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Author Interview: Astrid V.J.

Astrid V.J. is a South African author and anthropologist now residing in Sweden. In early childhood, she showed an interest in reading and languages – interests that her family encouraged. Astrid started writing her first novel aged 12 and now writes high fantasy, exploring her passion for cultures and languages. She is fluent in 5 European languages. She is happily married with two adorable children. When she isn’t writing, Astrid likes to read, take walks in nature, play silly games with her children, do embroidery and play music.

  • : Writing has always been a part of who I am. Since I started writing novels at the age of twelve, I have not stopped. Fantastic ideas pop into my head and develop into amazing tales I just have to write down.
  • : The first novel I ever wrote, called the Atlantis Project (for now) is an epic occult fantasy, set in Uganda and other places in Africa, which has taken on a life of its own. I am still working on it and hope to publish it in the near future.
  • : The Siblings' Tale is the retelling of a lesser-known Grimm fairy tale: Little Brother, Little Sister. I wrote it when I was 19, on a gap year in Europe. It is my answer to the never-ending Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast retellings (not to mention The Little Mermaid 😉 The Siblings' Tale grew into something much deeper over the years as I gained experience, grew up, fell in love and had children. I also wove in my questions and considerations regarding social topics I woudl like to talk about with others, such as tolerance for difference, taking on beauty standards and love in all its forms.
  • : When I was twelve, I tried to read Fingerprints of the Gods by Graham Hancock. Although I didn't get very far, it sparked an idea. That was when my writing career began. I have not looked back.
  • : I grew up in South Africa on a smallholding outside Pretoria. My parents are both veterinarians and their love for animals in particular and nature in general really rubbed off on me. They are also avid readers and instilled in me a love for books.
  • : In the evenings, after my children go to bed. I hope, soon, to reach a point in my life where I can dedicate my working day to my writing, instead of doing it on the side.
  • : I am currently working on two projects. The first is another retelling set in the same universe I created for the Siblings' Tale. Gisela's Passion is set a few decades before the events that unfold in the Siblings' Tale. The second project, The Wishmaster Series is a dystopian fantasy adventure about a storyteller named Viola Alerion.
  • : I have the misfortune of having a day job to pay the bills. As we speak I am taking a new turn and hope things will brighten up in the near future. I am in the process of completing my certification as a life coach. Helping other people and listening are two things that always came naturally. I hope this shift in my focus will also give me more time to write, fully combining all the things I am passionate about.
  • : I generally outline, although with a retelling I will make sure to have a copy of the original fairy tale on hand so I can use it as a reference for plot moments. From there, I write and see where the characters take me.
  • : His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman opened my eyes to the depth of the human experience. I have no doubt that reading it changed me, particularly my perceptions of the divide between religion and science. The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay (a recent addition to this list) has inspired my writing style. I adore the way he weaves an epic tale with clarity and beauty.
  • : I've mentioned my work situation and aspirations. I think I should mention my background in anthropology which has heavily influenced my writing. I grew up in South Africa during the transition when Nelson Mandela was president. My mother is of Italian heritage and my father is Bavarian. To say I was confused as a teenager would be an understatement, but the resulting decisions I have made about my identity have helped me through other, more difficult questions, too. Anthropology, the study of what makes us human, was a logical conclusion to all of my teenage angst. It provided me with well-researched information about what it means to be human.
  • : At the moment I don't actually own one. The struggle of making ends meet is real. Although, to be really honest, I prefer a physical book.
  • : I get a designer and bounce ideas off them. Then we come up with a basic sketch/composition and work from there.
  • : I make a rough outline. I know where certain important plot points are going to go in. The rest, I allow to flow freely.
  • : When it just pours out. I am at my happiest when my fingers are flying across a keyboard and the words materialise on my screen.
  • : I have a website and blogsite: It contains information about my published books and other projects. Additionally, I regularly post blogs that revolve around my writing and tease out underlying issues and topics I take up in my novels.
  • : I love getting feedback. I am fully aware that I can only grow if I listen to what others have to say about my writing. So, please, if you have something meaningful to contribute about my writing, reach out to me or just leave a review. Thank you for this opportunity. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I love writing.