Monday, January 25, 2021

Author Interview: Liesbet Collaert

Liesbet with Kali and Darwin
  Today I am happy to bring you an interview with the writer, Liesbet Collaert. Liesbet has recently published her travel memoir, Plunge. It is a fascinating account of ten years that she spent living on a sailboat and exploring parts of the world that most of us only dream of. 

 

Jude: 

 

You have spent most of your adult life travelling throughout the world, and you describe yourself as a nomad. In what ways is your nomadic life different from a typical western lifestyle?

 

Liesbet: 

 

The beauty of a typical western lifestyle, in my opinion, is the stability, comfort, and familiarity it offers. You know what to expect, you have neighbors/friends/family/ colleagues around, you easily find products in your grocery store, you have favorite restaurants, trails, outings, hobbies, and your planned activities usually work out.

 

Life on the road, or the water, as a nomad is insecure, unfamiliar, and rather challenging because of these reasons and others. Yet, the adventure and freedom make it worthwhile. My husband and I love that novel feeling of each new place, have learned to be flexible, and keep our expectations low or non-existent. We are self-contained, fix issues ourselves as much as possible, and don’t rely on people. We figure things out as they come and enjoy discovering unique locations, cultures, foods, …

 

Another big difference are the amenities everyone takes for granted: running water, unlimited electricity, reliable internet, a washer and a dryer. Each time I stay in a house of relatives, I embrace my hot, pressurized shower, the space in my room (I can walk more than one step before I bump into something), the fact that my computer can stay plugged in, and the real bed. If there’s a comfortable couch, I might never leave! 😊

 Jude: 

Your memoir, Plunge: One Woman’s Pursuit of a Life Less Ordinary, spans about a decade. Why did you focus your memoir on those ten years in particular?

Liesbet: 

That’s a great question, Jude! I knew so little about writing books that the first time I ever considered this project, I didn’t even know that my kind of story was called a memoir. One of the first things I learned about that genre is that it covers a “slice” of your life. I wanted that particular “slice” to have a definite beginning and end. It seemed most intuitive to start with how I met my now husband, Mark, a life-changing, somewhat crazy occurrence that led to a new adventure. And, I finish the memoir when that adventure ended. Coincidentally, this period encapsulated ten years: my tumultuous thirties. In the epilogue, I leave the door open to the next adventure…

 

Jude: 

 

Briefly, what is your book about?

 

Liesbet:  

 

Plunge encompasses the ups and downs of a life less ordinary in the tropics. The story is about a 30-year-old nomad who seeks adventure and freedom at sea, but finds herself at odds with love, work, immigration, weather, and health as she navigates the world and her relationship.

 

The book is written in a unique voice and seamlessly intertwines travelogue and introspective, so the reader is immersed into each new scene, physically as well as psychologically. The story takes place in the present tense to accommodate this effect and incorporates foreshadowing, flashbacks, and cliff hangers, like a novel.

 

Jude: 

 

In your book, you present an account of the nitty-gritty experiences of life aboard a sailboat, and well as a close-up view of your romantic relationship. Can you talk about the challenges of writing about such personal material?

 

Liesbet: 

 

Most people who know me (including you, Jude) are aware of my straightforwardness and urge to be myself. My memoir had to be a fair representation of this. The two major factors that define my personality and feelings are my lifestyle and my relationship. But, how do you pull the reader into these situations? How do you make them understand what you go through?

 

This is only possible by allowing them inside your head and by being totally (some call it “brutally”) honest. Therefore, I touch on the good and the bad in my relationship; the strengths and the flaws in my personality. While lots of memoir authors struggle to put those moments and factions down, it came easy to me. Maybe because I hope that – just like in real life – people will take me the way I am; true to myself and others, while sometimes being a bitch.

 

I also mention discriminating elements about my spouse. He knows this; he was the first one to read my book. He also knows about my desire to tell the truth. His reaction when others ask him about those parts in Plunge: “It all happened. I was a jerk sometimes.” While it might put some people off, this “raw honesty,” most readers have complimented me about my voice and the themes touched upon and, whether they admit it or not, they can relate to many of the situations.

 

Liesbet and Mark on their Catamaran
   

Jude: 

 

As a regular reader of your blog, Roaming About, I recall posts in which you mentioned the frustrations of combining a writer’s life with a nomadic lifestyle. Please describe some of the issues you faced on the boat, and now while travelling around in your camper van.

