Dennis: Ronny, how long have you been a writer and how did you get started?
Ronny: I grew up in the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia. I have loved writing for as long as I can remember. My fifth-grade teacher called me “My little writer”. I wrote stories and essays, and when I went to the Netherlands for my college education I followed the example of my mother, who wrote weekly letters about our life in the Dutch East Indies to her parents in the Netherlands: I wrote weekly letters with stories about my life in the Netherlands to my mother back in Indonesia, sort of like a memoir. When I got married and moved to the United States, I continued writing weekly letters about our adventures in America to my parents, in-laws, friends and relatives. I can’t imagine how I found the time to write so much! I just loved writing.
Dennis: Ronny, What type of writing do you do?
Ronny: I write historical non-fiction and memoir.
Dennis: You have written two books. Please provide an overview of the books and what you would like readers to take from them.
Ronny: I am a survivor of the WWII Japanese concentration camps on the island of Java. My mother smuggled a secret journal through the camps, an eye-witness account of the living conditions and barbaric treatment of women and children by the Japanese. Had they detected it, she would have been killed; but they didn’t!
My first book In the Shadow of the Sun, published in Canada in 1992 is solely based on my mother’s camp journal which I received after my grandparents had passed away. I translated it from Dutch into English. When a friend in California said she didn’t know anything about women and children’s camps in Southeast Asia during World War II, I found an agent and a publisher and it became one of the very first English-language accounts in North America about the Japanese concentration camps for women and children during World War II in the Pacific. It is out of print now and has become a collectors’ item.
I want my readers to know about this virtually unknown Asian Holocaust, as it is called, as opposed to the Holocaust in Europe that everybody does know about.
Of my second book Rising from the Shadow of the Sun: A Story of Love, Survival and Joy the first part is based on my mother’s camp journal, and the second part is the memoir of my life after the camps. It also contains copies of original documents from the NARA Files, the Japanese War Crimes Files, declassified in the year 2000.
It is very important to me that my readers learn about our lives in the camps (part one) because it is a little known but important part of history. It is my mother’s legacy. And I hope that especially the younger generations will be inspired by my example: that it is possible to set goals for your life and reach them, to fulfill your dreams by hard work and perseverance, no matter where you come from.
Dennis: I visited your website and found it full of excellent information both personal and historical. Please tell us a little about your website: http://www.ronnyhermandejong.com/
Ronny: Ah yes, my website! Since its conception a few years ago it crashed a couple of times. But I now have a fabulous new webmaster firstname.lastname@example.org, whom I can highly recommend. He crafted a far better website than I had before, he maintains it and keeps it safe from viruses.
I am proud to say that my website is featured as a link on the largest, most visited website of POW research in the world, the website of the late Roger Mansell: http://www.rogermansell.com/links/
Embedded in my Welcome Page as well as in the Books Page is an old Polygon Movie clip of the signing of the Document of Surrender on board the U.S.S. Missouri. Other than pictures of moments in my life (I love to look at pictures) and a Blog page where I post something about once a month, it has links both in the Dutch and the English language to important research sites for POWS, their relatives and historians.
There is a link to the Japanese War Crimes Files; another link takes you to Tinian Island with information and pictures of the most historical airstrip on earth where World War II was won: Runway Able. And then there is a special In Memoriam page about my mother, who was such an amazing and loving person, and who lived to be almost 102 years old.
Dennis: Do you belong to any social networking sites?
Ronny: Yes I do.
Dennis: What suggestions to you have for other writers/authors?
Ronny: Follow your dreams. Persevere in what you are doing. Learn from everyone who has good suggestions you can use. Ask for help when you need help. Don’t give up. Be optimistic and see the silver lining of every cloud. Take it a step at a time, a day at a time.
Dennis: What have you learned about the publishing industry that might help other authors or those who may want to be authors?
Ronny: In the past, when my first book was published, a writer would send query letters to find an agent, who would then find a publisher for your book. It took time of course, but it often worked. For my second book, when e-books had become popular, I wrote query letters for a full year without any results. Self publishing is easy nowadays, including Print On Demand without great up-front expenses; Print On Demand with http://www.Booklocker.com was the way to go for me.
I found there are many e-book publishers that do a good job. However, you always have to compare price and competence. I can recommend a reliable, reasonable e-publishing company: http://www.stonethreadpublishing.com. They are excellent, very creative and they design book covers as well.
Dennis: What kind of marketing activities have worked for you that you might suggest to others?
Ronny: Well, having been an actress and hula dancer in my previous lives, I love to do live presentations. I have an interesting Power Point Presentation with a book trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01k6q9MvSpM&feature=youtu.be that people really like.
With online marketing you reach many more people of course, but I am still learning to optimize the possibilities.
Dennis: Is there anything else you would like to include in this interview? Basically what would you want others to take away from this interview?
Ronny: I want all people to realize that the horrors of World War Two in the Pacific were not only suffered during military battles and in military POW camps but that innocent civilians were locked up and tortured as well. And, I want to inspire younger readers with the example of my life.
Do I have three wishes? If so, I would like to add a recent review by a famous Author and Historian Linda Goetz Holmes:
Ronny Herman de Jong uses her mother’s “letters” to her parents about her time in captivity as a civilian in the Dutch East Indies during WWII, along with her two little daughters, together with recollections of her father’s story during that time to tell a remarkable tale of courage, patience, horror at behavior by Japanese captors, and finally, release. It is a story familiar to those who also lived through that time, but not to the rest of us; it is a tale which must be told and retold, especially because the government of Japan has yet to apologize to its victims or their descendants.
Mrs. de Jong, in Part II, tells of her own marriage, children and travels, often ending a section with “Life couldn’t be better.” We see a woman who savors every day of her freedom, especially in contrast to her early years. Everyone should read and reflect on this well-told story.
Linda Goetz Holmes
Author, Guests of the Emperor, Unjust Enrichment, and 4000 Bowls of Rice.