‘I think death is the ultimate form of freedom’

Which song do you want to play at your own goodbye anyway?

“Spread Your Wings by Queen.”

Why this particular number?

“This song has been very close to me from an early age. I think I was about seven years old when I hit it hard. I come from a reformed liberated environment, in which this kind of modern music was not really appreciated. One day I walked into my neighbor’s house and he put a pair of headphones on my head, “Here, listen up, I’m sure you’ll like this.” That was a Queen album, I loved it and whenever I could, I’ve been looking for more of Queen and other rock music.

For a long time I couldn’t pinpoint what it was about this song, why it touches me the most. I now know: it is the feeling of freedom. Freddie Mercury sings ‘spread your wings and pick yourself up when the going gets tough’. I feel that too. Ironically, this song came out in my birth year. I think death is the ultimate form of freedom, which is why this song fits me so well.”

And what does it say about your life?

“That freedom is the highest good. I grew up in Friesland and left there as a seventeen-year-old with the idea that there should be more to life. I had a steady job, prestige and responsibilities and I gave it all up to pursue my dream. Becoming a writer. With the little savings I had, I wrote my debut novel. Fortunately, there was a publisher who saw the potential. I can now publish my fourth novel and this is the book it has to go to do.

The way I write is all-encompassing. Full-time drives and that for a year. I’m not one of those people who can write for three hours and then have a job with a boss on the side. I need freedom. The rules and laws imposed in a job make me feel very unsafe. Now it remains to be seen whether I can really make a living as a writer.

My previous books did well and with some clever tricks I just made it. I had a very extensive record collection and occasionally sold some unique copies in order to keep writing. Of those 200 euros I could still pay for some groceries. Well with the deal that if my work takes off later, I can buy that LP back from them.”

Where do you prefer to listen to music?

“At my desk. When I’m writing, I also use music to get into the right flow to come. If I write a scene in a certain zeitgeist, I adjust the music accordingly. For example, my last book is set in a juvenile psychiatric clinic in the 1990s, so I listened to a lot while writing Gaia from Valencia. A cracker of a hit from that time and completely fitting for the melancholy atmosphere in the story. Music is very important to me. Not only for my death but also for my life.”

How many lists do you have on Spotify?

“About fifteen anyway. Those are lists of classical music, especially Chopin, but also very hard metal. Also great when you’re in a traffic jam and someone in front of you isn’t paying attention. Sometimes I’ll drive next to it just for fun, then, with my window down and Machine Head blaring out of the speakers, so they know who they’re dealing with. Or when I have a deadline to meet, that works so well. I also choose a certain music for each character in my book to bring that person to life. The choice for melancholic music, or classical, therefore has an effect and even determines my choice of words at that moment.”

What is your guilty pleasure?

“Hey, I don’t have that at all. Is that boring? No, right? I just come out pontifically for everything I like.”


What song should be played at your funeral? And what does that say about your life? If you would like to participate in this section, please email your story to hanneke.mijnster@rtl.nl

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