It’s time to know more about Bernard Jan: Author, Novelist and Poet. In this interview, the Croatian writer Bernard Jan will tell us more about him, his life as a writer and his work in English. Bernard Jan already has two works published in English: A World Without Color and Look for Me Under the Rainbow which you can purchase on Amazon.
Without further ado, let’s know more about him:
Who is Bernard Jan, not the writer, the man. What can you tell us about you?
Bernard Jan is the pen name of one silly guy who likes to joke and play pranks on people he loves and is close to. 😀 I am also an animal advocate, an activist for animal rights and I hate any kind of injustice and violence, whether it is toward animals, humans or our planet. You could say I have deeply rooted green and animal and human rights characteristic in me.
Is writing your only profession or you have also another job?
Writing is more like a hobby and passion than a real profession. I am not a typical commercial writer who writes primarily to make money from his books (though it would be great I could haha). I write and publish in my free time and when I feel the need and desire to write while I work as an animal advocate which is also my passion.
You are from Croatia, what do you love the most about your country?
The beautiful nature and amazing sea. Even though the Adriatic is, like most other seas and oceans, overfished and soon will be dead if something doesn’t change fast, it is still very clean and very blue.
Any hobbies you want to share with us?
Hm, sure. Reading, reading, books, reading lol. Going to the movies, listening to music, roller-blading, ice-skating and sk8boarding (when I was 20 years younger). I used to have many hobbies in my teenage years (collecting records and CDs, movies, books, stamps, pins and what not) but now I am more oriented to collecting awesome people through my social platforms, meeting new friends and readers from all over the world. That’s how I‘ve met some amazing writers and authors too I would have never heard of otherwise.
Favorite book, movie, song, food, sport and videogame?
Ugh please, there is a bunch of them haha. It’s hard, very hard because each year gives birth to another amazing movie, a song or a book that thrills you and captures your attention or you fall in love with. But to give you an idea what I like to read, watch, listen to or eat, here is my “short” list.
Books: Anything by Stephen King or Dean Koontz, The Maze Runner series by James Dashner; Wool, Shift and Dust by Hugh Howey, Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, authors Eliot Peper, Davor Rostuhar, James J. Cudney, Jonathan Hill, Anne Rice, John Grisham, etc. I know I am not being fair to other authors I love and adore, but the list is just too big, and it goes on and on.
Movies: Titanic, Brokeback Mountain, Gone with the Wind, Hair, Call Me By Your Name, original Star Wars episodes, Billy Elliot and many more.
Songs: “Just Another Day” by Jon Secada, “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas, “Here with Me” by Dido, “Don’t You Worry Child” by Swedish House Mafia, “In My Blood” by Shawn Mendes, everything by ABBA, EMINEM, Linkin Park, Pet Shop Boys and Modern Talking! Again, the music doesn‘t stop playing here!
Food: Only vegan food and almost all of it. I prefer vegetables because I am not a big fan of fruits. Life without chocolate would be a torture, don’t you agree with me?!
Sports: I am not a sports person, but I give a big thumbs up to skateboarding, snowboarding, ice hockey, figure skating, skiing, athletics. I’m more into extreme sports.
Video games: No video games, have no interest in them.
Writers are such for different reasons, which was your thing that made you decide you wanted to become a professional writer? How long have you been writing?
My turning point when I started writing with the goal to be published happened at the beginning of the war in Croatia. Facing the possibility of imminent death makes you think about your life and what you want from it. Writing is the way I fought the oppression and injustice, not only during the war years in Croatia but also in general. I published my first book in Croatian in 1992 while my first attempt to be published in English was in 1998. I started to publish as an indie author in English in 2017.
I’d like to know about your first steps, the very first day you decided to become a professional writer, what made you do it? What made you step in such an uncertain world as is the writing one?
As mentioned earlier, it was not a planned thing. It came as a necessity. Out of the need to do something good in and for the world, to leave some kind of legacy to future generations should anyone want to know and read about it.
How did your family, relatives and friends react when you told them you wanted to be a writer? Did you feel supported? Who supported you the most?
They supported me one hundred percent. My parents were with me all the time and so were my friends who read my work and my cousin who was the first one who thought I was good enough to be published and who pushed me into these waters.
What are your writing habits? Do you have the so known Writer’s block? If so, how do you avoid it?
My writing habits are as bad as my eating habits haha. I do not have a writing plan and I do not write on a daily basis nor do I count how many words I write. I write only when I am inspired to write about something because writing is a passion. Everything is about passion and emotion. I write when I get in that special and deep emotional state and then it pours out of me. The words and the tears. Look for Me Under the Rainbow I wrote in about ten days, if I remember well, because it was a long time ago; A World Without Color I cried out in even shorter time.
Cruel Summer, the over-127,000-words-long novel I am yet to publish in English, I wrote in a little over six months, including research. It varies depending on the length of the book and how much research I need to make to collect the facts and mix them into my fictional world.
Do you have any ritual for writing? like a specific number of words per day, goals per month?
Nope. No ritual, no numbers. I just follow my guts, my inner feeling and a muse. I still believe in the inspiration, passion and the art of writing. That comes first. I don’t care how long it takes for a story to be born in me or how fast I deliver it as long as it has passion and emotion in it.
Do you take real people you know and put them in your books? Any specific you want to tell us about?
Yes, I do, but never in a way to compromise them, which means not completely accurate. My first book was an altered autobiography where I used some characteristics of my friends and parents to describe how we felt when the war broke out in Croatia. I also used my personal experience for one character in my future novel Cruel Summer and some Zagreb skateboarders as the skateboarders in New York while A World Without Color is a true story of the last three days I spent with my cat. It cannot be more authentic than it is.
