We sat down (so to speak) recently with the European author to ask him about his life and work:
Q: Why do you write the type of book you are best known for?
A: I really don’t know what I’m best known for, but I simply love to invent and write new stories who are generally based on one or more true facts which I then rearrange and to whom I add some white lies in order to build in a surprise element and to create a feeling of something that somehow transcends every day reality. I don’t really believe in a “predestined” character, it’s what life throws on our path that shapes our character.
Q: Where do you get your ideas?
A: Mostly from looking and wandering around -Brussels is a very inspiring city- and associating impressions and events and things that I hear or that happen to me. I also read a lot, and when I come across an article in a newspaper that tells something unusual -like a man cutting, cooking and eating his own finger for instance- I put it in my archives.
Q: How and when do you write?
A: “Pen should never touch paper, until at least a well-digested general purpose be established,” says E. A. Poe. When I begin writing on my computer the story is almost always already finished in my head. I don’t really have a regular schedule, sometimes I write six stories in a month, and the next month only the beginning of a new tale.
A: What do you like most about being an author?
Q: The French song “Le blues du businessman” goes “t’aurais voulu être un artiste pour pouvoir être un anarchiste, t’aurais voulu être un auteur pour pouvoir inventer ta vie...” -you would have liked to be an author in order to be able to invent your own life. I like the idea of adding something to reality by writing.
A: What is your advice to beginning writers.
Look around you, be inventive and read! As for “how to write” books, Aristoteles’s “Ars Poetica” is unbeatable.
Q: Is there anything you would like to say to your fans?
A: Thanks for reading me!
Q: What can your readers look forward to from you in the
A: New short stories and some “bigger” projects in the horror genre.
Here's a bit more about Jan Vander Laenen
Jan Vander Laenen was born on 18 May 1960 in the Flemish- speaking part of Belgium as the third and last child of a family of notaries public. In 1978, his elder brother passed away in a car accident, while his father packed his bags in 1998 after a life of quarrels with his wife and children.
At a young age, Jan excelled at school with his fairy tales and compositions, though he would rather have studied music. After finishing school, he studied law for two years and obtained his degree in History of Art at the Catholic University of Louvain with a thesis on the French painter, Eugène Delacroix.
A holiday flirt in Italy during the summer of 1983 had far-reaching consequences: for twenty-one years, Jan would have a relationship with a Tuscan man, find work as a Dutch-French-Italian translator while, at the same time, beginning to sharpen his pen.
Now, in 2011, Jan once again lives in the capital city of his country, Brussels. For the last five years he has had an allochtonous partner, and can look back on an extensive body of work : twelve collections of short stories, plays, and screenplays which have attracted keen interest abroad. A romantic comedy, "Oscar Divo", and a thriller, "The Card Game", are presently in the hands of a competent producer in Hollywood, while his short fiction collections, "The Butler" and "Poète maudit", and his horror play "A Mother's Revenge" are eliciting the requisite accolades in Italy.
His most recent publication are the tales “A Glass of Cognac” in Bears: Gay Erotic Stories (Cleis Press), “Epistle of the Sleeping Beauty” in Unspeakable Horror (Dark Scribe Press), “Fire at the Chelsea Hotel” in Best Gay Love Stories 2009 (Alyson Press), “The Stuffed Turkey” in Best Gay Erotica 2010 (Cleis Press),“The Corpse Washer” in Best S/M III (Logical Lust), “Lise” in Strange Tales of Horror (NorGus Press), and the Dutch and French version of his novel The housekeeper and other scabrous tales (‘t Verschil, Antwerp (Belgium) - Textes gais, Paris (France)).
Jan is a member of the Poe Studies Association. He presented his paper "Hypotheses on Poe's homosexuality" at the Bicentennial Congress in Philadelphia in October 2009. Jan is currently working on a play/screenplay around the life of the Romantic Belgian "horror" painter Antoine Wiertz (1806-1865), a novel called "The Psychomanteum" around the practice of mirror gazing, and a screenplay around the life of Lucida Mansi.
And here's an excerpt from Jan Vander Laenen's collection,
Skillfully And Lovingly: Tales Of Male-Male Love And Lust:
Skillfully And Lovingly: Tales Of Male-Male Love And Lust:
“How do you like the Chablis,” Frédéric changed the conversation.
“The right temperature, a good aftertaste, why?” Laetitia answered the
Barman somewhat startled.
“Because I know that my wine merchant is probably also in need of a little
“Your wine merchant?”
“A certain René, a Frenchman. He is a sommelier, supplies wine to a number
of cafés here in the city centre, but his base of operations is the
brasserie “La Roue d’or”. I know that he is not really very good with
paperwork and with organising the many little trips he has to make to the
“And what have I to do with that?”
“But Laetitia, do not underestimate yourself, you have a fine smell and
tasting organ, from perfumes to wines is but a logical step.”
“And what does he want exactly?”
Frédéric gave me an impish wink.
“I don’t know, why not contact him and try to meet him, tomorrow or the day
after, he is always in the wine cellar of “La roue d’or.”
And, Laetitia was apparently warm to the idea, because after another two
glasses of Chablis, she took me by the arm and asked me whether I did not
want to have a look at her curriculum vitae on her computer at home.
So we made our way over to her little apartment, where I sat at keyboard,
and Laetitia already somewhat inebriated, took off her shoes and stretched
on the divan.
“Your name is Laetitia De Becker,” I started typing.
“Yes, I have a Flemish surname,” she grumbled.
“Young. Specify perhaps that I am Scorpio, ascendant Leo, with the moon in
“Passionate combination! Noted. Education: secretaryship and languages?”
“Mother tongue: French; decent Spanish and Italian; a little Dutch, not to
drive Flemish extremists furious, and English with a heavy French accent, to
charm American tourists.”
“Maîtresse parfumeuse.” [Perfume expert].
“Chablis, Chablis, wines ... oh, yes,” Laetitia’s was now nearly slurring
her speech, “oh Jan, could you please finish my curriculum vitae, and then
just close the door behind you when leave, my head is turning slightly, and
I am going to nap a bit…”
And did I finish writing that document? I certainly did. I added her
address and other data, specified that she was still single, and then… and
then… as I looked at my dozing beautiful queen of hearts I waxed somewhat
poetically when I got to the heading “about myself” and added: ... (from
Laetitia’s Curriculum Vitae)