Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Author Interview Antoinette van Heugten- The Tulip Eaters

Today on The Reading Frenzy I'm so pleased to bring you an interview by a personal favorite author of mine, her debut novel Saving Max received well deserved rave reviews and this her second novel is an exceptional piece of literary historical fiction in her latest just released yesterday The Tulip Eaters.
Sit back and enjoy our interview then RUN don't walk to pick up a copy of your own.

  • ISBN-13: 9780778313885
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 10/29/2013
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 368

In a riveting exploration of the power the past wields over the present, critically acclaimed author Antoinette van Heugten writes the story of a woman whose child's life hangs in the balance, forcing her to confront the roots of her family's troubled history in the dark days of World War II. It's the stuff of nightmares: Nora de Jong returns home from work one ordinary day to find her mother has been murdered. Her infant daughter is missing

Praise for Saving Max:
"A high-speed chase of a novel, Saving Max is like the best of John Grisham with a feminine twist."-New York Times bestselling author Eileen Goudge
"Antoinette van Heugten combines the tender, unshakable bond between mother and son with an action-packed, edge-of-your-seat thriller." - International bestselling author Diane Chamberlain
"Parents of children with serious behavior problems will find their worst nightmares come alive in van Heugten's debut murder thriller...[with] more than one harrowing twist toward the end..."-Publishers Weekly


Antoinette it’s so good to have you back on The Reading Frenzy.

Tell us a little about The Tulip Eaters.
The novel is an exploration of how the past wields power over the present and of a mother’s unconditional love for her child.  It is about a woman, Nora de Jong, who comes home to a nightmare.  Her mother lies murdered on the floor, a dead stranger next to her with a Luger in his hand, and her baby, Rose, has been kidnapped.  Frantic, Nora works with the police to try to find Rose, but there isn’t a single clue until Nora finds mysterious documents in a metal box that bring everything she thought about her parents into question and drive her halfway across the world to Amsterdam, where pieces of an old family diary lead her into her mother’s past and a world of secrets, lies and truths that played out in Nazi-occupied Netherlands between 1940 and 1945.  The more Nora discovers, the less certain she is of the truth and it is only the truth that will lead her to Rose.  But the clock is ticking.  Will she ever find her?  Or has her mother’s secret past already sealed Rose’s fate – and Nora’s own?  

What is the reason you set the present day of the novel in 1980?
It was the latest time frame that could credibly have a character who had survived World War II and still be spry enough to commit murder!

Tell us about the meaning of the title.
Over 20,000 people starved to death in The Netherlands during the Second World War, many in 1945, the year called “The Hongerwinter.”  When even basic food sources became scarce, the Dutch scoured the countryside, digging up potatoes – anything they could find to feed their families.  When all else had been scavenged, they dug up and ate tulip bulbs, which they ground into meal or made into watery soups, and yet had to be careful to avoid the innermost portion, which is poisonous.  They were forced to eat their own national flower to survive, which I found to be a tragic irony of the Nazi occupation.

Is there a personal significance to this novel for you?
My parents were Dutch and fought in the resistance in the Netherlands during World War II.  Although they did not speak of it often, as children we heard stories of how our grandmother hid a Jewish boy in the cellar, how my mother transported microfiche on her bicycle and how my father had blown up munitions depots.  We also were made well aware of the hardships their families and others suffered during the five years of Nazi occupation, particularly the starvation conditions towards the end of the war.  As such, I have always had a personal as well as an historical fascination with that time period.  My parents’ heroism, demonstrated when they were only teenagers, was my initial inspiration. 

The Tulip Eaters like Saving Max is a crime drama and each is as tense as the other. The Tulip Eaters however deals with occurrences from Nazi occupied Netherlands.
How did your research for this novel differ from Saving Max?
Or did it?
Saving Max was a very personal novel as it was based in large part upon my experience as the mother of autistic children.  The Tulip Eaters is completely different.  Thirty years ago, I spent two years in Amsterdam doing research at the War Institute studying Dutch resistance fighters during WWII.  Both of my parents were Dutch and active in the underground. I lost my mother when I was twenty-one, so the novel is also a kind of homage to her.  The Tulip Eaters required intense historical research, but that was not the case for Saving Max. 

Antoinette I noticed on your website there is a blog button.
When did you start blogging and what do you mostly blog about?
I am a complete amateur at social media!  Now I do Facebook, Twitter and blogs.  I try to find articles or subjects I think will be interesting to other writers or just take off on things I think are funny.  My sense of humor is offbeat, to say the least.

