Interview: James van Loon
James van Loon, besides being a novelist, is a university
psychology instructor, chartered psychologist, and
international consultant. His artistic and scientific journey is
one of many divergent paths, spanning a brief career as a
radio disc jockey in his native USA, an introspective
experience as a monk in the Marist order, and academic
studies of literature and psychology in several European
and North American universities. His peregrinations have
taken him to the cobbled streets of old European towns
speckled with cafés and compelling characters, where he
nurtured his passion for research and writing. He has
lectured at universities in Italy, Spain, Germany, England,
Sweden, and the U.S.A. where he has also taught creative
writing at the Writers Garret.
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When did you first realize you
wanted to be an Author?
As a young man and monk in a monastery I realized
that I wanted to be an author. What would you say is your
interesting quirk that only happens when you are writing?
My characters develop personalities and seem almost like
real individuals that I can interact with, however, not in a
What was one of the most
surprising things you learned in
writing your books?
My characters get so involved with each other. My writing is
character based and I do not have a plot or outline, but my
characters develop the narrative. When I started writing my
latest novel, Blue Magic Woman, I had no idea the novel
would be a murder mystery until one of my characters killed
Where did you get ideas for your
I find traveling very stimulating and different places and
cultures around the world have given me many of my ideas.
New people and new experiences have been very enriching.
Out of all the books you have written which is your favorite and
My latest novel, Blue Magic Woman, is my favorite because it
is my best-written novel. I find the more I write the better
author I become. T his is my third novel and I felt it took time
to get distance from myself, as in my first novel the
protagonist was too much like me and that makes a boring
novel I found.
Who is your target audience?
My latest novel has a narrative for all readers except
children of course. It has several different levels and can
appeal to many different kinds of readers.
What do you think makes a good
Strong characters that are authentic and realistic.
Suspense. In my latest novel, I put my protagonist in a
mental asylum and I wanted to see if he could get himself
out. I want to be surprised as much as a reader wants to be
Who are some of your favorite
William Gass, Styron, Barthelme, Updike, Nabakov, Hesse,
Dermot Bolger, Tom McCarthy, Umberto Eco, John Irving,
Salenger, Paulo Coelho, Gabriel García Márquez, Khaled
Hosseini, Edgar Allan Poe, William Shakespeare, John
Steinbeck, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Bill Bryson.
If you could pick one actor to
play a character in your book in
the movie version, who would it
Who are some of the people that
influenced your love of writing?
My mother, the writers Paola Bortolotti, Tensi Euren, and
Magnus Sjostedt, my brother Dan, and the students in my
creative writing classes.
What kind of TV shows do you
like and do you find that as a
Suspense/Mystery Writer that
you gravitate toward the shows
such as Law and Order or Perry
Yes, Law and Order and Perry Mason, but especially
Inspector Morse the British detective drama television
series based on a series of novels by Colin Dexter.
If you had one piece of advice for
an aspiring Author what would it
Read many novels especially the classics and make writing
an important part of each day. To carry always a notebook
and pen and write down all your interesting thoughts and
even fragments of dreams as you awake.
What would you like to say to
friends and family of Authors (not
just your own)?
Encourage their dreams to be a writer, but also encourage
them to have a parallel career, as it is difficult to be a
successful writer. It is also a good idea to have a career
that relates in some way to one’s writing and not choose a
career that takes all one’s energy away from writing. I
personally chose psychology, as it gives me material for my
writing as well as is a career as a university lecturer and
clinical psychologist that gives me time for my writing.
Is there anything else you want
to share with your readers?
I feel it is a wonderful experience for both writers and
readers to belong to a book club where one can discuss
narratives and develop one’s interpreting skills, which are
so important for all of us.
An Excerpt from:
BLUE MAGIC WOMAN
UPPSALA – ART IC ASYLUM
Spotted in the headlights is a young man sitting in the snow
between the track rails. With the squeal of steel, he braces
himself for the impact of the train blasting towards him. Two
muscular policemen yank him quickly off the tracks, then
stumble in the whirling vortex of blinding snow as the bullet
train speeds by them. After a fierce struggle, the young man
is overpowered and placed in a patrol car.
T he patrol car comes to an abrupt stop, like the young
man’s heart, at the asylum’s foreboding front doors. He
stares at the ferns of ice etched onto the police car window
and feels caught in a spider-web, but as the sleet gnaws
into the frost, the grey buildings of the arctic asylum are
suddenly revealed. He jerks back, pulls up his long legs and
heavy boots onto the back seat, and shrinks into himself like
a disturbed spider.