Thanks to Jan Smolders for agreeing to do this interview on his book Tennessee Tremors. I lived in Tennessee for many years and I have visited Dyersburg! The landscape came back to mind as I read this captivating mystery! Lynn
1. The Tennessee Tremors title seems to be doubly symbolic. Why did you choose that title?
Earthquakes, mostly small ones, are a regular occurrence in NW Tennessee (as you know.) Of course a big one may happen (such as the one that crated Reelfoot Lake) and that possibility was an important scientific factor I had to take into account when I led the construction of a very big plant in Dyersburg in 1987. So, earthquakes were always on my mind, as a threat to our huge investment.
Personally, having lived and worked in Japan from 1970 to 1974 –to start up … a plant! … I was used to feeling a 4 or 5 on the Richter scale every two weeks or so.
As you hint in your question, I used the tremors as symbols for events and feelings. I believe you feel the effect of events and emotional experiences, such as love, as much as a … tremor!
2. Do you believe that people need love in their lives to cope with difficult circumstances?
Yes. If love is there, one can accomplish almost everything, because motivation and sources of support are always there. No love, no life. I mean love in the broad sense: family, friends, nature, the … universe! If we love all we will make the right decisions and feel accompanied by our support network to implement them.
3. Are you a reader of Shakespeare? I see that you uniquely listed your characters and also had them thinking aside to share their inner thoughts which were two of his techniques.
I am not much of a Shakespeare reader, having grown up speaking Flemish (Dutch,) and for the last 15 years I have spent all my reading time on the South American literature: Garcia Marquez, Allende, Vargas Llosa, etc. I worked in Spanish for much of these years.
I listed characters to help the reader with the “multitude” of players in the book.
My use of the “thinking aside” is a personal preference. I believe it moves the story faster and more smoothly. It’s a more lively way to express thoughts.
4. You keep the reader hanging on the last page to see if Troy is okay. How were you able to keep us guessing?
Well … I just kept reminding myself that keeping the reader guessing was my mission! I dropped a few hints about the real facts and quickly kind of minimized their importance. And I tried to raise grave suspicions about bad actors.
I was actually happily surprised that for so many the denouement came as a real surprise.
5. Do you write in longhand or on a computer?
Computer. For the last 20 years I have lived with computer and BlackBerry, in areas as far away as Papua New Guinea or the high mountains of the Chilean Andes-mining country- my job for a while.
6. What did you want readers to basically get from this story from Dyersburg, Tennessee?
The reason I wrote Tennessee Tremors is my concern for the environment. In my corporate life, as a chemical engineer and manager, I have worked with poisonous cyanides, dangerous acids, ammonia, lead, excessive noise etc. I know how laws (if any) have been circumvented and how some industrial companies have made life miserable for citizens. I’ve seen it firsthand.
The danger usually shows up in food, water, air. Sometimes it remains hidden, for a long time, in the soil. And from there it enters the food chain. I wanted, in my small way, to make people aware of those facts, and of the lack of concern that still permeates much of the industrial world. ‘Profits first’- rules the world.
I write thrillers because I want to deliver messages without preaching. I’ve tried to do that in all my thrillers and make readers conscious of situations many in the regular world have no idea about. I want to make them aware, my way.