Kim ten Tusscher is a well-known writer in The Netherlands. The characters in her books are not acting as a hero, neither as a villain. They all play their part in the obscure between good and evil. The female characters that play an important role in the epic sagas are strong-willed and show a great psychological and emotional depth.
Kim has published eight books to date, of which four of them have been translated into English.
Kim ten Tusscher
What cool and exciting things have been happening in your life recently?
A lot of traveling. I’ve visited the Southwest of the United States last year. It was a road trip of almost a month together with my husband. It was so amazing to see Bryce and Arches and Acoma and all the other National Parks we visited. Even writing this, good memories come back.
As if that wasn’t enough, I’ve just returned from a trip with my brother. We went to North Norway: chasing the Northern Lights and sledding with huskies. It was a great adventure.
And of course, finishing my ninth book in Dutch and finally have the translation of Born in Light complete. It is always exciting when new books come out and readers are going to continue reading the story.
Aww, I want to travel...
Is your recent book part of a series? If so, can you tell us a bit about where the story is heading?
Born in Light is the finishing part of a trilogy. It’s the story of Lilith, a woman who can change into a dragon. This may seem like a wonderful gift, but to her it’s a curse. There aren’t many fire breathing dragons in the world and surely none of them is fighting in the war. So, whoever wins Lilith's trust, has a powerful weapon.
Lilith is tormented by all the death and fear she has spread and she tries to escape from this life that has been forced onto her. But she finds out that it isn’t easy to leave everything behind and start all over.
Have you ever written characters that you truly despise? Why or why not?
My aim is that every character has it’s good aspects and its flaws. So there are no main characters that I deeply despise. I don’t agree with a lot of them, but I can understand why they do what they do. There are some less important characters that I hate though.
My books are grim and realistic. There is always some war going on. People are trying to subdue others. Of course they are not all happy, pleasant people. They have all witnessed a lot of horror and most characters in my stories have done things that were necessary but not pretty.
Maybe that is why I have a soft spot for most of them.
What do you like best about the books you read? What do you like least?
I love stories that are so complete that it feels like you can visit the locations mentioned. I love stories that are kind of slow and not rush from action scene to action scene. I don’t mind reading about somebody’s daily business as long as it adds character to the story. This is why I am a huge fan of Robin Hobb.
I don’t like books that you start reading and on the first page you know who is the hero and one page later you know who is the enemy. And you already know who is going to win the fight and who is going to die in the end. Life has more nuances. Books don’t have to be exact copies of life (of course not, I’m reading fantasy!), but I have to be able to believe the stories and the events.
So basically, no tropes and cliches? We should start a petition or something, get a crap ton of signatures and send them to Hollywood and major writers everywhere. Maybe then we'd stop seeing the same predictable crap.
Where did the idea of your story come from?
After I finished Hydrhaga I wanted to write a story about a character who had an awful background. While writing this story I wanted to explore the possibilities to leave ones past behind and create a better life for themselves after shedding so much blood and despair.
This character became Lilith. In the first ideas for this story she was an orc. But than my husband bought me a book about dragons and I decided to make Lilith a human who could transform into such a powerful creature. This was a much better idea for the story I had in mind. Because when you come across an orc, you immediately know what creature she is. With Lilith, it isn’t that obvious. People think she is weak and they underestimate her. Which is a nice thing to play with. Lilith uses it sometimes to trick the people she meets.
One other goal I had in mind when I started the trilogy was writing a story with no clear distinction between good and evil.
What did you edit out of your book?
Oh, this is kind of a funny story. In the first draft Lilith is brought before the king, because she has broken into somebody’s house to steal food and clothes. When she gets caught, she almost kills somebody while trying to defend herself.
As an author I already knew what a horrible life she had had so far and I felt so sorry for her. So the king was all kind and considerate and he didn’t punish her. Instead, he welcomed her into his palace and all was well.
I send this to my publisher and he said: “That’s not going to work. This king of yours has a huge problem if he would treat a murderer this way. His people will turn against him. You have to change this.”
Of course my publisher was right. So I changed it. Lilith gets flogged and has to work to repay her debt. I sent the revised manuscript to my publisher and now he really felt sorry for Lilith.
Problem was, this all takes place in the first 30 pages of the story. I had to rewrite a lot, because the punishment affects a lot more than only this part. But the story became so much better after changing this. It was a very important lesson for me. I think that was the start of writing darker and darker stories.
Do you have complete control over your characters or do they ever control you?
It’s a bit of a mix. When I’m planning a story and am trying to figure out who my characters are and what role they are going to play, I have some sort of control. I decide what the most important aspects of them are.