You’re working on your third novel now (we’ll come back to specifics in the next question) Does novel writing get easier the more you put under your belt?
No, no and no!  I think it was much easier writing my first novel (even though it took ten years to find the right agent and get published) because I had no idea how hard it was to write a book.  Now I find that I have to be truly intrigued by the subject matter and that I have to ratchet up the level of complexity to feel I am giving the process its due.  With Finding Marianne (sequel to Saving Max), it does feel good to come home to the same characters and finish what I started!

Antoinette, I heard a rumor that your third novel is going back to the characters of Saving Max.
Tell us if it’s true and what it’s all about please.
Oh, this is going to be so much fun!  Marianne has resurfaced after two years on the lam.  Danielle has married Tony and Max is attending college in Houston, now that he is properly medicated.  Marianne is back at her twisted games, now determined to exact revenge.  To assist her, she now has an acolyte with his own bizarre predelictions.  Danielle, Max and Doaks combine their talents to ferret out Marianne, who is just as slippery in evading them.  Will Marianne get her just desserts?  She certainly deserves it!

 Antoinette what surprises you most about your fans?
That there are so many of them and how incredibly loyal they are.  I can’t describe the feeling I get when I still receive letters from autistic teenagers, their parents or friends thanking me for writing the novel and telling me about their lives.  I’m also stunned that the novel sold as well as it did and that I am already getting emails and posts about The Tulip Eaters.  Writing, as everyone knows, can be hellishly difficult.  When readers love what you write, it makes everything worthwhile.

Antoinette I’ve interviewed authors who swear that when they’re in their “writing cave” they tend to ignore everything else. I’ve had one author describe it as a “cerebral odyssey” when describing the mindset.
Is this true for you too?
Absolutely.  You can ask my husband.  When I’m in my writing fugue, he literally has to feed me and tell me when to shut it down for the day.  Without him, I’d weigh eighty pounds and give Howard Hughes a run for his money.

Antoinette do you belong to a writing/critique group?
No.  I tried it a few times, but found it very disruptive to have critiques coming from all sides before the first draft is done.  I work best alone, first outlining with my agent, Al Zuckerman, and then doing a lousy first draft which evolves over time into something I feel is as good as I can make it. 

Antoinette thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, good luck with the new novel.

Connect with Antoinette WebsiteFacebook - Twitter

Author bio:
A former international trial lawyer, Antoinette van Heugten spent 15 years practicing all over the world, primarily in Scandinavia, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as in Houston, her hometown. She’s a graduate of the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, where she earned her undergraduate and law degrees.
See more at:

My Review of The Tulip Eaters

Dr. Nora de Jong comes home to find her mother brutally murdered, a strange dead man in the house and her precious baby daughter Rose missing. Local law enforcement is getting nowhere fast so Nora decides to take matters into her own hands. When the fog of despair clears enough for her to function Nora begins her journey, which takes her to Amsterdam, not the modern city where Nora’s own troubled past lies but a darker more sinister city of the 1940s Nazi occupation a place where her parents lived before they fled to the US. The deeper into this mystery Nora gets the more questions arise, and the more dangerous for her own safety it becomes, as it’s obvious someone wants her to stop her dead in her tracks. The only light in her life is the hope that Rose is alive and that after her return Nora can perhaps reclaim some happiness when the crimes have been solved, if she survives what this elusive villain has in store for her.

From the first pages readers are reeling from the conundrum that Antoinette throws us in and we don’t stop twisting and turning until the nail biting end. Her visual narrative paints perfect scenes and gives a unique voice to her story as she gives us a glimpse of the victims and the perpetrators of that tumultuous time. Her characters are rich and three-dimensional; her protagonist Nora is wonderful in her role as are her co-stars good bad and the in-between. What also stands out for me in this read and her last one is the hope that’s always there even at the lowest tide. If you loved Saving Max like I did this will be a must read for you. If you love WWII historical fiction of Sandra Dallas, Kristina McMorris or Sarah Blake you will love The Tulip Eaters.
Antoinette this is the second incredible journey I’ve been on with you and I can’t wait until the next one.


  1. This sounds interesting, and of course I love historical fiction. Thanks for sharing this and the interview!

    1. Kim, it was fabulous. Her debut was incredible too Saving Max.