Author Interview: Jeannie van Rompaey, author of ASCENSION: The Oasis Series
- Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?
I was lucky enough to live in a house full of books. My mother read a lot and, with only two of us in the family, I took my cue from her. Being an only child meant that I was not distracted from reading and writing by siblings. My favourite subject at school was English – especially English literature and at Brackley High School for Girls, I had a literature teacher who inspired me. Her name was Miss Harris. Not only was she an excellent teacher, she seemed to take a particular interest in me. The writer, Sir Sacheverell Sitwell, lived in our village and he also encouraged me. What luck.
- How long have you been writing?
For as long as I can remember. As quite a young child I was rarely seen without a pen and notebook within reach.
- When and why did you begin writing?
I think being an only child gave me the time and space to write. I wrote because I wanted an outlet for my feelings. I was often lonely and felt out of place both at school and in the village where I lived. I loved words and so writing seemed the right medium to express myself.
- When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Although I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write, I don’t think I considered myself a writer until after I gave up my day job and decided to take my work more seriously with a view to publication. By then I was living on the subtropical island of Gran Canaria. So, since 2002.
- What inspired you to write your first book?
The first book I wrote on this island was called Four Hours from London about ex-pats on Gran Canaria. It was inspired by the island itself and the people I met here. I haven’t attempted to publish it because I don’t think it is good enough but I’m sure I will come back to the subject matter. My first readers also started to identify characters in the novel with people we knew. How dangerous was that? However much I protested that they were figments of my imagination, I finally came to believe that I could be in trouble if I put this story in the public domain.
- What cultural value do you see in writing/reading/storytelling/etc.?
I believe storytelling is an important element in the history of human culture. From drawings on the walls of caves, to the oral tradition of stories being passed on from generation to generation to the more sophisticated production of books and e-books, human beings have always relied on stories to make sense of their lives. Fiction makes us view our own lives from a different perspective. So yes, I see great cultural value in stories.
- How do you pick your character names?
I like to choose names appropriate to the period in which the book is set. I don’t like having characters whose names begin with the same letter. It confuses me when reading so I try to make it easy for my readers. The Oasis series is set in a future in which there are two worlds and two sets of characters. The mutant humanoids live on Earth in enclosed compounds after a plague has contaminated the Earth. I decided that they should have mythical names. The historian is cunning Odysseus and there is ambitious Heracles and whiz kid, Mercury. Others have names from Indian mythology such as the sister wives of Shiva: the warrior Durga, the Destroyer, Kali, the blue-black earth mother with her snakes; Jagadgauri, the yellow harvest goddess and Sati, the beautiful, faithful wife. The last name is ironic as Sati is, to say the least, promiscuous. I had great fun creating these names to fit (or not fit) the size and looks of the characters. The other set of characters, the completes, live on Oasis, a manmade satellite and have more traditional names, if a little elevated: Alexander Court, Orlando Wolfe.
- What was the hardest part of writing this book?
The hardest part, as always for me, was writing the end. I wanted tension but an upbeat, optimistic ending. The problem was how to get there.
- What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Inventing a different world with extraordinary characters, who were able to surprise me.
- What inspires you?
My dreams, my imagination and my view of our current world. In the case of Ascension I was inspired by one of my own paintings that hangs over my desk. A three-headed man. I like painting heads – not portraits of people because my drawing and painting is not good enough to produce likenesses – but imaginary heads. From looking up at this painting came three-headed Ra, the leader of my mutant humanoids. As my work is character led, rather than plot led, the seed of my story was planted.
- Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?
I have many favourite authors because I read in many genres but will restrict myself to Science Fiction/dystopia for the moment.
Margaret Atwood’s futuristic novels, The Handmaid’s Tale, and her trilogy that begins with Oryx and Crake. They all paint a dark view of the future based on mistakes Atwood sees being made in our contemporary society.
Kazuo Ishiguru’s frightening speculations in his dystopian novel, Never Let me Go also gives us a dark vision of a possible future.
I admire both these writers, not only for their ideas but for the quality of their writing. Has reading their books had an impact on my writing? I’m not sure. That’s for others to say. But I should be proud if that were the case.
- Who designed the covers?
Someone at Authoright. Was it Gareth, I wonder. He’s come up with a brilliant idea for linked covers for the first three books in the Oasis series. Severed wings. To understand the significance of the images you need to read the books. Here’s a clue. Clipped wings, restricted lives.
- What was the hardest part of writing your book?
I’ve already answered this one. See above.
- Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learnt so much from writing this book. I learnt more about the genre of utopian and dystopian fiction and how to look at the future by studying the problems that occur in our current social and political climate. I’m afraid I didn’t learn how to solve the problems; but I did learn that the human race is very resilient. I also learnt the importance of including humour in a novel.
- Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Yes. I love feedback. It helps me to write my next book. So when you’ve read Ascension and Evolution do let me know what you think – by writing a review on Amazon and on the Contact page on my website.
Oh and if you enjoyed it why not tweet your approval on Twitter or Facebook so that others can enjoy it too?
ASCENSION: The Oasis Series
By Jeannie van Rompaey
Publication Date: 12th April 2016
Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Meet the MUTANT HUMANOIDS. They may look a little different from us, but inside they’re much the same as you and me. Left on a diseased Earth, they live in windowless compounds, safe from the contaminated wilderness outside. Safe, yes, but their lives are restricted. When the mutant humanoids discover that some complete human beings, COMPLETES, have also survived and are living greatly improved lives on satellites, they determine to rectify this imbalance and claim their share of Earth’s heritage. Three-headed RA rules the humanoids with ruthless precision, but others are involved in a power struggle to depose him. Who will succeed in being the next CEO of Planet Earth? Sixteen -year-old MERCURY plans to start a new life on Oasis. Will it prove the Utopia he expects it to be?
ASCENSION, the first novel in Jeannie van Rompaey’s Oasis Series, explores with humour and compassion the way humans respond to change. The future worlds of Earth and Oasis mirror our contemporary society. The division between the haves and have-nots widens and the lust for power leads to corruption. But there are idealists determined to build a fairer, more egalitarian society.
Ascension is available for purchase from
Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Oasis-Ascension-Jeannie-van-Rompaey/dp/191078267X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1459416636&sr=1-1&keywords=Jeannie+van+Rompaey
About the author
Award-winning author, Jeannie van Rompaey, MA in Modern Literature, has enjoyed a varied career as lecturer, theatre-director, actress and performance poet. As Jeannie Russell, she is a senior member of the Guild of Drama Adjudicators and adjudicates at drama festivals in Britain and Europe. Originally from London, she has lived in various countries including America and Spain. She now resides in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, with her historian husband, Tony. She spends her time writing novels, short stories, plays and poems. When not writing she enjoys painting, and has had several art exhibitions on the island, and runs poetry and theatrical events at The British Club in Las Palmas. She has written eight novels including After (CreateSpace 2014) and Devil Face (Create Space 2013), as well as a number of short stories, two books of poetry –Straight Talk and On the Move- and a series of plays.
Website – http://jeannievanrompaey.com/
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