Interview by Ceri Wheeldon
We regularly interview authors whose books appeal to women over 50. Unusually on this occasion we are interviewing a male author , Martin van Es, whose perspective on life changed when he became a grandfather- and his newfound priorities are incorporated into his first novel, Call Me Joe.
Tell us a little about yourself
I was born in 1959. I’m Dutch and I have lived in The Netherlands my entire life. I have been fortunate to travel the world during my career in the packaging trading business. I’m an entrepreneur, strategic advisor, a father, a grandfather and a husband to my lovely wife Sis.
When did you start to write?
I have always been interested in writing but because I chose a different career path I only started writing in earnest in 2017. My first novel, Call Me Joe, is published on June 4th 2020.
What have been the challenges for you?
Writing is a real profession, especially writing a novel of 100,000 words. My decision to work with an expert author of many amazing books, Andrew Crofts, was a wise one. Working together, stimulating each other to create something special, was a real challenge, which brought us both a lot of pleasure and insights.
When the book was finished and almost ready for launch, we entered a real life situation impacting the book: the Covid-19 pandemic. We chose to publish the book anyway, in the UK and the Netherlands. It was the exact opposite of what many publishers and authors decided with so many books shelved to later this year and into 2021.
What did you do prior to writing Call Me Joe?
I graduated in international marketing in the last 1980s, after becoming a father to my daughter in 1986 and my son in 1989. I took a job as a purchasing director of a partnership of 28 wholesalers, and then became director of a packaging wholesaler in Arnhem, The Netherlands. Over 14 years I developed the company alongside my team to create a leading player in the international packaging industry.
In 2005, I sold the company to the largest distributor in the packaging world, and ventured into volunteering, investing and advising companies. Event company MooiWeer, on the beautiful island of Terschelling, is my father and son enterprise, of which I am particularly proud.
Between 2013 and 2017, I worked as MD for a large, international, family-owned group of packaging wholesale companies specialised in environmental issues. The role, and the birth of my first two grandchildren, have had a massive influence on how I live and work, and on my writing.
When is your first book published?
June 4th 2020 by RedDoor Press in the UK and The Netherlands.
What is the title of your latest book?
Call Me Joe
What was the inspiration behind your latest book?
I have had ideas around the creation of ‘The Joe Project’ for many years, but to maximise impact and to bring those ideas to life, I thought a book would be a good place to start. With Call Me Joe, I want to contribute to the discussion on how the human race can survive. I doubt very much if our world leaders feel the responsibility to set up a global survival strategy together. But they must find solutions to the current problems and quickly otherwise it is ‘game over’ for our future generations. Call Me Joe offers some radical solutions wrapped up in a page-turning adventure story.
What can you share with us about the plot – without spoiling the ending!
I think this Publishers Weekly BookLife review is a good way of sharing what the book is about without giving away too much:
After a 12-minute period of global darkness, New Zealand teacher Sophie sees a man outside of her classroom—a man with dark skin and hair who’s wearing only a white robe and has kind, “astonishing” eyes—and believes he’s lost. Surprising herself, she offers to let him stay at her apartment. Though Sophie is wary of believing the man her students call Joe is the son of God, her initial scepticism waivers when she witnesses his miracles. Joe attracts the attention of political leaders who are threatened by his power and religious leaders wondering whether he really is the messiah. When Joe unveils 12 new guidelines for global peace and environmental preservation, including “Be honest” and “Try to forgive and say sorry,” he becomes the target of a hired assassin, but he remains intent on fulfilling his earthly mission before leaving once again.
The responses of world leaders to Joe’s appearance are unsurprisingly similar to the narrative of the Gospels, but they still feel realistic, and the authors update many other biblical concepts for the modern era. Joe’s human nature is shown through his behaviour and the revisions of commandments with a more modern appeal. His view of sex, exemplified by his eventual sexual relationship with Sophie, focuses on personal decisions rather than procreation.
Who are the key characters – and how do you hope readers over 50 will relate to them?
Joe and Sophie are the two key characters. Readers over 50 tend to think more than younger ones about the future for their offspring. See my answer to the next question.
What do like the most about the character/s you have created?
All the characters are searching for ways to make the world better for future generations.
Are there any key issues you wanted to draw attention to?
I hope that my new novel will be read by anyone who loves a beautiful and exciting story but is also interested in the main theme, which is a key issue for us all: human survival on Earth. The book poses questions such as what should our leaders be doing (collectively) to halt the destruction of the planet? What could we do individually as a world citizen? Can the dogmas of different religions be put into perspective to practically help the global population?
What do want readers to take away having the read the book?
I dared ‘to be the change I want to see in the world’ (Gandhi) from the moment I became a grandfather. When my first grandchild was born, my whole perspective changed. I hope that after reading this book people will feel inspired to make some changes within themselves. My dream is that our world leaders discuss the SWOT analysis of mankind that is included in the novel and let us know in an honest and transparent way (ideally on a maximum of a few A4 pieces of paper!) what their joint vision and master plan is. It’s ambitious, I realise, but that’s my dream. So let’s challenge our leaders a bit.
What’s next for you – will there be a sequel with the same characters?
We will focus on Call Me Joe first. Let’s wait and see if the readers ask for one.
What 3 tips would you offer people aged 50+ looking to write their first book?
- Take control of the publishing process yourself.
- If you need help, don’t be embarrassed to hire a ghost-writer.
- Live your dream. Just dare to do it.