'Jan is an incredibly talented writer and artist who consistently astounds me with his creative imagination and drive. Over the last few years I’ve had the privilege to supervise his Doctor of Arts, a rollicking postmodern epic called 'Dutch Technique,' that brings together comic book art, personal narrative, poetry, and criticism to create a truly unique meditation on the meaning of heroism and loss. As a writer, Jan is a master of style and tone, leaping from heartfelt, to the mawkish, to the comic-intellectual (and more) with supreme ease. His command of genre is unassailable, which means he can write on any subject and for any occasion. It’s been a pleasure to watch his work develop and hear his thoughts on topics as wide-ranging as Jack Kirby and Martin Heidegger, the history of comic books and the history of religious thought.'
Dr Matthew Sussman is a graduate of Harvard University who currently works at the University of Sydney.
'Jan Scherpenhuizen has contributed as a writer and an artist to a number of publications I have conceived of and edited over the years, and he is the most reliable of professionals. He wrote terrific short stories for CTHULHU DEEP DOWN UNDER; SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE AUSTRALIAN CASEBOOK; SHERLOCK HOLMES AND DOCTOR WAS NOT; and he also did amazing art for those and other projects. His story in DEEP DOWN UNDER garnered significant critical praise. He’s good, hard-working, takes notes well, and is the guy I turn to when there’s a crisis because I know he’ll come through again and again and again.'
Christopher Sequeira is a well-established writer and editor whose work has been published in Australia and the USA.
'Wordsmith extraordinaire: As well as having a talent for finding the mot juste, Jan’s writing is full of gusto – as are his illustrations. Apart from the energy he invests in all he does, he brings to his chosen projects a focus and integrity that is rare.'
Dr Louise Katz is an academic and novels who has been a recipient of both the Aurealis Award and the Nora K Hemming Award.
'Jan Scherpenhuizen is a special kind of writer, bringing whole worlds to life in the reader's mind with evocative, inviting details, and peopling them with engaging characters to root for. His work is clever, original, and exciting—and he is a dream to work with!'
Nancy Holder, New York Times bestselling author, The Wicked Saga
‘I’ve come to the last page of your book and all I can say at the moment is WOW! ...It’s a terrific imaginative work, an Aussie ‘Lord of the Rings’ or an extended Harry Potter for teens...No Doubt about it! A complex story packed with incidents, clearly presented, and each slotting perfectly together... the writer is gifted in being able to present a scene clearly and economically so that the story keeps its cracking pace ... The kids’ dialogue is full of wit and banter, which gives a light touch in those many dire situations ... The description of the scene on p. 156 is that of a visionary. The peak, perfection.’
Judith Crabtree, author of A Strange and Beautiful Magic, Hodder Headline, in a letter to Bruce Walshe co-plotter and publisher of The Secret writing about the novel which was written by Jan Scherpenhuizen
I started drawing when I was about five. I drew with perspective and what I drew was recognisable. My grandfather called me Rembrandt. My dad told me, "I was surprised you could draw at all, you were so uncoordinated, and the way you used to dribble..." but nonetheless, everyone thought I would be an artist and I did as well. I did become one, too, but I don't think it's my strongest suite. But despite the fact I loved art with a passion from a very early age I also loved stories. I loved pictures that told stories - cartoons, TV movies and eventually, beyond all else, comic books.
I grew up in a bi-lingual environment. My mother was English and my father Dutch and there was a lot of storytelling that went on. My mother was from Yorkshire and had many Irish friends. My father's family were from the north and had moved to the south of the Netherlands and he'd lived through the war and traveled a lot. He'd also studied 6 languages. My parents were both excellent mimics so the stories they told were peppered with foreign accents, different dialects, foreign speech and quotes from the classics. I guess that's one of the places my appreciation of both storytelling and the richness of language began.
But I only really wrote, to begin with, to give structure to the stories I was drawing. Nearly everything I wrote was a script for a comic. It wasn't until I was in my twenties and I'd read enough great literature that I was really set on fire with the urge to write. I loved Ray Bradbury, Mervyne Peake and JG Ballard - authors who combined imagination with a brilliant use of language, and authors like Philip K Dick who question the very nature of reality (philosophy was to become another of my passions and my major study when I eventually went to university ).
These are the things which formed me as a writer. I never lost my love of 'popular culture'. I bring an understanding of pulp and what makes it wonderful and successful to the 'more cultured' aspects of what I know and do, and I never lose sight of the audience.
I draw narratives but I also write visually. I see my stories as if on a screen and I write them down with the best words I can find. That's whether I'm writing a screenplay, graphic novel or prose work.
Poster for Wild and Crazy Dinosaurs circa 1990
I did creative writing at university as well as philosophy. My first comic book work was published in Newton Comics Marvel Triple Action in 1977. I got my first series of books published in 1989 - 4 picture books called Wild and Crazy Dinosaurs. Bruce Walshe's family had been in publishing for a long time and he was setting up his own imprint Ghost Gum Press. Bruce became a good friend and I wound up writing a screenplay based on his award-winning short film 'The Magic Cricket Bat.' My first short story was published in Bloodsongs Magazine in 1994. That's me, philosophy and comic books, picture books and hardcore horror magazines and a lot in between. In 2007, Bruce published The Secret a novel I wrote based on my screenplay I'd written from the see dof his short film. It was given a Wild and Wooley Award and credited as 'well-written with credible characters.' That was nice.
