, I may be remembering it wrong. It made me laugh. It reminds me to keep “fighting” no matter what.
One that came to me recently and helps me stay true to myself is, “In this life, seek your own answers, and quote yourself for a change.”
Norma: Tell us a little about your life. What does an average day look like?
Van: A typical day for me is working through the night on PeopleReads and writing. Then I wake up after a few hours sleep and take care of my boy. Often I will need to take a nap with him midday. That is pretty much it.
Norma: What are three of your favorite hobbies?
Van: I have a bookshelf that is too heavy for its own good. I live in the Los Angeles area and, when the big one hits, I'm going to wish I had bolted that sucker to the wall.
This next one, technically, isn’t a hobby but I will say it anyway, “Chocolate” (of the dark persuasion). And lastly, thinking about all the exercise I should be doing as I chomp down on a dark chocolate peanut butter cup. Yum.
Norma: That made me laugh out loud.
Van: Norma, seriously, it means a lot to me that you took the time to seek me out. You have a lovely site and are an asset to the literary community. Like it or not, on my side of the fence, you are now considered a friend.
Norma's closing thoughts:
Well, Van, it was a pleasure, indeed, catching up with you - and I consider you a friend as well. Thanks for your beautiful comments; I assure you they are treasured. I look forward to getting to know more about your family and the milestones your son reaches as he grows...and, yes, I can't wait to read, Dreams of Eli.