Interview with Jean Koning, Author of Visions on America

"As most of us were popping pimples pimples and starting puberty, the versatile Jean Koning (or perhaps better known as his musical alter-ego '!JP') was launching project after project to avant garde aficionados.

At the age we were struggling to get our drivers license he was a resident at clubs. While the rest of us were chasing girls, laboring to get through school, or trying to sneak into clubs Jean was already inside of them, busy becoming one of the most original artists in the world. Seems impressive, but I guess when you're studying masters of the trade like Andy Warhol and Arthur Rimbaud while the rest of the kids are studying math and science those kind of things aren't too big of a deal.

From these not so humble beginnings Jean has carved himself a spot in the world of Underground Music that stretches from the Dutch Landscpaes to South East Asia. He has taken steps into music, spoken word, photography, poetry, theatre and film, working with a wide variety of amazing artists while showing off his own formidable talents as well.

With the help of his personal side-kick, the multi-instrumentalist Van Weely, he created almost legendary performances; his own conceptual punk-n-roll shows. Jean has made a name for himself that should be on the lips of art lovers the world over.

Now he is a published author as well. His latest novel was published in 2008 (in Dutch only). His novel “Visions”, which contains stories and columns written in 2006, is now reissued.

He is married and has a daughter.

For more information about this author and his work visit: http://www.1jp.org/

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Welcome to The Writer's Life, Jean. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

I started writing when I started acting. When I was six years old. I always made up the funniest stories for the characters I played, since I was tied to the words of the screenwriter. And there were so many adventures that I wanted the characters to experience. So I made them up myself. And wrote them all down in a little notebook. Later on these stories evolved into an experimental form of poetry. And they evolved into the songs I wrote over the years. It wasn’t until I turned thirty when I started to take the writing more serious. I no longer wanted the verse-chorus-verse structure in the stories I made up. I wanted to write novels. So I took all these experiences from my life – acting, life on the road with a punk band, former model, you name it – and started to write about these experiences. And somewhere along the line, I hit the jackpot.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

“Visions” is a collection of short stories, columns, interviews and reflections I wrote to gain respect and understanding for and about America as a nation. When I started writing these “visions” the finger of blame was pointing toward America. And I wanted to write songs about that. I did. But the songs weren’t enough to satisfy my curiosity about why the European Continent lost so much faith in America, but still they were copying the lives and the habits of the Americans. I thought that was the strangest thing. People in Europe all told me that America was the blame of every war on the planet after WWII. I thought that was so short sighted. So I started to investigate America, as a nation. As a World Leader Pretend. And I hope that these tales somehow provide a renewed faith. A renewed look upon the nation. And its inhabitants. So I mixed politics with sexuality and humor, and came up with these stories. Which are my visions, by the way. It doesn’t mean that they form a new kind of “How To Behave in America”-guidebook.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced writing it?

First of all writing in English. And then: “Who will I hurt when I put down these words?” I didn’t intentionally want to hurt people, but I’m an anarchist and I think one can do so much with words. Twisting and bending them. Add complete new meanings to familiar words. That is why I chose to use “labour” in stead of “labor”. Some people think it was a typo, or the fact that I am Dutch and I write in English. But it’s there the way it was intended. It was also a challenge to wait by the mailbox to see whose lawyer tried to contact me.

Do you have a press kit and what do you include in it? Does this press kit appear online and, if so, can you provide a link to where we can see it?

I do not have a press kit. I don’t believe in them.

Have you either spoken to groups of people about your book or appeared on radio or TV? What are your upcoming plans for doing so?

I appeared in a Dutch debating program about the book and the “why” I wrote it. And especially why I wrote it the way it is published. “Why in English?” “Why be so pro-America?” “Why?” And I realized I couldn’t answer their political correct questions correctly. I just said: “Do not underestimate the power of food poisoning!” I was crushed. I just stood there speechless. I had all the answers to the questions in my brain, but they were so hostile. It was like I was being punished for writing a few stories about how I experience America. And it’s not “pro-America” at all. Not in any way. And I don’t know why I did it the way I did it. And I didn’t see the danger. Because I am not Joan Didion. I do not have a millions audience. I did not appear on Oprah. Who could I possibly hurt with my writings? The people who were truly interested in the book must be in possession of a sense of humor, otherwise they never would have found me. So once the book was out there and I did four of those debating afternoons, I quit. It was all there in the book. I didn’t have the urge to face a trial or anything to explain my point of view. Or worse: to defend my point of view.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

I currently am without an agent. My agent died a few years ago. And I never replaced him. I don’t think it’s necessary to have an agent. It’s sometimes just convenient to have one.

Did you, your agent or publisher prepare a media blitz before the book came out and would you like to tell us about it?

The Media Blitz was supposed to be me appearing in debating programs, but as I stated earlier, I quit.

Do you plan subsequent books?

Not in the same style. I did – however – publish two novels in Dutch, which I’d love to translate to English. But that’s all in the future.

Thank you for your interview, Jean. Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

My official website (where everything I do gets published) is www.1jp.org. Mind you: it is both in English and Dutch. “Visions” can be bought at Amazon (where there are two versions available) or at Waterstones.com
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