Which book are you writing right now?
I am not writing anything now because I have three more books scheduled for publication in English. All of them are published in Croatian. They are two novels January River and Cruel Summer and a book of poetry Postcards from Beyond Reality.
If you had to define yourself as a writer just using one sentence of your book, which one would be?
Not sure what you mean, like a sentence I wrote in my book? Something like this from Look for Me Under the Rainbow perhaps?
I do not doubt I have a big heart and burning desire, but is that enough for a person to become a Rainbow Warrior, or is there something better?
Which are your writing influences? Any authors you think were the most relevant?
Every author with a beautiful writing style made me learn something. Even those whose writing sucks—let’s face it but there are such authors too—helped me learn how not to write. I like King’s phenomenal sense for detail, the fluency of Koontz’s writing and building suspense. Eliot Peper does amazing descriptions, and so on. I love when authors portray words and sentences and when they make me cry or guffaw, not when they only narrate what’s going Anyone can do that. But not anyone can make an art of writing.
Two books already published on Amazon, A World Without Color (this book has a nice trailer by the way) and Look for Me Under the Rainbow. Congratulations for that, you are on the way.
Let’s talk about A World Without Color, you describe this novel as “the last three days I spent with my cat” it is funny how such a simple description makes it actually intriguing, it makes you want to know more, is the story just about the man and his cat? No other characters?
Thanks! The original name of the book in Croatian is A World Without Color. The “last three days” part I added for Amazon to be catchy and more intriguing for readers to check out what happened in those last three days. Marcel and I are the main characters but my parents are also included a well as some other people like a veterinarian Saša and my friends who helped me deal with the loss. Since the story has a short time-span, not many people could be included in it except when I talk about the happy days we have had together.
I see this book has two endings, interesting, how does it work? The reader can choose which works best for him?
The readers can choose which one they like better and which one works for them. The first ending is how it really happened. How it ended. The second ending is the continuation of the original ending but in which I commit suicide. I thought a lot about committing suicide when I lost Marcel but didn’t have the courage to do it, so instead of throwing myself off the balcony, I wrote that story. In the book I went all the way, following my dark thoughts with hope to be reunited with my cat in some other parallel dimension. Even though I die in the second ending, it is the happier ending for me because we are together again. Everything in that new dimension is good and as it should be. As if none of us had died.
Regarding of Look for Me Under the Rainbow, this is a story that sheds light on the plight of baby seals in Canada hunted for their fur, what else can you tell us about this story?
Even though this book I market as a YA read, I recommend it to adults too. It is the message to and for everyone, for all of us to reflect on how we live and what we do to our planet: like killing of seal pups for their fur and skinning them alive, fishing with driftnets whilst also leaving them to float discarded in the oceans, the oil spills, etc. All that impacts the life on our planet, and we are responsible even if we ignore it. This story also teaches parents the importance of not lying to their children, never mind them being just kids and too small to understand, and how much each of us can do for our planet individually.
Look for Me Under the Rainbow is a story that opens our hearts and minds to goodness in us, giving us a nudge to act, to do something. The inspiration for writing Look for Me Under the Rainbow came from the Greenpeace materials I’ve received by post in the late 1980s. This story changed my life because it made me go vegetarian (and later on vegan). Writing it was an eye-opener, for I realized that the best way for me to help animals is not to eat them and not to support industries that kill them. Besides, if I wanted to change the world, it would be hypocritical of me not to change myself first. So I did it.
This book has a much more social awareness approach it seems, will you write more about protecting our planet?
There are so many ways we can do to protect our planet. Today it is easier than ever before.
Back then when I wrote Look for Me Under the Rainbow, the Internet was not yet so widespread and popular, the flow of information was old-school. Now we get everything in a blink of an eye. We can do so much by boycotting industries that kill our planet. Raising animals for food causes more greenhouse gas emissions than all the forms of transportation combined. The best way any of us can do to protect our planet and life on it is to go vegan. It’s really not that difficult, once you make a decision.
There is a plentitude and a variety of awesome food which does not include animals and their products. If that is too big a step or challenge for someone, not supporting other industries which abuse and exploit animals like vivisection, fur farms, hunt or entertainment industry is also a start. By choosing what we wear, which household products and cosmetics we use, whether we visit zoos and circuses with animals or condemn or sabotage hunt, send letters to our politicians and companies, being a member of a street team of activists or spread the message by sharing and tweeting posts online, everything counts. We can do so much with some or little effort that there is no excuse for doing nothing. It is our world that is endangered. We don’t have another place we can go. We can choose a healthy and compassionate life on earth or self-destruction.
In Croatia, the novella Look for Me Under the Rainbow is listed in a program for elementary schools as a reading of choice for seventh graders, wow! How did this happen?
To be honest, I don’t know how it happened and if my publisher had to do something with it.
My guess is that someone in the right place liked it enough to recommend it and . . . bingo! I am happy and honored for that. Not because it is my book and I am proud of it but because of its educational message. This book changed me in many ways and my great wish is that it motivates and help others to change the way they look at our world and their lives, too. We are compassionate beings after all, and we know all about kindness. We just need to spread our circle of compassion, kindness and empathy, and embrace everyone in it. This is how we will save our world.
*The author wants to credit the book cover designer Mario Kozar MKM Media for such an amazing job with both of his books.
I hope his story inspired you! Discover more on Wottaread.