I'd written 3 sequels to the novel and we'd made contact with a well-known film maker who was interested in making it into a feature film when, tragically, Bruce passed away in 2014. and the series went into limbo.
In 2008-9, Black House Comics published a graphic novel I wrote and drew, The Twilight Age. That was a dream come true. The story was actually based on a 460 page novel of mine called The Time of the Wolves. I'd just finished the firsts draft when the file disappeared on a laptop of mine that was stolen in a burglary. No back up. Yup! I didn't have the heart to start from scratch and re-write, but when I met Black House publisher Baden Kirgan and told him the plot, he decided that was the story he wanted to do. So my novel was resurrected 15 years after it was lost in graphic-novel form!
The illustration on the right is my cover for the second comic book installment.
For couple of years I worked on Martin Chimes thriller Into the Lion's Den until I deemed it ready and we managed to place it with Harlequin Books. Martin and I were currently working on the sequel to the book when Martin tragically passed away after a heroic battle with cancer . Martin was a real mover and shaker and commissioned me to write a screenplay of the first novel which is still doing the rounds.
I completed my first novel in 1982 (no one will every see it). I have written a half dozen picture books, a dozen novels, a couple of volumes of short stories and seven screenplays since. I believe that's called paying your dues. I would have done more writing but I've also illustrated several books and many comics in the same period, worked in advertising, run an assessment agency and acted as an agent and editor. I believe that's called putting bread on the table.
There's always a dozen pitches on at any one time. Here's a 'little project' put together by my good friend and longtime collaborator, Christopher Sequeira who has written scripts for Marvel Comics, DC comics, Sherlock Holmes prose anthologies and also dabbles in screenplays and publishing, like yours truly.
Chris and old mates of ours from the Bloodsongs days, Steve Proposch and Bryce Stevens put this baby together with contributions from 24 of Australia's best horror writers. It was a real honour to be counted among them.
Since it then was placed with IGW publishing and published in 3 volumes 2018.
I was really pleased to have my story singled out for review, along with the stories of the esteemed Lee Murray and Geoff Brown on the excellent H.P. Lovecaste.
Here's a couple of other professional anthologies I've contributed to featuring stories based on Sherlock Holmes. The first is the beautifully produced Australian Casebook published by publishing giant Bonnier, under their Echo imprint. As well as my story 'The Adventure of the Demonic Abduction' I illustrated a half dozen of the other stories in the volume. I was chuffed to have my story singled out in the review of the book in The Age as having been particularly enjoyed by the reviewer due to its 'frisson of terror.'
The second is another brilliant concept of Mr Sequeira's, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Was Not, which contain stories in which the great detective's companion is not Dr James Watson but one of the famous doctors of literature. My story teams Holmes with Dr Mabuse.
This one, edited by Nancy Holder is going to be published by US publisher Ballinger Books due for release in 2021. I did the cover and contributed a story as well: 'A little trouble with Big China' a homage to one of my favourite films. Sherlock Holmes again. Seems people can't get enough of him. But just so you don't think I'm getting into a rut, my next story is 'Vlad the Imp' which is has been placed in the forthcoming IFWG anthology Dracula Unfanged.
My novel What on Earth started as a short story was developed into a feature length movie script and then into a novelette. It's one of my favourite pieces and the one everyone seems to love. Bruce Walshe was a big fan and working toward getting it made into a film before his untimely passing.
Twilight Age Vampires is a pulp novel. That doesn't mean trash to me. It means fast-moving and easy to read. There's actually a lot of profound stuff in there but it's subtle enough to be missed by anyone not too keen on thinking. Set in the world of the Twilight Age this tells the story of what happens when 99.75% of humans die but none of the vampires do - how do blood suckers deal with ecological crisis?
Probably the book of mine that has had the most exposure is the Secret. Renamed The Secret Quest to Jumlatan. We've had an enormous amount of positive feedback from this book from its many young readers through to professional writers and critics. See the quote from authorJudith Crabtree at the top of the page.
And Leigh Blackmore, Editor of Terra Australis (Pan McMillan) and George Turner Prize Judge had this to say:
Bruce Walshe and Jan Scherpenhuizen are natural storytellers, and their book The Secret is full of exciting ingredients like hidden worlds and strange creatures. The Carers, who must replant the Tree of Life, are constantly shadowed by a stone-like race known as the Pitters, who have laid waste to other worlds and wish also to make earth a wasteland. Caught up in the maelstrom of action between these races are Brad and Crystal, two children whose participation in helping save the planet lends the tale a strong, welcome message in these difficult times for Gaia, or the living Earth. They are aided by Crystal’s father Nungari, and by larger-than-life creatures Bilby (a marsupial-man) and Makira (a chameleon plant-man). The settings range from Alice Springs, and Melbourne in Australia, to the icy Himalayas, and the text is enlivened by thrilling black and white illustrations by Steven Walshe. Carrying the precious seed which will save the planet, the children undergo perils such as balloon-flights, hang-gliding and the underground realm of the monsters, before vanquishing the evil and reinforcing the miraculous nature of the universe. A very positive novel, its message beautifully reinforced by humour and natural contemporary dialogue. The SECRET is an ecological fable that will engage all young readers. Highly recommended.'
If you have a project you need a writer or co-writer for, give me a call and we'll talk.