 

Liesbet: 

 

These issues pretty much boil down to those differences between a nomadic lifestyle and a typical western one, described above. While we have solar panels to provide electricity to my computer and we can usually go about five to six days on our fresh water tank, I am never as productive as I would be in a house or a room with unlimited electricity, reliable internet, and a desk.

 

Problems often occur, whether they are weather-, dog-, errand-, or camper-related. Distraction abounds. And there is the fact that I live together with a husband and 60-pound furry creature in an 80-square foot (7.5 m2) metal box on wheels. Even when we decide to “sit still” for a while so I can write, edit, or promote, I struggle with not being available to my family members and feel guilty about hogging our one table, stressing out, and not partaking in walks. Finding a balance between my work and our “leisurely” lifestyle is a goal for 2021.

  

Jude: 

 

What did you find were some of the pros and cons of self-publishing?

 

Liesbet: 

 

Self-publishing is hard work! You need to be determined, patient, focused, and dedicated to make it happen. The process is time consuming and frustrating, especially when you are new to all the different steps (and there are many). You also need to pay for professionals upfront, so it’s more expensive than going the traditional route. And, I still feel there is less prestige than when “having a publisher.”

 

However, there are many pros. The first one: pulling it off quickly. Sure, I focused 100% on getting Plunge published this year, but the actual time involvement from the moment I received my final cover design to holding a proof copy in my hands was two months. My husband was a big help and we did all this from the road. Another positive of being self-published is that you hold all the strings. Decisions are yours, you can make corrections easily, offer discounts, work hard on promotion – or not, and it’s a huge accomplishment!

  

Jude: 

 

I imagine that you plunged into learning a lot of new skills when you went the self-publishing route. Can you share one specific example of something you learned?

 

Liesbet: 

 

The formatting process! Who knew there were so many decisions to make? Font style and size, spacing between the lines and towards the edges, placement of the page numbers (top, bottom, left, right, middle), kind of section breaks, order of the photos, where to hyphenate words at the end of the line, how about the chapter titles and table of content?

 

Jude: 

 

One reason I love reading memoirs is the chance to absorb an inside perspective about another person’s life. Can you share an insight with readers that came to you about yourself, your life choices, or your relationship, as you reflected on this period of your life in the memoir?

 

Liesbet: 

 

Yes. Because I wrote Plunge in the present tense, I wanted to mentally transport myself back to my thirties. In doing so, I realized how spoiled I had been in my twenties – I basically did whatever I wanted – and how, during the course of this story, I “grew up.” My experiences aboard our 35ft catamaran Irie made me realize I don’t always get what I want, that there are two people in a relationship, and that adventure comes in many different forms.

 

Jude: 

 

Do you have a new writing project on the horizon?

 

Liesbet: 

 

I have many ideas, but have not started anything new yet.

  

Jude: 

 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

 

Liesbet: 

 

I want to thank you for your thoughtful and insightful questions, Jude, and for featuring me here today. I hope your readers will get a chance to read Plunge and that it entertains, inspires, or affects them.

 

Liesbet and Jude in 2018

I'm pleased to feature this author interview here on Dr Sock Writes Here today. I initially met Liesbet through blogging, but in 2018 I had a chance to meet her and Mark in person when they came to Vancouver Island and stayed with us.

 

I greatly enjoyed reading Liesbet's book. It gave me an inside scoop on some of the joys and challenges of the sailing lifestyle, and reminded me of the many of the important life decisions One makes in the decade of their thirties.  

 

To read more about Liesbet’s adventures and her writing life or to purchase the book, click here:

 

For more info about Plunge:

https://www.roamingabout.com/about-plunge/

 

To buy on Amazon: www.amzn.com/B08NHP3NHC

 

Liesbet’s alternative lifestyle blog: www.roamingabout.com

 

Liesbet’s sailing blog (2007 – 2015): www.itsirie.com

 

Liesbet’s Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Liesbet-Collaert/e/B073C9F8TW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

33 comments:

  1. Hi Jude AND Liesbet!

    What a pleasure to read this interview and get more insight into Liesbet's book and her writing process. Of course I know you both and have read her great book, but there is always more to hear about the back-story isn't there? And (as always) I remain so very much in awe at Liesbet's past and present lifestyle. As you mention, the book describes so many of the challenges and adventures that her and Mark faced while living the sailing life. It tends to sound so romantic and wonderful, and at times it was, but it also presented many difficulties and I thought Liesbet described those so very honestly and well.

