Petra van der Ploeg (1978) describes herself as a writer, a dreamer, and a hopeless romantic. She lives with her family of three cats (Minoes, Jip, and Flynn) in the Netherlands.
As a writer, she incorporates her love of fantastical elements into her stories. Her main character is always someone whom she relates to tremendously, making her story both very personal and appealing.
Aside from writing and being a proud cat mom, Petra loves reading and reviewing books and learning about (self) growth. She’s all about empowerment, taking responsibility, and creating the best life you want for yourself.
To help other aspiring writers, Petra runs her own (Dutch) website where she offers free advice on how to write a Fantastic Story. She’s also an avid supporter of the Indie community and part of her author’s website is dedicated to giving a platform to Indie Authors and their books. Petra is a firm believer that authors are not her competition; she stands with them, not against them.
Author interview – Petra van der Ploeg
Hi Petra! I’m so glad we’re finally sitting down to do this! Please tell us: When did you start writing, and why?
I was thirteen when I started pencilling down my first story. Before that, I used to love telling stories to my sister just after we’d supposedly gone to sleep. I remember going back as far as being eight years old.
At what age did you take yourself seriously as a writer?
That happened back in 2016 when I was thirty-eight years old. Back then, I attended a seminar about living my best life and getting paid to do what I love – and I couldn’t avoid it any longer: I wanted my stories out there!
Do you prefer the term ‘writer’ or ‘author’, and why?
I see myself as both a writer and an author. Writer has been part of my identity since I was thirteen, and author since I started taking my writing seriously. Until I published my first book, I was an aspiring author.
How long did it take you to write your first book?
The first book I ever wrote took a couple of weeks really. But if you’re asking about the first book I published, it took me about three months to write the first draft. After that came rewriting and editing. The full process from start to finish took me a year.
What was your last book about?
Since 2016, I’ve written and published four books of a series called The Somnia Series. The series follows our protagonist, Sophia, as she travels across parallel realms on a quest to discover her strengths, conquer her trauma, and find the place where she truly belongs.
What are you working on right now?
Right now, I’m in the final stages of writing and publishing the fifth and final book of The Somnia Series, which will be published this month!
That’s so exciting! Congratulations! Five books in five years, that’s quite an achievement 😊 It makes me wonder: What is your writing process like? Do you plot or do you just dive in? How many drafts do you go through before the work is final?
I plot. A lot. Especially with a series, you need to know what comes in which books for it to make sense. I’ve discovered that the hard way when I decided to rewrite chunks of the book back in 2016. Before I made the decision to publish, I’d already written the first drafts of the first four books. So, it’s been a LOT of rewriting ever since.
What do you struggle with most as a writer?
Finding the time to sit down and write. Funnily enough, I work excellently with deadlines. As soon as I know someone’s expecting something from me, I’ll make time to write and I’ll get it done.
Have you always had that struggle or has it changed over time?
No, I think this struggle actually started once I decided to publish. I think it’s partially because there’s this internal fear of not wanting my stories to be criticised, yet when you publish your book, it’s going to be read and criticised.
What advice would you give to writers dealing with the same?
Don’t listen to that inner voice trying to stop you. There are people out there who will love your stories. Write them for those people. And for yourself. Because you know you want that story written down. You want that book in your hands. Don’t let anything stop you in achieving that goal.
Have you ever had writer’s block? If yes, how did you overcome it?
I’ve had a few years where I didn’t write anything. It wasn’t as much a writer’s block but more the idea of that it was a hobby that didn’t lead to anything. It was a weird time for me. Because part of me wanted to write so badly, but there was this idea in my head that it was ‘a waste of time’. How I overcame it was really because I did this seminar back in 2016 and decided writing was part of my Best Life. So, I had to pick it back up. And I never let go again.
What do you do to stay inspired?
I make vision boards, I watch tv-shows and movies in that same genre and I write down every little thing that inspires me. A line from a movie? Jotting it down. A possible title I saw online? Saved it in my notebook. I write down anything that triggers me, that might jolt some inspiration – even if it doesn’t make any sense.
Who’s your favourite author?
I loved the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson books, by J.K. Rowling and Rick Riordan. But I also am a huge fan of the romcoms aka funny-till-you’re-snorting books by Kristan Higgins. Those would be my three favourites, all for completely different reasons. Rowling for her intrinsic worldbuilding, Riordan for his use of Greek Mythology, and Higgins for her humour and swoon worthy love stories.
What’s your favourite book?
Oh, that’s such a hard question because there are so many awesome books. Depending on which day you’ll ask me this question, the answer might vary too! Right now, I absolutely adore Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. The way it’s written, the language, the background story, the characters. It just all fits so well together. It really took me for a ride!
What’s your favourite book on the craft?
To be honest, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. There are so many great books that help with writing, and to name one would almost be to dismiss others. It all depends on what help you’re looking for and which advice helps best in your genre. Always do a background check on the author to see if they’re the right fit for your story. If you follow the advice of a non-fiction author but you write fiction, know that their advice might not always be fitting.
As for me, I usually don’t like books with general advice. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all advice on writing, and, unfortunately, I have seen this happen when writers ask for advice. Publishers don’t have all the answers either because they publish a certain category of books that your story might not fall under. You have to find what works for you, and that can mean that you need to stop listening to certain kinds of advices and follow your own instincts. Advice should be used when applicable, not because it’s somehow mandatory to writing in itself.
What’s the best writing advice you ever received?
Find your own voice. Those four words made all the difference. I used to be so scared to let others read my books because what if they didn’t like it? Finding my own voice, to me, means not only writing what I want to write, and what I’m passionate about, but it also means it will have its own group of fans who’ll love the stories I put out.
As a reader, I’ve never understood those lines on books saying ‘If you’ll love author X, you’ll love this!’ And when I tried to find a literary agent to represent my books, I always disliked the ‘rule’ that you need to compare your books with others: ‘This book will appeal to fans from title X and title X’. No. Just no. You can’t be the next J.K. Rowling, or the next Stephen King. You HAVE to be the first You.
That’s some sage advice right there! Thank you so much, Petra, and good luck with the launch of your latest book!
Want to know more about Petra?
You can find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads. Those who could use some writing help should really check out Petra’s coaching website with writing advice.