An Interview with 22-Year-Old Author Y.K. Willemse
1) Hi, Y.K.! Let’s get started – tell us who you are. What books have you written, etc.?
Hey there! I’m a Christian, author, piano teacher, and singing teacher. I’m a serious coffee lover, and I’m also of Dutch descent, but I live in New Zealand. Currently, I’m working on a seven book series called The Fledgling Account. I’ve wanted to get these books published for ages. The first four, which are coming out this year, are called Rafen, The Sianian Wolf, Servant of the King, and The Fourth Runi.
2) What first inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve wanted to become an author for as long as I can remember, literally. Since four or five. When my Mum put a pencil in my hand and taught me to write my name, I was already anticipating the day I’d have that name on a book cover. I don’t quite know why the life of an author would appeal to a five-year-old, but it did. I have proof in notebooks that I was writing about Rafen as early as six years old. I guess the main thing that inspired me to write was that I just felt I’d had a really good idea. Having an untold story inside you is agony, especially when you personally feel like it’s a wonderful tale. The story wouldn’t leave me alone. It bugged me all through my primary school years and into my teens. I started writing my first book at ten.
3) You’re twenty-two. How does your age factor into your writing and your experience as an author?
Yes, I recognize that I’m quite young to be an author. Sometimes I feel this is more of a disadvantage than an advantage. It was really cool to be Pontas International Literary and Film Agency’s youngest ever client, when I was eighteen. Still, I’ve often worried that my lack of life experience will be reflected in my work. I started young because the idea wouldn’t leave me alone – you might say I got my big idea a decade too soon! – and also because I knew that while my parents were supporting me, that was a really good time to try to get a publishing contract. Too many people quit their day jobs to write, and then they wind up with no money. I was just being very practical. One advantage of being young means I can write children and teenagers well, because I still remember vividly what that was like. Although, when I write from the perspective of someone older, I bet I do terribly! I try my best to imagine what it would be like to be fifty, and I pay attention to people around me, to help me understand. But I guess I just won’t know till I get there. And then I’ll be like: “Darn, I wish I was twenty again.”
Y.K.'s personal language for the world of her books, called Mio Urmeea.
4) What is your most recent work? What can audiences expect from this book or series?
My most recent works would be The Fledgling Account books. In particular, these past two weeks my editor and I have just tied up Servant of the King, and I’ve familiarized myself with The Fourth Runi again, so that I’m ready to revise that within the next month. Also, I was pretty excited to see the e-version of Rafen go up for preorder.
I like to think of The Fledgling Account as a reawakening of the epic fantasy genre, particularly for YA audiences. It’s a little bit of different, if you get what I mean, because it’s got a male protagonist instead of a female one (as so many YA fantasy novels have these days). It’s told in the traditional third person past tense, and there’s a lot of homage paid to the old classics in there. But there’s a lot of new stuff as well, a lot of Middle Eastern shades. The Fledgling Account is a series where soul, down-to-earth gritty action, and biblical imagery all combine. You’ll notice the photo of me looks very civilized. It’s a fraction deceptive; my books aren’t like that at all.
Basically, The Fledgling Account tells the story of a world threatened by the demonic force of Nazt – a network of fell spirits in the East, with grotesque physical manifestation. Zion the Phoenix, ruler of the world, surrendered himself to the flames, providing the sacrifice necessary to incarnate the Eleven spirits he created to balance all nature. These Eleven spirits appear in the world over a period of time as seven women, known as Secrai, and four men, called Runi. And it’s up to the Fourth Runi to reunite Zion’s Eleven and destroy Nazt.
The first book opens with a slave called Rafen, who is connected with all this in ways he cannot even begin to imagine. Each subsequent book reveals new strengths and facets of his identity as he fights first his own battles, and then global ones, always dancing with death, always getting that much closer to destroying his hated nemesis, the Lashki Mirah, representative of Nazt.
A portion of the large map Y.K. has at home for The Fledgling Account.
5) What do you do when you’re not writing?
I’m a music teacher, so I enjoy learning my own music and forcing kids to work really hard at theirs. I have a reputation of being a bit of a slave driver – with a really weird sense of humor. Most of my students don’t believe I’m an author. When I tell them, they look at me very seriously, as if I’m having an identity crisis, and then they say:
“No. You’re not an author. You’re a piano teacher.”
Guess I can’t hope for many sales there.
6) What do you think are the most common misconceptions about writers?
People have this idea writers are perpetually inspired and get paid loads of money. With regards to inspiration, I’m a true novelist. I get it once in a blue moon, and then I turn it into a series so that I can milk it for all it’s worth. After I have the concept, I work my guts out on it. And sure, we get paid. I’m not complaining about that, because I still can’t believe anyone would pay me for my words. It’s a pretty cool experience, and I’m super grateful for it. But one has to be honest: books aren’t the most popular form of entertainment these days, because they require mental effort. Still, it could be worse. In Shakespeare’s day, anyone could grab copies of his poems, print a whole bunch, and label them as their own. No one thought anything of it back then. That’s death to an author’s income.
7) What are your dreams for the future as a writer?
I hope to earn back my advance and gather an audience for The Fledgling Account. I don’t expect much. (After all, I am a piano teacher.) I’d love it if I could get my books in bookstores round the world. However, very few authors make it big. I’m just happy to be here – and at my age, it feels pretty darn good. That said, I’ll share my story when I get the chance, as that’s what it was made for: sharing.
8) Where can people find more information about you?
The best place to go is writersanctuary.net, where I keep a blog among other things. My weirdness can be viewed there. Otherwise, my fledgling page on Facebook (www.facebook.com/fledglingaccount) is a pretty good place to check out info about the books. Also, I’ve got an author page on Amazon.