Print Edition: July 3, 2013
Rudolf Kerkhoven is a Kindle-published author of two novels, The Year We Finally Solved Everything and A Dream Apart, as well as several adult choose-your-own-adventure collaborations with Albertan author Daniel Pitts. Kerkhoven teaches high school math by day, carves out time to write by night, and, by the end of this year, hopes to publish his next novel, Love is not Free. Love is 99 Cents.
I teach mathematics at a high school – senior level.
That’s kind of a stretch from doing the writing thing on the side.
Well, I started off as an elementary school teacher, and after a couple of years of doing that I realized that of all the subjects you have to teach in elementary, I enjoyed teaching math the most. And of all subjects, I really actually don’t enjoy teaching anything to do with English – I think because I felt like I wasn’t doing a very good job at it. I know it seems a little strange. I’ve taken a lot of math courses, but I’ve enjoyed writing a lot longer than I’ve enjoyed mathematics.
Do your students ever read your work, or mention it to you?
Not to my face. I don’t actually tell a lot of people that I try to write books, because it makes me feel pretentious. When I teach, and in everyday life, I go by Rudy, and [on my books] my name is Rudolf … so it’s not a great disguise, but it works to some extent.
When do you find time to write? Being a teacher is a nine-to-three job, but it can often extend past that.
It’s changed – 2010 was kind of when I discovered the publishing stuff for the Kindle. I wrote my first novel in ’98 (I’m sure it was a piece of crap) and in those years from ’98 to 2010, I wrote the odd thing, but there was no rush. So I’d often take a few years to finish something.
The whole process of trying to get something published through a traditional publisher is a very long, drawn-out process. Mailing something out, maybe three months later hearing a reply, and if they request more you mail more out, maybe six months later you get a rejection and you mail somewhere else. So there’d be times where I wouldn’t really write much, because there didn’t seem to be any pressing need, and then times in the summer where I’d write lots.
For me, discovering how I can publish stuff directly for ebooks was a very liberating – the idea that everything I write I can release, if I want to. But it’s also a dangerous thing, because you can release stuff too easily. But once I discovered that, I tried to write a little bit each day – and that doesn’t always happen. Nine months ago my daughter was born, and since then it’s been a little more important for me to try and be a little more disciplined, even if it’s just 45 minutes a day. I’ve tried to have more of a schedule, rather than just writing little bits here and there.
How did you get involved in that ebook process? What introduced to you that sort of self-publishing?
It was a friend of mine who I’ve written some comedic stuff with, Daniel Pitts; he’d mentioned self-publishing years ago, and I never really looked into it – it sounded like too much work for too little gain.
But then I read an article in the Vancouver Sun in 2010, about a bookstore in Vancouver who got a computer where you could download an ebook and it would print a hard copy of it. That was basically the focus of the article, but in the same article they mentioned how there’s been this growing niche of people publishing books directly to Amazon for Kindle. That’s where I first heard about it, and it was in the summer so I had some time.
Within three weeks, I took one of the older collaborations with Daniel, The Adventures of Whatley Tupper, which was just very silly and something we’d worked on on-and-off for a couple of years at that point. It’d been finished for a couple years and just sitting on my hard drive, and that seemed to be a suitable book to expand into an ebook. So I spent a few weeks just formatting it, and learning how to format it and put all the links in, and released that – and really I haven’t really looked back from there.
How did you and Daniel start working together?
We went to high school in Calgary together – we spoke years ago, in the ‘90s, about trying to write something. After I got fired from a job when I was in university, and I wasn’t taking any classes, I had a lot of spare time. So I just wrote something, over the course of six weeks. It became a small and most likely terrible novel that has never been released. When I told Daniel about that, he realized that it really wasn’t so hard to write a book. We’ve been doing stuff together ever since.
Finally, I see that you’re working on another book, called Love is Not Free. Love is 99 Cents.
That’s something I started in the winter and I put on hold for a few months, and I plan on focusing on that over the summer. I find during the school year—especially with this school year, having a young daughter—trying to write in the evenings alone is difficult sometimes. But trying to write something dramatic or serious is especially difficult. If all goes well, I hope to carry on that draft in the summer.
I read an article once about how online dating websites were recruiting mathematical geniuses to come up with better algorithms to determine how to match people up. [So in the book,] a rather autistic man comes up with this mobile phone app that finds the perfect match, regardless of what they think the perfect match for them is, and hilarity ensues from there.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.