1) Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a writer.
Well, I’m 23 years old, and I live in Belgium. I study law at university. When I’m not writing, I’m usually reading, studying, hanging out with my friends or playing video games.
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. From the time I could read, I wanted to write. My first stories were short, and a little ridiculous, but I didn’t give up. When I was in my teens, I stopped writing for a while, because I felt like my work could never get published here in Belgium. It was before the Twilight craze, and what I wrote was mostly YA paranormal romance. But then the general public began to like paranormal romance, with TV series like The Vampire Diaries, the Twilight franchise, and lots of bestsellers in the YA genre. I felt inspired again to write, and well, here we are.
2) Tell us a little bit about your latest release.
On December 9, three of my books released. The first, “Valentina and the Whackadoodle Witch” is a children’s picture book. It’s the sequel to “Valentina and the Haunted Mansion”, which released earlier this year. It’s a story about a little vampire girl, Valentina, who lives in a gigantic mansion where she finds all sorts of monsters tumbling through – well, in this case, the chimney.
The two other releases are “House of Horrors” and “Fright Train”, two books in the Weirdville series. This is a series of lower grade chapter books set in the fictional town of Weirdville, where all kinds of strange things happen. For instance, in “House of Horrors”, Jacky and her friends visit a haunted mansion at a fair, and it’s nothing like they expected at all. In “Fright Train”, Charlie boards a train, but he’s not sure if he’ll ever reach his destination.
3) Tell us a bit about your writing process. What kind of schedule do you keep, and do you have anything special you do to get into the writing zone?
I try to write 2,000 words a day. Usually, I fail. But once I keep it up for a few days in a row, it becomes easier. I hope that by 2014, I can keep up the momentum and write consistently 2k each day. Fingers crossed.
I started by writing an outline. It’s not very detailed, just a quick idea of what I want to happen in each chapter. This helps me spot glaring errors in timing – for instance, a character can’t know something yet because it’s only revealed in a later chapter.
Then I write a first draft. I’m usually quite fast at drafting. For some of my books, I reached as much as 10k a day! I tend to finish the first draft in one to two months, if it’s a YA novel, since those are longer. Chapter books I tend to finish in about a week.
Next comes the dreaded editing process. Oh my god, do I hate editing! But it’s something we have to bite through as authors. I put the manuscript aside for a while before I start editing. I tend to do one chapter at a time. My YA novels are usually 20+ chapters, so it tends to take about a month to edit one. My chapter books are way shorter, and sometimes I even edit them in a day or three.
Then I wait a while longer, and read through the manuscript again to spot spelling, grammar or consistency errors, or to change anything that needs changing.
4) What’s the first book you remember reading?
The first book I ever read was a picture book called “My Kitty”. It was sweet and cute.
5) What’s one of the most helpful bits of advice you’ve come across/received since you started writing?
Write every day. I’m sure not everyone will agree, but this works for me. If I consistently aim for 2k, I can keep writing much longer than when I write 10k a day, then nothing for a week. If I overdo it, it feels like I lose creativity.
Then there’s also ‘never give up’, and don’t feel down because of a rejection. There’s not a single author out there who hasn’t had a rejection at least once. If you feel like you’ve got so many rejections for a manuscript, revise it and think about what might cause it to be rejected. If an editor gives you advice, take it. You don’t always have to follow it, but keep it in mind, and don’t just ignore it.
6) What character would you most like to meet in real life?
That’s a tough question. I’d like to meet Alison, one of the main characters in my YA paranormal mystery novel, “Fractured”. People who’ve read the book will probably wonder why. I think Alison is cool because she has so many layers. Her personality isn’t very straightforward, and that makes her intriguing.
I’d also really like to meet Riley, the main character of a book I’m currently working out. She’s awesome, the kind of person I’d like to have as a friend.
7) Name one book you wish you’d written and why.
Well, Harry Potter, duh. 😛 And not just for the money I would’ve made, but because it’s an awesome series, with kick-ass characters and the best world building ever.
8) How do you promote your work?
Promotion is tough. I tweet, I’m on Facebook, and I constantly encourage people to stalk me (in a friendly way, please). I blog too – you can find my blog on http://majankaverstraete.com Then there’s also the occasional giveaway, and threatening to burn people at the stake if they don’t review my book…you know, the usual.
9) What else have you got planned for your readers?
There will be one more book in the “Valentina’s Spooky Adventures” series, “Valentina and the Masked Mummy”, which will release in March 2014.
There are three more books planned next year in the Weirdville series. The first, “Drowning in Fear” will release in July 2014, if all goes as planned. In May, an omnibus edition of the first three Weirdville books will launch – and it’ll be hardcover format. Awesome, right?
I have a few more almost-finished works in progress that I hope to release in 2014 as well. I’d really like to get another YA novel out there.
Then there’s also a secret project I’m working on that hopefully will see the light of day by February. But I can’t really say more about that yet!
10) What is one thing about you people might be surprised to learn?
I’m actually terrified of ghosts. That might come as a surprise since most of my books involve ghosts. But if I could choose between a ghost or a serial killer walking around on my attic, I’d pick the serial killer. When I watch a horror movie, nothing scares me. Demons? Blah. Serial killers? Ugh. But ghosts? Holy hell, get me out of here!
I probably like terrifying myself because I’m addicted to reading true haunting novels (in which people describe their true encounters with the paranormal), I love reading ghost stories and I can’t stop writing about ghosts.
Majanka Verstraete begged her Mom to teach her how to read while she was still in kindergarten. By the time she finished fifth grade, she had read through the entire children’s section of her hometown library.
She wrote her first story when she was seven years old, and hasn’t stopped writing since. With an imagination that never sleeps, and hundreds of possible book characters screaming for her attention, writing is more than a passion for her.
She writes about all things supernatural for children of all ages. She’s tried to write contemporary novels before, but something paranormal always manages to crawl in.
Majanka is currently studying for her Master of Laws degree, and hopes one day to be able to combine her passions for law and writing. When she’s not writing, reading or studying, she likes watching “The Vampire Diaries” and “Game of Thrones,” spending time with her friends, or playing “World of Warcraft.”
About House of Horrors
This chapter book, the second in the Weirdville series, is ideal for kids as young as 6 and as old as 11, depending on reading level and parental involvement.
When her parents allow her to go to the fair, Jacky is over the moon. The fair is most famous for its haunted mansion, the House of Horrors, and her friend Ben can’t wait to try it out. Her best friend, Cass, is a little more reluctant, but then again, Cass has always been a chicken when it comes to getting scared.
Jacky and Cass are determined to act tough, so when Ben suggests they try out the House of Horrors, the girls tag along, even though the place gives them the chills.
As soon as the three of them enter the spooky monstrosity, the ride comes to a screeching halt, and the horror begins.
The lights fade, and a hooded figure appears and tells them they’re stuck in a twisted game of cat and mouse. He will show them their worst fears, and if the kids manage to face down those fears, they’ll have a chance of getting out of the House of Horrors alive. If they don’t, well….
Thirty minutes to go. Thirty minutes to face their nightmares… and the clock is ticking.