Author Spotlight: Dan Van Werkhoven

Every month I’ll be interviewing an author who writes historically-influenced fiction, and introducing you to some fantastic new writing talent. Their genres vary, but all of them are writing stories set in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

This month we’re talking to steampunk fantasy author Dan Van Werkhoven. His debut novel is Sentinel: The Dragon Striker Chronicles Book 1. You can contact Dan through his website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

How long have you been writing and what got you started?

I’ve been writing on and off for twelve years now. I kind of had two starts, my first was as a teen. I always loved the idea of telling stories, but writing? Yeah, no. I was a strict two-finger typist. Do you know how long it’d take to write an entire novel with just two fingers?

You don’t? Well, I didn’t either—still don’t—and I wasn’t about to try and find out.

Then I found out about NaNoWriMo from a friend. “Write a novel in a month!” they said. “It’ll be fun!” they said.

So this two-finger typist decided to give it a whack.

Let me tell you, if you want to learn how to touch type, writing a 50k novel in one month is a good way to learn. I didn’t stay a two-finger typist for long!

I got the novel done (it was terrible, but it was a start) and over the next few years I wrote several more novels and a handful of short stories.

Then I stopped.

In 2015 I moved to another country and couldn’t legally work while I waited for visa stuff to process. So once again I took up the proverbial pen and got to it!

Three years later, I have a novel and a prequel novella out. The second novel will be released later in 2018, with the third in the series scheduled for early-mid 2019.

 What are the best and worst things about being an author?

The best: Being able to take readers on a thrill ride to strange and wonderful worlds. Coming up with those worlds is so much fun. Not much brings a bigger smile to my face than hearing from a reader how much they loved one of my stories. That’s why I write, to entertain.

The worst: The majority of my creative career has been in music and film. Both of those are VERY collaborative industries. Writing? Not so much. I’m pretty introverted, but when it comes to creating, I love working with people.

Thus far in my writing career, it’s been a solitary journey, and it’s seriously hard for me. I thrive off input and collaboration. Fortunately though, I have plenty of voices in my head to collaborate with.

What’s your favourite historical time period to write about and why?

Oh, that’s a tricky one. See, I love me some good old-fashioned medieval fantasy, but I’m a machinist by trade (well, one trade, anyway). So while I like to read medieval fantasy, I prefer to write 1800s-1900s style time periods in fantasy settings with magic and steam-powered contraptions. That gives me heaps of room to go crazy inventing cool tech. Plus it lets me play with magic systems and a little bit of sword fighting.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve researched in relation to your writing?

Oh goodness. Probably the weirdest was for a story I wrote when I was younger—back before I switched to writing clean fiction. I wrote a story about a taxidermist who accidentally killed an extremely irritating customer, and, well, hid the evidence in plain sight using his skills as a taxidermist. So yeah, I did a fair bit of research into taxidermy.

If you could travel anywhere in time and space, when and where would it be?

Definitely Jesus’ day so I could see and hear him teach for myself. Might need to learn a new language for that one though, unless they’ve got universal translators by the time they get the time machines up and running.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

Three places:

One, collaborating with Ancel Haegler, whose name you see on the cover of Sentinel Code. He and I came up with the world for The Dragon Striker Chronicles.

Two, when I’m slogging away at a story refusing to let “writers block” beat me—this is when I get my best ideas. Usually for a completely unrelated story…

Three, in the shower.

What’s your favourite historical resource?

Hmmm. Good question. Because I write in a secondary world, I generally only check history to see if certain technology styles were invented in the time period I’m working with. As far as culture goes, I base a lot of it off current times and deal with issues prevalent in the world today. I want to connect with pronlems my readers are currently face, not so much ones the world has faced in the past.

That being said, I do need to dig into some resources for historical battles, because the next book I’m writing has a huge battle. As every battle has already been fought, just with different weapons, I want to do some reading. If anyone has recommendations, please do leave a comment! I’d love to check them out.

Finally, I also have a bunch of stories I’d like to write based upon situations various people went through in the Bible. I think they’d make for some fascinating fantasy tales.

The best place in the world to write is…

As I’ve recently taken up dictation to save my poor wrists… right now I love wandering around outside. I live on a tropical island and my backyard is a jungle with ruins in it. It’s hot and humid and there are bugs, but it’s such a neat place to write.

When you’re not writing, what do you get up to?

Preachin’. As of writing this post, I’m the interim pastor at my church, so that takes up a large chunk of my week. Which is still a lot of writing, it’s just non-fiction instead of fantasy.

Other than that, I’m spending time with my wife, watching movies, and playing games and being a nerd with my friends.

What are you currently working on?

Hard at work on The Dragon Striker Chronicles Book Two, the sequel to Sentinel Code. I also have a couple of smaller projects in the works: a sci-fi short, and a swashbuckling steampunk fantasy novella I’m co-writing with my younger brother.

Published by Louise Merrington

Louise Merrington is a writer and editor specialising in plain English editing for government, businesses, professional associations and non-profits. She is also the author of several novels, under the name L.M. Merrington.

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