“It’s nice to be able to escape into my own fantasy world”

“It’s nice to be able to escape into my own fantasy world”

Students on their future plans

15-11-2023 · Interview

On the table is an A3-size world map, meticulously hand-drawn. At first glance, it looks like Earth, but the strange names – the continent of Dhârâk Thûr, the Randuíne Highlands, the Kingdom of Âmârynn – reveal that it’s a fantasy world. It’s the brainchild of Thijs Schenk (25), a third-year student of Health Sciences. He’s been working on it for years and plans to write many books set in his world.

Schenk’s dream is to have a long career as a fantasy author. He fell in love with the genre at a young age. He even remembers the exact moment it happened – on a family holiday in Germany, when he was eight years old. “I couldn’t sleep, so I went to the living room. My uncle was watching The Lord of the Rings on TV. He let me watch with him for half an hour. I still remember the exact scenes. My dad was angry when he found out; he thought the film was too violent. Back home, I downloaded the entire trilogy and watched it in one day, secretly on my laptop under the covers.” He’s been devouring fantasy books ever since. His student room is full of book series, from Ranger’s Apprentice to Harry Potter.

His interest in writing his own stories began when he was about 18 years old, but he decided not to study writing. “I wanted a backup plan. You have to be really successful to make a living as an author. It takes a lot of time and a bit of luck. After graduation, I plan to work in healthcare three days per week and write books on the side. Without the pressure of having to publish, it’ll hopefully still feel like a hobby, which is also conducive to the creative process. And I’m enjoying my studies so far, so I don’t regret my decision.”

Magical powers

His studies also serve as a source of inspiration. “In my fantasy world, people have magical powers. To make it somewhat believable, I consider the biological processes behind those powers. Using magic costs energy, for example. What happens if someone uses too much magic? For that, I’ve looked into phenomena like hypothermia or a coma. And magic can drive people insane, for which I’ve drawn inspiration from mental disorders.”

Schenk has looked to other fields for inspiration as well. “I wondered what realistic climates in my world would be. I researched things like ocean currents and plate tectonics to decide what different areas would look like. Yes, it’s a bit like Problem-Based Learning”, he laughs.

Escapism

All this has resulted in a detailed world with kingdoms, races, cities and ethnic groups, each with its own culture and history. It took him about seven years. “That’s quite extreme. Many fantasy authors suggest giving readers the impression that a whole world exists without fully developing it, to save time. But I went all out. I spent months on the map alone. I channel everything into my world.”

Does he also incorporate issues like climate change or the wars in Ukraine and Gaza? “No, I try to steer clear of real-world problems. My fantasy world is a place to escape the struggles of reality, not just for future readers but also for myself. I was depressed for four years. It was comforting to escape from everyday life into a book or series. That’s also when I started working on my own world. I find it more interesting than reality; I have more control over it and feel more at home there.” Does he ever lose himself in it? “No. After a day of writing, I always return to Earth.”

Publishing

He has just finished his first book. Well, the first draft. “Now the real work begins – rewriting, ensuring continuity, incorporating feedback from writing buddies.” He writes in English. “I think it’s a nicer language to write in, and it’ll reach a wider audience.” The process takes up a lot of his time, almost on a daily basis. The next step: publishing. “I’ll probably self-publish it. Going through a publisher is less work, but I don’t want to sign away the rights to my book.”

Besides, Schenk already has plenty of ideas. The book is to be the first in a long series. “And my biggest dream is to inspire others to create games, TV series or comics set in my world, all managed by my own company.” What if it doesn’t work out, and writing remains a hobby? “I’d be fine with that, too. I’m not doing this to become rich or famous. I write because it’s something I love to do.”

Future plans

In this series, Observant interviews students about their plans for the future – their hopes, fears, and uncertainties. To what extent does their past play a role in their future plans? And what about major social issues like climate change, war in Europe and elsewhere, political instability, increasing poverty, and so on?

Photo: Ellen Oosterhof

Categories: news_top, People
Tags: futureplans,future,fantasy,writer,author,lord of the rings,students

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