“Even though sometimes I struggle… I will never stop writing” | Gideon Samson
Gideon Samson is an award-winning Dutch writer, part of our Aarhus 39 selection of the best emerging writers from across Europe. Gideon will be appearing at the inaugural International Children’s Literature Hay Festival Aarhus 2017 later this month. Here he talks about his new story for Quest, our new anthology of stories for children, inspired by journeys.
Tell us about your story…
The story is about the Greek gods and their relationship throughout the centuries with mankind. I never think in ‘themes’, but I believe it’s about religion, power, the strength of people (without the necessity of a god) and all of this interwoven in a humorous setting.
Why did you pick that theme?
Well, I didn’t really pick it… Most of the time themes pick me, if you understand what I mean. The great Dutch children’s author Guus Kuijer put it once in a nice way. He said: ‘A writer makes a character do things without knowing why, and the character itself doesn’t know it either.’
When did you decide to become an author?
When I was a kid, I first wanted to be a knight, then fireman, after that a garbage collector and finally a soccer player. I started to write though when I was six – I wrote stories and used to read them to other children in some secret corner of the class – but for years and years I never thought about ‘becoming an author’. Only later, when I was twenty years old and not very happy with my studies, I understood becoming a writer for me was not something to decide. I am (and always was) a writer. And even though sometimes I struggle with this, I will never stop writing.
When did you publish your first book?
The moment I had the epifany I already was a writer, I sent a little start of a story to Leopold, a big publishing house for children books. The people there promised me if I would finish the story, they would make a book of it. So I decided to quit my studies and spend my time writing. The book (English title: Don’t say a word!) was published in 2007.
What is special about writing for children?
For me it’s not really different than writing for adults: the things I write just happen to be for children. I think that a really good book for children is also a good book for adults. And in the same way: if the book is mediocre for adults, then it can’t be a good one for children.
For me, a good book asks and raises questions, gives people something to think about, whether it’s for children, young people or adults. Of course I think a bit about my readers when I write, mostly that has to do with the level of the language I use. But I don’t really work on that, it mostly happens automatically. And what is special about writing in general? I have a million answers to that question, because I find new ones all the time. Some of them are: creating another new world, to put yourself in another person’s position, it forces you to think about the world and people around you. Furthermore I like language a lot, I like playing with words. I like that you can tell things without actually saying them, I like making something beautiful that people can enjoy, and… well, as you can see the list of answers is endless.
What does it mean to you to be a part of the anthology and the Hay Festival?
It is an honour to be selected for the Hay festival and I am excited to meet so many other children book writers from Europe. Isn’t it wonderful so many great writers come together in the same city at the same time?
Do you have a favorite spot where you write?
Yes. My favorite spot to write is on a Greek island. In the wintertime I flee the busy city centre of Amsterdam and fly or drive to one of the most southern places of Europe. In a small village of the island I live a few months a year in a pink house on a mountain. I am one of those writers who needs absolute quietness to write. In Amsterdam I can struggle for days or even weeks on one single page. On this mountain it sometimes feels like the Greek Gods are whispering the stories in my ear.