But as soon as I start writing I lose the control and that’s a good thing. I hate to read stories where I can feel within every line that is written that the author has forced its will onto the characters and the events.
Creating a strong character means that, as a writer, you must be able to follow the character and let them develop in a convincing way. You can’t make them go left if everything you have written before says the character has to go right. Readers won’t buy that.
A lot of authors are frustrated by readers who don’t understand how important reviews are. What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?
Frustration is such a big word, but I know what you mean. Reviews are so important, especially when you are self publishing or your books are small press. I can shout out on the internet that you have to buy my books, but why should you trust an author? If you tell your friends about this amazing book you’ve read, chances are much higher that they will buy the book themselves.
Speaking for myself: I write in Dutch and am constantly working on new books. But the market in the Netherlands isn’t really big, so the income from my writing isn’t huge. To reach a bigger audience, I have to get my books translated. I haven’t got the time to do it myself and even if I had, I would be horrible at it. So I have to hire professionals. Not only for the translation, but also for the editing. Translating the trilogy costs me thousands, which is not a problem. But in order for me to be able to translate the other stories I’ve written, this trilogy has to be a success.
So, in a sense you are not only doing your favorite author a favor by leaving a review. In the end, you are doing yourself a favor, because the compliments are fuel to keep on writing and the extra income makes sure stories will be turned into real books that you can read.
What kind of impact do you want your book(s) to have on readers?
Oh, great question. From childhood, I’ve had an aversion towards prejudice. I don’t like that a lot of opinions are about groups or cultures, not individuals. You should judge somebody on their behavior, not on the color of their skin, their background or religion, gender or sexuality.
That’s why I write stories about characters who are not simply good or evil. The biggest compliment I have been given, was by readers who told me they changed sides while reading the books. They rooted for Lilith at first, but when I told more about her master, they would understand why he was doing what he did.
It is also the reason why I often use religion in my stories. You might find similarities with real religions, but when you progress in the story, you’ll see that every religion has good things and flaws. That’s a thing many people miss in real life.
If you could go to any fictional world, where would you go? Why?
I’d love to visit Middle Earth and especially Rivendel. I could even speak a little quenya, what would make it a bit easier to visit Elrond's court.
The Lord of the Rings (and especially the movies) really sparked my interest for fantasy. It was there before the movies, but hidden. After seeing Middle Earth come to life I wanted to know everything about the story and making the movies. I devoured the extended editions, the Silmarillion and every website I could find about Tolkien's work, etc. That was why I started visiting fantasy festivals as an elf. And why I chose to write fantasy. My first novel has elves in it because of Tolkien.
What might we be surprised to know about you?
It’s not that this is a secret, but I think you’d like to hear that I am also a costume maker. This started out as a hobby, but I have done some films and web series. When I wasn’t writing yet, my big dream was to work at Weta Workshop when The Hobbit was being made. It never got that far, because by the time I heard about the plans, I was busy writing. But I worked on Born of Hope, Ren – the Girl with the Mark and A Royal Love.
The most special project was Hunter’s Prey. The band Seven Waters wrote a song about this story and we decided it needed an epic music video. So we did a crowd funding, found a director and great actors and even a ‘wolf’ to play in the short movie. And of course, I did all the costumes.
You must be one of the best cosplayers in town.
What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?
Use less plastic. I am worried about our planet and try to do as much as I can to make my footprint smaller. My latest discovery: shampoo bars. Love them!
Find the courage to do what you love. It will make your life better and as a result make everybody in your surroundings happier. Because happiness is infectious.
But most important: really look at each other and really listen. Try to understand somebody when they tell you about their fears and pain. And don’t get offended when it has nothing to do with you. If somebody’s gay, that doesn’t affect you, so why should you bother? Live the life you want to live and give others a change to do the same.
Who in your life has truly inspired you?
I’ve had some really independent woman in my surroundings when I grew up. Those were my mother, my aunt and my grandmother. I have to thank them for becoming the woman I am today. They showed me you can do anything you want to do.
What creature is better: dragons, zombies, or aliens?
Dragons, of course. But I only say this to be safe. If I would answer anything else, Lilith would come after me.
That's fair. Thank you so much for coming onto my blog!
You can learn more about Kim on her website here.
The first Dragons, Zombies and Aliens blog was started in 2015. Somewhere between college coursework, paying rent with door-to-door sales, and keeping up with my sorority sisters, I wrote reviews, rants and commentaries on books, TV shows, and movies. Now, this blog has moved, improved, and the sky's the limit!