Wow. Just wow.
It’s hard to find words to describe the emotions I felt during the Echo launch in Amsterdam, last Friday. ‘Joy’ doesn’t capture it. ‘Gratitude’ is part of it. ‘Love’ captures it best. Love for my friends and family and for the many readers and writers who came to share this special moment with me. Love for the people who put the show together with so many late hours of hard, hard work, and love for the people who hosted us. Love for stories, love for storytelling and love for the book itself. It was an evening of love, and I’m eternally grateful for it.
I’ve woken up after a few days catching up sleep. I needed it. Last Friday was the culmination of a full-time work stretch since early August of 2018, with the pedal constantly to the metal and no serious chance of a break. I still have a chronical shortage of sleep, but I’ll catch up eventually.
Today I want to show you what it was like.
I arrived in Amsterdam hours before the show to rehearse the Opening Act. The act started with a 3 minute film called HEXIT, in which we said goodbye to Katherine van Wyler, the witch from HEX. This was a comical clip that we recorded the week before. It tells the story of Katherine coming home after a long day of luxury shopping (yeah, she’s kinda well-off, now), and entering her pension. I’ll post it some time on social media, but here you can see some stills:
Exit HEX, Enter Echo. The second part of the Opening Act was theatrical… and a lot darker. Our venue had an amazing number of nine video screens surrounding the three hundred guests and on it, we created a mounting snow storm with building sound effects. A doctor had to roll in a real-life hospital bed on stage, where our possessed, comatose patient had to wake up to the roaring sound of thunder and falling rocks from the mountains, after a horrible mountaineering accident. He had to have his face wrapped in bandages, which had to start bleeding from a hidden wound. At the climax, he had to shoot up, eyes bulging, bleeding heavily. Then I’d come up to read from the book.
This needed to be rehearsed, of course. Rehearsals involved a lot of fake blood, a plastic tube, and bandages. I kinda invented the system of facial bleeding myself – and it worked!
I was backstage when the venue filled up. At some point, a half hour before the show, I was alone. It was quiet, deep inside the building. I wasn’t nervous – somehow, I don’t get nervous for performing. I do get nervous if people will show up. When I was in the auditorium just twenty minutes earlier, it had been empty. It was a strange experience to check out social media and see it had suddenly filled up. Big relief. Then, I was just really thrilled to go in. So I did.
It went by in a heartbeat. It was wonderful to see so many familiar faces. It was wonderful to read from Echo for the first time. I gave a speech. Then, others gave speeches. There was legendary Dutch film maker Dick Maas (Amsterdamned, The Lift), who’s a big fan of horror and anything that rocks, and who happens to be incredibly funny. Then there was author and journalist Joyce Roodnat, who is magnificent in every way. She interviewed me about the struggles of writing after HEX, about my love for the mountains, about love and about Echo. I loved her thoughtful, in-depth questions. We hadn’t rehearsed the interview to keep it fresh, and fresh it was.
Tom Harmsen, my publisher at LS Amsterdam, took the stage and presented me with the best gift of the evening (and probably the year): a hand-made, one-of-a-kind, bound hardcover edition of Echo, designed as one of the classic gothic novels the book is inspired on. Just look at the picture. It’s spectacular. Now, a few days later, I’m still drooling over it. Ideas for a special, limited edition anyone?
Then it was time for thank yous. Maybe you’re one of those readers who skips the afterword and the acknowledgements of a book, and that’s fine. To me, it was the highlight of the evening to be able to publicly express my gratitude to the people without whom this book wouldn’t have seen the light of day. My muses. My agent. My editor. The people I love.
I dedicated Echo to Pieter and to David. Pieter was my climbing buddy and dear friend, who suddenly passed away in 2017 at the age of 36. The last time we climbed together, I read him the first 100 pages of Echo. High up in the mountains, where we always used to tell each other our stories. Pieter was there, last Friday. He was present in our shared love for the mountains, in the memories of our friendship and in the emotions of Elseline, his fiancée and mother of his two children, to whom I presented the first copy. It was emotional, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Then there was David, who always stood by me. I closed the night with David. I wouldn’t have wanted that any other way.
Thank you all for making this such a memorable night for me. It was a privilege to present Echo to so many people. It was a joy to meet so many readers in the lobby and the bar afterwards, although it was way too short and way too crowded to give you all the attention you deserve. When I finally hit the pillows at 3am, I was fulfilled. And really, really tired.
So, Echo is born. It’s alive. It’s all over bookstores. It’s all over train stations. It’s all over the internet and all over social media. The start of another journey, that’s bound to last for a long time and rise to new elevations.
Enjoy reading the book. Buy it in yout local bookstore, or order it here in my own bookstore, signed and personally dedicated. And, let the world know what you think.