    As for self publishing, I am a big fan of that and was so glad she "took the plunge" and did it. I wish every author could have a book published by a traditional publisher and then you see that it isn't the publisher that leads to success, it is so much more than that. Liesbet is taking so many of the right approaches to having her book seen and read by millions so I'm looking forward to how far she goes as the book gets out.

    Thanks again for this review. ~Kathy

    P.S. Sorry if this comment shows up more than once...it kept disappearing :-(

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    1. Hi Kathy. It’s great to see your comment here, and I’m sorry it kept disappearing on you. I don’t know why you had trouble making a comment. I do know that with Blogger that the “preview” button for comments can make that happen so I don’t use it. The other Blogger glitch that I know of is that if you refresh before typing your comment, you’re less likely to lose it but if you don’t, it sometimes disappears. I think that is the case for most platforms. Sorry about that.

      Yes, I was thrilled that Liesbet agreed to do an interview with me on the blog. I’ve always been especially intrigued with how she combines her passion for writing with her nomadic lifestyle. As a writer myself now seeking publication of my novel, I’m also super interested in the publication process and the possible routes to publication. I know you have plenty of experience with this yourself, Kathy, and we’ve talked about the pros and cons of traditional versus self-publishing before.

      Another writing topic that really interests me is how to handle extremely personal information in memoirs. As we’ve both read her book, we saw how Liesbet chose to approach touchy or private matters. I think other readers will appreciate her blunt and up-front style.

      Jude

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    2. Hi Kathy!

      As you know, there is so much to talk about when it comes to our adventures and our approaches to writing and to life. I enjoy these interviews and am always curious about the questions. Jude’s were thoughtful and spot on.

      I’m glad I eventually opted for the self-publishing route, but it was much more work than I ever anticipated. Now that we have most of it figured out, the next book should be easier. :-)

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  2. Such great questions, Jude! I'm about two-thirds through Liesbet's book and her answers to your questions help round out what I'm reading. Self-publishing is a challenge (so I've heard), going through the process on the road is even more impressive!

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    1. Thanks Janis. I’ve been reading Liesbet’s blog for a number of years, so I remember her updates as she wrote, revised, revised again, sent out query letters, worked with an editor, and self-published. So I was interested to get her perspective on it all after the fact. I also found it really interesting to learn about life on a sailboat, and Liesbet tells it so well.

      Jude

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    2. Hi Janis! I think - for me - the worst part about the self-publishing process was that I felt exhausted finishing my book on a self-imposed deadline and then, the publishing itself turned into a lot of work, patience, dedication, time, and focus (in the room above the garage and back on the road), just when I hoped for a break. And then, since I hadn’t had any time for this earlier, the promotion sucked the remainder of my energy these last two months. Still. I’m so ready for a little break from Plunge. In February, I will take it easier. :-)

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  3. Thanks again for doing the interview with me and for posing these insightful questions, Jude. It was fun to answer them. FYI, on Thursday I am a panelist at a webinar about writing and publishing. It’s at 6pm EST. I can send you a link to join for free if you’re interested. Or, I can email it to you anyway and you can see whether it fits in your plans.

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    1. Liesbet, I’m delighted that you were interested in doing this blog interview. How exciting that you are going to be on a panel about writing and publishing! Is it open to everyone? By all means, send me the link.

      Jude

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    2. I’ll email you the link once I have it. Yes. Everyone can watch it, but you have to register and sign up. It will also be live streamed (and recorded) on YouTube. Those are the busy days this week I mentioned to you - preparing the presentation, practicing, and being stressed out. :-)

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    3. Thanks. I know you’ll be great!

      Jude

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  4. Great interview, Jude and Liesbet! I read Plunge at Christmas end enjoyed it very much.

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    1. Thanks Anabel. It was exciting to read it after following Liesbet’s writing and publishing accounts.

      Jude

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    2. Thanks for reading and commenting, Anabel. And, I'm glad to discover you enjoyed Plunge! :-)

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  5. Hi, Jude and Liesbet - Congratulations on this brilliant interview. The questions are thoughtful, well-developed and many are not the ones typically asked. As usual, Liesbet's unflinching honesty in the answers is greatly appreciated. I read Plunge when it was first released and LOVED it. This interview has helped me to appreciate Plunge even further. Thank you both!

