Interview With Author Astrid V J

Paul’s Fantasy Writings, today, welcomes an interview with author Astrid V J, who has written the delightful YA fantasy series The Sibling’s Tale. I made contact with Astrid recently and she kindly agreed to an interview with me.

Where do you live and has this place influenced your writings?

I live in Gothenburg, Sweden. And, yes, the natural forests have very much influenced my descriptions of the kingdom of Vendale. Although my love for the natural world was fostered in a very different climate, there is nothing quite like European deciduous forests. I grew up in South Africa and some of the landscapes in my WIP (work in progress) are based on the scenery I grew up with.

What was the moment that made you decide that you had to write The Sibling’s Tale series?

I read Ella Enchanted as a teenager. Although I loved the concept of a fairy tale where the couple meet “before the ball” (as it were), I was disappointed because it is yet another Cinderella retelling. There are so many fabulous fairy tales out there and I really don’t understand why our society is foisting only a select few onto us.

I decided to write a retelling of my favourite Brother’s Grimm fairy tale, called Little Brother, Little Sister. In Aspiring, Volume I of the Sibling’s Tale, I give the background. I answered why the siblings have to flee, and how the sister could have gotten to know her future husband. Becoming, Volume II of the Sibling’s Tale, is the retelling of the fairy tale.

This blogger: In some respects, your reason for starting your series is similar to what made me start my own – A sense of disappointment. It is a powerful agent and a sign that you want to improve the stories that are out there. Well done to you!

Your series is in the Young Adult (YA) fantasy genre. What drew you to this genre?

I wrote the original manuscript when I was 19. So, it was the genre I read most at the time and was a natural choice.

There has been a plethora of YA fiction novels written over the past decade. In your opinion, what is the hardest part of writing a YA story today?

What I find hardest is how different the lives of teenagers are now in the technological era. Life for me at that age was a completely different thing.

Although many doubts and fears still remain the same, I think there are quite a few differences in mindset. The book I’m working on right now, Gisela’s Passion (Volume III of The Sibling’s Tale), is an exploration of that difference.

In two of my blog pieces, I discuss how to create a compelling secondary character. What would you say is the most intriguing aspect of Edvard, who has arguably the largest role of all of your secondary characters?

Edvard struggles with his priorities. Like a typical teen, he’s trying to be an adult and wants to take on more responsibility than he can handle. Aspiring is written entirely from Elisabeth’s point of view, so Edvard’s difficulties aren’t clearly depicted. I have considered rewriting it from another point of view to allow Edvard and Richard to become clearer characters.

What you get between the lines is a glimpse of a young man who is floundering after his mother’s death. He wants to be responsible for his younger sister. But he doesn’t really know where to start, so he doesn’t. Edvard wants to be helpful to his best friend and useful in his position as earl. Yet, he is also a character who likes to have fun at the expense of others. For a time, he even represses his fun-loving nature because it doesn’t fit with the general view of an earl.

This blogger: Edvard sounds like a very complex and empathetic character; one definitely to look out for in the series. I like it that you have made him take on so much responsibility and make him struggle with it at the same time. This shows that he is fighting an internal battle. I like that element a lot as it makes Edvard human and relatable.

Does one of the characters in your story hold a special place in your heart? If so, which one(s)?

Elisabeth is definitely one. I was nineteen when I wrote her “memoir,” which became Aspiring. Her character is the combination of everything I hated about myself and those traits I value most. By the end of The Sibling’s Tale, she is the person I still aspire to become.

The second character close to my heart is Richard, Elisabeth’s love interest. I only realised this in hindsight, now during the publication process. In effect, Richard embodies everything I consider important for a life partner. Writing him turned out to be an unwitting visualisation, and it worked! I met my husband less than four months after I completed the first draft. He is everything I ever wanted. Writing Richard allowed me to sort out in my mind what I was looking for, so I could recognise it when I finally met the right person.

