Interview with the Author

After my lectures and the literary performance, he was yet another exciting event: I would interview the author Gerbrand Bakker.

I interviewed Gerbrand Bakker yesterday. He’s the author on whose book I gave four lectures last month. Remember how nervous I was? Well, this time was even worse – for now, the author would be able to tell me just how wrong I was in my analysis. Or he would be profoundly bored by my questions, or would become angry for asking him such silly stuff. Want to know how it went? Read on!

Usually I start becoming nervous approximately one week before the actual event. This was the case with the lectures, but also with the literary festival where I performed. This time, it was only two days before I had to do the interview. Last Thursday afternoon, when I sat down to think of a couple of questions (I had mulled them over quite a bit before that; however, since I had extensively analysed the book and its author, I almost felt like I knew the man already and everything would be fine), it finally struck me. I would be talking to a proper author, one who sells many books in the Netherlands, who has won several prizes, and whose work has also been translated into several languages. And I, a Northerner nobody, would interview him. How on earth could I possibly ask him the right questions? And there were only two days left to come up with the perfect ones.

Before I knew it, it was Saturday morning. The hours were flying by, and just like that, I was waiting for the author to get off his train. And there he was. He was a bit shorter than I had imagined, but it was unmistakably him. I didn’t know what to say – or how to talk at all. Thankfully, there was a terribly talkative person with us, which meant that I could relax a bit (I had actually suffered from motion sickness during my train ride, which never happens). On the other hand, now I started worrying about the fact that the author would think I wasn’t very intelligent or even interested. This could not possibly end well.

Once we were at the venue, we started talking a bit more. He talked about how he missed the ice skating championships, and then went on about authors and, later on, the disappointing coffee. It slowly dawned on me that he is also just a person, who likes good coffee and smokes a lot (he had just left for his fourth one (in half an hour)). I found myself finding a more comfortable pose, and went to the stage where we would be having the interview. After a while, Gerbrand Bakker joined us, commented on how warm the couch felt, and then we started.

I started with the question on why it had been such a long time, twelve years, to be exact, since he wrote his last novel. And the moment he opened his mouth to answer, I knew things would be alright. He answered me by telling me he didn’t want to be part of the intellectual author scene, but that eventually there was an idea after all. I asked another question, and he answered that, too. He’s a great conversationalist: he hardly needed a question in order to talk about anything; we discussed the idea of literature, the themes in his novel, which, funnily enough, I was more informed about than he was (and I decided not to go into the books’ details too deeply). Then we talked about how writers don’t think much about such things. Then we talked about this one funny thing happened, and then the other, and then it was time for a break, during which he would sign some books. Right before he walked away, he looked at me and muttered, ‘Oh, I do ramble a bit, don’t I?’ I saw it as a good sign.

After the break, during which I talked to my parents, my boyfriend and his mother for a bit (who all assured me things were going quite well, and the author seemed quite comfortable), Gerbrand joined me. My mother asked him if he was feeling quite comfortable, he said yes. I went to the bathroom, and then it was time for part two.

By this time, I was feeling quite comfortable, too. Gerbrand read something from his book, said he was very happy with that part, and then I asked some more questions – and he answered them with even more anecdotes than in the first part. We had fun, we discussed more books, but also music, society, and this one really weird question from the audience, who said that he thought this one scene where a dog laid on someone’s lap was quite erotically charged. Gerbrand looked shocked and vehemently denied this, I assured him I never read that into it, we laughed about it, and then he shared some more anecdotes with us. After a while, the organiser walked up to the stage and said that it was all very entertaining, but it was time to round off. So we did.

I asked him to sign my book (he added that he had a ‘very nice afternoon’). Then we had a drink, ate some food, and after a while I dropped him off at the train. He thanked me, I thanked him, we said our goodbyes, and then it was all over. I was smiling brightly, and told my boyfriend that it went quite well, didn’t it? He nodded, and added that he was happy that he had the opportunity to talk to Bakker, too, because he’s writing a children’s novel and he had many questions about the writing process, about how to find a publisher, and how dialogues work. Turns out, he had a great time, too.

Oh, it was splendid. I was happy I had decided not to call off the entire thing. I was happy that I had come up with some good questions. I was happy I felt comfortable talking to a quite famous man. I was also happy I could interview someone and keep a conversation going in quite an orderly and entertaining fashion.

Oh, I’m so happy I get to do things like this, now.

Who would you interview if you had the opportunity? Would you be nervous, too? What kind of questions would you ask? Do you think you should always show off your own knowledge in an interview? How would you prepare? Please let me know in the comments. Also, don’t forget to follow me for more book-related posts!


  1. A person mostly suffers the most by fearing the suffering he fears. This is a (poorly translated) dutch saying. And to my personal opinion the piece you wrote today is a perfect example of how true the saying is. But you already knew that, it breathes through almost everything you do and write. But, luckily, you constantly conclude with: “silly me, of course I could do this”.
    And right you are. It was a perfect afternoon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s this great quotation in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: “Worrying only means you suffer twice.” I should repeat this to myself more often, I guess. Thanks for reminding me! Let’s hope there’ll be many more perfect afternoons like this one.


  2. Ha, die Elke,
    Wat een opluchting hè? De kop is eraf wat betreft het interviewen. Goed gedaan, jouw intensieve voorbereiding maakte dat het gesprek soepel verliep. Het was erg leuk om mee te maken, een kijkje achter de schermen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hoi Bertie,
      Nou, opluchting is nog zwak uitgedrukt. Ik liep helemaal leeg ‘s avonds en lag al om negen uur op bed. Maar het was echt leuk, ik heb genoten! Mooi dat dat ook voor het publiek duidelijk was!


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