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Beyond the Books Interviews Jean Koning, Author of Visions on America

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Visions on AmericaAs most of us were popping pimples pimples and starting puberty, the versatile Jean Koning (or perhaps better known as his musical alter-ego ‘!JP’) was launching project after project to avant garde aficionados.

At the age we were struggling to get our drivers license he was a resident at clubs. While the rest of us were chasing girls, laboring to get through school, or trying to sneak into clubs Jean was already inside of them, busy becoming one of the most original artists in the world. Seems impressive, but I guess when you’re studying masters of the trade like Andy Warhol and Arthur Rimbaud while the rest of the kids are studying math and science those kind of things aren’t too big of a deal.

From these not so humble beginnings Jean has carved himself a spot in the world of Underground Music that stretches from the Dutch Landscpaes to South East Asia. He has taken steps into music, spoken word, photography, poetry, theatre and film, working with a wide variety of amazing artists while showing off his own formidable talents as well.

With the help of his personal side-kick, the multi-instrumentalist Van Weely, he created almost legendary performances; his own conceptual punk-n-roll shows. Jean has made a name for himself that should be on the lips of art lovers the world over.

Now he is a published author as well. His latest novel was published in 2008 (in Dutch only). His novel “Visions”, which contains stories and columns written in 2006, is now reissued.

He is married and has a daughter.

For more information about this author and his work visit: http://www.1jp.org/.

Welcome to Beyond the Books, Jean. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

This is not my first publication. It is my first English publication however.

What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?

My very first book was entitled “Stuyvesant Unlimited”. It was never published – which is truly a shame. It dealt about the period when I went to New York for the very first time and I had the naïve idea that I – as a classy European child star – could change the look of the city forever. Like Peter Stuyvesant did long, long ago. It was a naïve book, I admit it. But I was so proud of it. It was rejected on many grounds. Experimental writing. Pornographic content. Openly admitting drug abuse. Advertising for alcoholism, you name it. They just saw a lousy written book, not a diary of an adventurer.

For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?

My first published book was a collection of poems, which I didn’t even want to publish, but my agent saw an opportunity. An open window. And tricked me into doing that one. But the second one, I had to face I think about twenty rejections before it came out eventually.

How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?

I was crushed by the first five rejections. Then I got used to them, in a way. I don’t think you ever get used to that feeling, but you tend to develop certain numbness about the whole deal. I suffered so many rejections over the years. As an actor while auditioning was the lowest blow. I just stood there on the stage, and they turned me down. I had not spoken one word. It was humiliating. It’s a shame that publishers take so long to write a three-lined rejection note. Worst one was three months until I received the rejection. It took him that long to read a hundred pages, and then have his secretary write something like: “You know… NO!” The worst rejection however I ever suffered was when people told me to get myself more sex and more cocaine and then start writing again. They wanted to turn me into an addicted author or something. At least they could sell that! Every single rejection I celebrate with a glass of vodka, straight from the fridge.

When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?

That first one was published by Athenaeum Poems. I didn’t choose them, they chose me. And it was the worst trip through publish-land ever.

How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

I was exhilarated, I admit that one. But the choice of the work wasn’t mine, so I felt like I was a visitor in my own life. I was also very young then, perhaps they maneuvered me into this scene. I never enjoyed the semi-intelligent scene of the authors. I celebrated with champagne. But it left a bad taste in my mouth and it took me about twelve years to come up with something written for publication. And then I got rejected. And rejected. And so on.

What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

Nothing I made up myself. They came up with the route to travel. They arranged the interviews and the reading-out-loud-sections and the photo shoots. I even was obliged to attend parties so people could see me and talk to me. As if I am that interesting! (LOL)

If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?

Yes. And I think, if I had to do it all over again, I never would have been published in the first place.

Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?

I have been published since then and now I am in the position that I can keep everything in control. Every detail, every name, every story. I am in charge. And I publish whatever I feel like publishing. And if I don’t want to publish the next couple of decades, that’s all well too. As an author I more and more gain possession of a unique voice. And that’s the most important growth of an author.

Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?

I don’t know how to speed things up. I think in Holland the system is still very ancient. But a change is coming. You can feel that. But I do know that I will never ever pretend to be an untouchable figure in the hierarchy. I am as weak as the next one and when you sell three copies less than the estimated amount of books, you’re fired. It’s a harsh world. A difficult world. Because everybody has a story. And sometimes their stories are even more dramatic or funnier than your story and who gets published then?

What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?

My latest novel. It’s published in Dutch only, but I want it translated. So that’s just a matter of time. But it is a story that was suggested to me by my psychiatrist. At least the way it was written. During my breakdown I had a lot of free time, because I couldn’t act. So I decided to tell the tragic story about my sister – which caused my breakdown – and how she tragically lost her husband. Sort of. Because it is also a relieve about how you discover you’re in the middle of a nervous breakdown and you don’t even know it.

If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?

I want to be a housewife.

Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?

Ever since I started my career when I was six years old I have combined every single world I wanted to live in. I am the actor, the published author, the singer-songwriter, the loving husband and father, the former model, the professional party-goer. I think it’s unnatural for me to separate stuff. I need to combine everything, that’s my fuel.

How do you see yourself in ten years?

Me, running the streets of where-ever, trying to escape the botox-injection…

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