This blogger: That is amazing on both fronts. First, that you know the sort of person you want to be, and that you defined the man for you and found him. I wish you only happiness; that you become the person you aspire to be, and that you and your husband live a long and happy life together.

If you could give your younger self some advice about the writing process, what would it be?

The entire book is my advice to a younger version of myself. In terms of writing, I could have done with a bit less self-criticism. But I needed to grow as a person to be able to give depth to my writing and to my story. I’ve learned to be patient and to give my writing the time it needs. Each story takes it’s time and we shouldn’t hurry it along.

Advice during the interview with author Astrid V J.

When you planned your series, did the plot come first or the characters?

I originally envisioned The Sibling’s Tale as a single volume. Since the plot was heavily based on the fairy tale, I focused more on characterisation.

What surprised you most whilst you wrote The Sibling’s Tale?

How easy it was. I just sat down and it flowed out. I didn’t have to fight to get it out at all.

This blogger: Really? I wish that happened to me. I love writing, but I find it a struggle every single day. Good on you that writing comes easily to you. I wish it were so for me (and I have a feeling that many other writers would wish the same for them too).

Have your family and friends read Aspiring? If so, what do they think of it and how do you feel when they talk about your novel with you?

My sisters were my first fans. It is why Aspiring is dedicated to them. My mother took a red pen to the second draft and helped me create a stronger story by asking pertinent questions. Many other family members and friends supported my crowdfund to raise money to pay for editing and the cover. More friends and family helped out with reviews during the release of Aspiring.

I could never have done this without the incredible support of those closest to me and I am amazed at the support I continue to receive. I am eternally grateful that I got up the courage to ask all the fabulous people I know for their help.

This blogger: That brings a smile to my face and is really nice to hear. First, I am happy that you decided to crowdfund and publish your story. That is a big step and should not be overlooked.

Second, I am happy that your family and friends have given you such support. Arguably, because of them, we have The Sibling’s Tale and you have given entertainment and joy to people around the world. That is no small feat.

According to your blog, you are currently writing Part II. Has it been harder for you to write Part II than Part I. If so, why do you think that is?

A photo of Astrid, following an interview with author Astrid V J.
Astrid V J with a magical bird, like it had it had come out of her own fantasy tale.

You misunderstood. I wrote Volumes I and II together as a single piece. I split the book into two volumes because it was very big, which made editing it all in one go very expensive. Splitting it over time was more manageable. It also made more marketing sense. My current WIP is a standalone set in the same universe and is also a retelling. Gisela’s Passion takes place a few decades before The Sibling’s Tale and can serve as a prequel. It is flowing really nicely. The story is just pouring out and I hope to still publish it this year.

The other story I am working on is the trilogy detailing the frame story I set up in The Sibling’s Tale with the prologues in Aspiring and Becoming. This trilogy will follow the adventures of the wandering storyteller Viola Alerion and how she ended up as high archivist of the imperial library.

This blogger: First, I apologise for getting the wrong end of the stick. My bad. Second, you sound like you know exactly what you are doing and that you have some great stories for us coming up. That’s always welcome. (*smiles*.)

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

I am a highly creative person and love to do crafts with my children. I also embroider – cross-stitch, mostly, to create cross-stitch patterns of my favourite anime characters.

Also, I play the violin and use that to get my mood to the perfect place for writing. My other great love is for the outdoors and seeing nature, such as by taking walks; especially, by Swedish lakes. They are just so dreamy.

End of Interview

That brings our interview with author Astrid V J to an end. I would like to thank her for her time, and to say that it has been a pleasure getting to know her. I wish her all the best for her future writings, her teaching, her family, and her other ventures.

You can purchase Astrid’s wonderful YA fantasy novels, Aspiring, and Becoming at Amazon and I have every faith that you will enjoy it. Otherwise, like Astrid on Facebook, follow her on Instagram, and check out her website and her page on Goodreads. This way, you will be able to keep up with her and be the first to know when her next book, Gisela’s Passion, is released.

PS: For more interviews with authors, as well as exclusive writing tips and fanfiction short stories, please fill in the form below.

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