I am in my home in the woods, enjoying the sound of the rain on the roof and counting the days until the release of Echo. Eleven more to go. The past few weeks, many things Echo have been put into motion, like a heavy pack of snow suddenly gliding down a mountain slope. Soon, it will be a roaring avalanche.
I spoke to about 120 book sellers to tell them why they should be excited about the book. I gave about a dozen of interviews in the Ambassade Hotel in Amsterdam, and went to the mountains of Switzerland to give others. Then more at home. It was very refreshing after six years to not speak about HEX.
You’ve been asking me a ton of questions about the new book. This blog is dedicated to these questions. It will give you a nice behind-the-scenes glimpse, without giving away any spoilers (promise).
So here we go.
Q: I heard Echo is going to be a big book. How big is it, actually?
A: 624 pages, to be exact. The initial manuscript counted 205.000 words. I brought it down to 177.000 words, but that’s still a lot of words.
Q: This is the Dutch edition you’re talking about, right? When will it be out in [fill in your home country]?
A: Correct. On May 7, the Dutch language edition will be out in The Netherlands and Belgium. This is the question I’ve been asked the most, over the past weeks. Here’s the answer: If you’re living in a country where HEX was pubished, you can count on a release of Echo. Recently, I got a visit from my agent, all the way from Vancouver, Canada. Her name is Sally Harding, and on the picture below you can see how charmy she is. What you can’t see is that she also has a beautiful New Zealand accent, as she’s originally a Kiwi. Sally told me that the success of HEX in each country has triggered major global interest in Echo. So… I have you to thank for that! You buying and reading HEX ensures you being able to read all my new novels. That said, you’ll have to be a little patient. Since Echo is such a big book, translation will take some time. As soon as I have dates and details, I’ll post them here of course.
Q: So… is Echo really as scary as people are saying?
Echo is a scary book. It is also a love story. And it features cheese fondue.
Okay, I’ll be honest. The opening scene, from what I’ve heard so far, is genuinely perceived as creepy. The first person who read the prologue called me up and said: “Man, that was more frightening than all of HEX…” Then, my publisher did the exact same thing. Then, one of the journalists who interviewed me admitted that she didn’t dare to read on after the initial pages. (She did admit that she is a fan of romances. I told her that there’s a beautiful romance at the heart of Echo, and convinced her to try and read on. Mwuhaha.)
After the opening, you can breath for a while. But I’ve tried to write the book constantly with the pedal to the metal. I’ve tried to make it as frightening and suspensefull as I can. Frankly, I also think it’s a funny novel. And touching. I, for once, fell in love with my characters, and I hope you will too.
Q: What’s Echo about?
This is what you can read on the back of the book:
Nick Grevers and his climbing buddy Augustin are drawn to the Maudit, a remote mountain peak in the Swiss Alps. Documentation on the mountain is scarce, its slopes are eerily quiet and when they enter its valley, they get the ominous sense that they are not alone. Something is waiting for them…
Not long after, Augustin is dead and Nick wakes up from a coma. His face maimed and wrapped in bandages, a long rehabilitation awaits him, but soon Nick realizes it isn’t just the trauma of the accident that haunts him. Something has awakened inside of him…
There’s a mysterious mountain at the core of Echo. But there is more. Mountaineer Nick isn’t our main hero, although he narrates part of the story. Our main hero and narrator is Sam Avery, a New York student living in Amsterdam, who’s very much the opposite of a mountaineer. Due to an incident from his past, he fears the high lands and the powers and mysteries of nature. Sam likes blacklight rooftop bars and fancy cocktails, not rainy mountain cabins.
It also features Cécile Metrailler, a Swiss nurse, who is the first to experience something is horribly wrong with her patient, and who needs to unravel a frightening mystery before it’s too late. And it features Julia Avery, who fears her brother Sam is haunted by more than his childhood alone, and who needs to go beyond reasonable limits to try and keep him safe. Echo is about how love can turn into obsession, how we can fear the people we love, and about how the forces of nature can sometimes overwhelm us… and possess us.
It features creepy birds in cages. It features vertigo-enducing action. It features a remote, mysterious mountain town. And it features cheese fondue. Did I mention that before? It features cheese fondue.