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    1. Hi Donna! Thanks for reading another interview with me. I truly enjoyed Jude’s questions for the reasons you point out. January has been a busy month for me and I’m looking forward to a little break next month! :-)

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    2. Thanks Donna for your kind remarks. The fun thing about doing this interview is that I was able to ask questions I was especially curious about. I appreciated Liesbet being willing to take it on during a busy month.

      Jude

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  6. Jude, This is an excellent interview with Liesbet. I always appreciate Liesbet’s thoughtful and candid responses. I have been reading Liesbet’s journey, to publish her book, and many of the challenges. Her persistence and tenacity and knowing this is a good story is all worth it, when the result is “Plunge.” I am half way into the book and loving it! Great questions, Jude. I am pleased to learn more about Liesbet. I love the photos!

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    1. Hi Erica. I felt the same way as I read about Liesbet’s writing and publishing experiences on her blog over the last few years. She has been so forthright about sharing her experience, both the good and bad parts. I admire her unwavering determination and pursuit of her goal in getting this book written, revised, published, and promoted. As a writer myself, I find it endlessly fascinating to learn about other writers’ processes. And in the book itself, I was intrigued to find out how she would weave together the two main themes of her developing relationship and an adventure on a catamaran. Although it is an real life account, just like a novel, it has rising tension and a climax and resolution.

      Jude

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    2. Hi Erica! Thank you for reading the interview and leaving a comment. Jude is a very organized and thoughtful interviewer. I really enjoyed diving into her insightful questions. I’m glad you’re loving Plunge as well, especially since you know how much went into creating it! :-)

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    3. Hi Jude!

      Initially, I was wondering how to combine the travelogue part and the introspective part about our relationship. Somehow, it emerged the way it did and my substantial editor tweaked the rough patches a little bit. I’m happy with how the end result of the prose looks like, despite all the struggles getting there.

      I love that last sentence in your comment; perfect review material. :-)

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    4. You are welcome to use that sentence in your promotion material if it helps.

      Jude

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  7. Such a great interview. I also wondered about Mark's reaction to your honesty. Why am I not surprised he is fine with it! What a guy you found in him!

    Love the picture of you with the two dogs in the waves. Lovely

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    1. Thanks, Jacqui! Mark can be a difficult person and he knows it, so there, really, is nothing to hide. :-) And, I love how you love dogs. I hope you'll get to meet Maya one day.

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    2. Jacqui, thanks for your comment. I also love the photo of Liesbet with the two dogs, and the one she chose for her book cover, swimming with both dogs in turquoise tropical water.

      Jude

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    3. Ha! I had to laugh about Mark being difficult. I am, too, but I'm married to a saint. Maybe Mark is too!

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    4. You? Difficult?? I guess you have to write a memoir, so I can see what you mean. :-)

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  8. Hi Dr. Sock. Great interview! I finished Plunge a couple of months ago. I'm one one those readers Liesbet was referring to when she talked about her raw honesty. I think that's the way any author should write a memoir because we can identify with being imperfect.

    I'm not sure what level you taught at, but I thank you for your years of service. I'm also a retired educator (31 fabulous years in elementary school).

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    1. Hi Pete. It’s wonderful to see your comment here. I agree that raw honesty is a key ingredient of a good memoir. However, reading it is one thing but writing it is quite another, at least for me. I worry too much about hurting someone’s feelings, I guess.

      I taught at the university level but now am retired. “Dr Sock” is a pen name.

      Jude

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  9. Thanks for swinging by here as well, Pete. I had no idea you were a fellow primary school teacher! I touched upon this very briefly in my memoir; I used to teach for four years, before leaving my country indefinitely in 2003. I taught six graders, which, in Belgium, is the last year before middle school. So, in theory, you and I are colleagues. :-)

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  10. How nice to find this post! I'm happy to get to know you better, Liesbet, and also to find Jude's blog. Best of luck with your book, Liesbet.

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    1. Hi Anneli! I’m thrilled to see you here. Thank you for reading and commenting. I’ve heard you’re an amazing editor and I will keep you in mind for my next book, if there is such a thing. :-)

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    2. Hi Anneli. Thanks for reading my interview with Liesbet. I read Jaqui’s review of your book, “Marli,” which is set on Haida Gwaii, a place I love. It is exciting to meet another writer from Vancouver Island!

      Jude

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    ReplyDelete