In “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” the focus never shifts too much from Toby’s yearning for Sophie. What was your plan for striking that delicate balance between the craziness of the upside-down world and his sorrow?
The one is of course the ultimate symbol for the other. As a lover of horror fiction, I’ve always said that fear is the strongest human emotion, but it’s not. Grief is. If you ever felt lovesick, you know what I mean. When it happened to me, I curled up on the couch literally for weeks. At some point, my head hung down over the back of the couch and I was staring blankly out the window, seeing the world upside down. I wouldn’t have cared much if I’d fallen up into the sky that moment. And then I thought: Hey, that’s actually a pretty good idea! Life generally tends to get a lot easier if a lot of things would fall up into the sky. You know, we all have our dark moments . . .
What were some of the aspects that were most fun to play around with, and how confusing was it to develop the way in which people would live in the newly turned over world?
Once the idea had struck me, I was thrilled by the possibilities and started lying upside down in front of my window all the time. It’s a lot easier to think about it that way. Try it yourself! Just imagine: If the Earth had turned upside down, and all the houses were hanging from its surface, how would you travel to the house across the street? It’s a challenge, undertaking a quest when gravity fucks you up. You get creative, after a while. There are a lot scientific technicalities at play, but since I’m not much of an SF writer, I didn’t want to focus on them. The whole thing turning upside down was a metaphor to begin with, so I think this is more a love story, or a humorous-grief story, or a fantasy than a real SF. Hey, if you call it magical realism, they let you get away with anything!
Toby and Bubbles’ stories seem to be deeply connected throughout the story. What was your plan for tying the two narratives together, and what similarities do you see between the two characters?
I loved the idea of this micro-tale against the backdrop of this universal catastrophe. Toby doesn’t care about the world coming to an end—he just wants to bring the goldfish back. That’s what love does. Any small detail like that becomes hugely important. Of course, the fish and he become interconnected, both symbolizing the stages of grief. In the end, letting go means ultimate redemption.
What’s up next for you?
Well, I’ve published five novels in The Netherlands—pretty dark novels. And I’m happy to announce that the rights for my latest and most successful novel, HEX, have been sold to Tor in the US and Hodder & Stoughton in the UK. The book will come out in 2015. You can’t read a portion of it yet, but here’s the fantastic trailer that we made for it.
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