Q: So why mountains?
A: I am a mountaineer. I’ve been drawn to the mountains all my life. This is me climbing a mountain called Zinalrothorn in Switzerland:
Mountains are mysterious entities. As human beings, facing something as enormous as a mountain, we experience their unparallelled magnitude and lifespan over the course of millions of years, and compare it to our own, feeling infinitely small. This experience leaves us awe-struck time and time again. It’s almost as if a mountain possesses a soul, as if there is life in its rock and ice, and each and every mountain has a different soul. Some are welcoming. Some are hostile.
I am not religious nor (very) superstitious, but I have experienced the life in mountains. Many climbers have. So have monks and prophets and seeers all throughout history. They interpreted their experiences as messages from the Gods, and so entire religions originated in the foothills of mountains. Now, a novel.
You know – as a mountaineer and an author of the kind of books I write, you get to know all the freaky stories. Did you know that people who fall into glacial crevasses often don’t fall or freeze to their deaths? Instead, they get stuck between narrowing walls of ice. Their body heat makes them melt slowly but surely deeper and deeper into the ice, causing them to get more stuck by the minute. In the end, they suffocate. Pressed to death by walls of ice – just imagine.
Or this one: did you know that when people fall to their deaths high up in the Alps, rescue teams often find them with their eyes missing? That’s because the birds find them first. The birds like the soft parts. Legend has it that they do this to set free the soul of the fallen person. The soul transports into the bird, who carries it away. The mountain folks believe that sometimes, you can still hear their dying screams echoing from the valleys…
Of course, this stuff is too good not to write about it.
Q: I have vertigo. Will this be a book for me?
A: Yes, it will.
Q: Why did it take so long for you to write it?
A: I am usually a pretty fast writer. I wrote HEX in five months. But I wasn’t prepared for its success. Practically I spent lots of time rewriting it, I edited the translation, I promoted it to the best of my ability in all the countries it appeared and went on several book tours on four continents. But it had another effect, one I had not seen coming. HEX got rave reviews. From De Volkskrant. From The Guardian. From The Wall Street Journal. From Stephen King and George R.R. Martin. Pretty awesome, until you suddenly realize things got serious. I wasn’t writing for a relatively small audience in Holland anymore. Readers and publishers from thirty countries kept asking me – when’s the next book coming? I had a hard time dealing with the pressure.
I am the kind of mountaineer who takes home the summit of the mountains I climb as keepsakes. The highest piece of rock on the summit, or its highest handful of snow, which melts into water I pour in a glass bottle with a label on it. But as soon I’m down in the valley, the rock or the water lose their magic. Another peak is waiting in the distance, more spectacular or difficult than the one I just climbed.
This is how I lead my life. I always want my next challenge to be bigger. That’s why topping HEX seemed impossible for a while. And that’s why I froze. I started working on Echo, then another book, then back to Echo, but insecurity took over and stopped me in my tracks. What helped was advice from authors who are way further in their carreers than I am. People like Herman Koch, George R.R. Martin and Esther Verhoef. They thaught me that the only way out, is to write the best book I have in me… and have fun while I’m at it.
So that’s what I did. And I had fun.
Q: Are you going to rewrite the whole damn thing again, like you did with HEX?
A: No. You can read why I rewrote HEX here. Echo is an international story. It sets partly in Amsterdam, partly in New York and the Catskills, and for a good deal in Switzerland. Also, the two main narrators are Dutch and American. I am not going to change any of that.
Q: How do I get a signed and personally dedicated copy?
You can order it right here, and we’ll send it your way! We also have my older books, and signed international editions of HEX.
Q: Will you visit my city for a signing?
Probably! In May and June, I’ll visit many bookstores all over the country. We’ll announce dates soon. But what you don’t want to miss is the Echo launch in Amsterdam, on Friday night May 10. Only two weeks from today! It will be a very special night, and it would mean so much for me to see you all there. You can make a free reservation here, but be quick – space is limited!
So here you go. Lots of information about the new book. Let me know what you think in the comments, and let me know if you have any other Echo questions! I’ll try and answer as many as I can.