“Rafen” – Y. K. Willemse

It’s my pleasure today to interview a fellow writer and all round decent human being Yvette Kate Willemse, otherwise known as Y. K. Willemse, who has just released the first of a new fantasy series titled Rafen – The Fledgling Account Book 1 out now from Permuted Press.

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(Y. K. Willemse in typical New Zealand weather.)

Yvette hails from New Zealand, and is a talented writer who has written a different and challenging epic fantasy series. A seven book series is no mean feat, and as you’ll learn from the interview below Yvette takes her writing – and her beliefs – seriously.

I am proud to recommend her fantasy series to you and I hope she earns the success she deserves.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Y. K. Willemse?

Yvette Kate Willemse is a kid who was fortunate enough to be saved by God. Most everything I do is an expression of that – I kind of can’t help myself, to be honest. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be an author, ever since my Mum put a pencil in my hand and taught me to write my name. There’ve been many times when I thought that there was no point in treading such a hard road, and I was close to giving up or actually did give up. It never lasted long, however. Not writing is a form of mental agony with me. For me, writing is a type of prayer – a liberation, therapy, and immense relief, because I seldom express myself properly in speech. Making music gives me the same high, but to a lesser degree.

2. Where do you get your writing ideas from?

This is the ultimate question! I’m a true novelist: I only have a few good ideas, which I stretch into books or a series of books. I pray for my ideas. But the best ones come completely unbidden, like a strike of lightning. They feel like a tangible pressure point on my brain until I get them out.

3. What inspired you to write in the first place?

Rafen inspired me to write. I’ve known my main character since I was five or six. Having a story to tell propelled me onwards. Without the story, I wouldn’t be an author.

4. Who are your favourite writers/influences on your writing?

I love Scripture, particularly the Psalms. I’m also a huge fan of Thomas Hardy and Katherine Mansfield – depressing authors, surely, but so exquisite. The blood and grit of authors like Stephen R. Lawhead and Matthew Lawrence have influenced me as well. J. K. Rowling has made a profound impact on me, and her critic Jim Adam (author of Destiny Unfulfilled: A Critique of the Harry Potter Series) has forced me to become more conscientious about my character development.

5. What are you working on now?

I’m working on The Fledgling Account, bouncing back and forth between different books. I’ve just finished editing book three with my editor, and I’m working on book five, preparing to submit that for publication at some point. I’ve also worked hard on book six this year, and put together some notes for book seven. A seven-book series is complicated!

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(Cover of Rafen – Book One of The Fledgling Account)

6. Do you think readers are after book series these days, or is there still a place for the one-off novel?

A series is hard work for a reader to stick with. It’s effort to keep getting the books and pushing through them. However, I think people enjoy them because once they’ve found an author they like, they can keep going back for what first pushed their buttons. Nevertheless, there have been some one-off successes, so I still reckon there’s a place for them. However, depending on how commercial the author and their publishing company is, these one-off hits might become a series! Even Harper Lee wrote a sequel in the end.

7. Are you working on anything else besides The Fledgling Account? What else can your readers expect?

I have a trilogy I’m desperate to work on after this series. But I may have to wait for a while, as a seven-book series is such a job. The Window Trilogy is true children’s literature, with a boy protagonist who is intent on making as much mischief as possible. The only problem is, “every bad child has a window”, which appears beneath the culprit’s washing line and opens up to reveal a band of kidnapping monsters. Jerry’s trouble-making might not last long…

8. What do you like about fantasy stories?

I adore fantasy because it simplifies the world around us, enabling us to see patterns and reasons behind things. At the same time, it exaggerates particular sufferings and desires, painting a vivid picture that speaks to our souls. I like to think of fantasy as a metaphor that helps make better sense of the world around us. For me, the genre is a lens that distils reality.

9. What are your pet hates about fantasy, if any?

For a start, I can’t stand commonly used fantasy names like “Freya”. I just can’t. I also think there are too many female protagonists these days, and there are way too many vampires. In some cases, it’s almost like particular YA authors decide that because they can’t write a sex scene, they can pen the next best thing to it: the exchanging of blood! Such sensuality can never replace a good story. Also, I hate it when people write in the present tense. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m too fussy, but it drives me nuts.

10. What are the necessary qualities for a fiction hero/heroine?

I think one of the most important things is that they have a goal or desire to fulfil, and they actively work toward it. I also love it when they are genuinely good – when they inspire you to do better. Nobody likes a moralizing character, but I think there’s still a place for the hero that tries hard to overcome their shortcomings.

11. Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I honestly don’t know. I really hope it’s London! I’d love to have successfully finished my Fledgling Account series by that time, and to have done a good job on it. I also like to think that it will have gathered a readership that appreciates it. I don’t have any delusions of grandeur regarding fame. I’d be happy just to have a handful of loyals.

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(Part of Yvette’s fantasy world of Mio Pilamur)

12. Music plays a big part in your life. Does it influence your writing?

Yes! So much! As a singing teacher and piano teacher, I love instructing my students to “tell the story” with their music making. I literally cannot write or edit without music. When I run out, my mind goes blank and I have to find a new CD to listen to. Music lifts me above drudgery and transports me to where I need to be to write effectively. Life would be very bleak without music, I think.

13. What would be your top three favourite books and why?

The Bible, because I can’t live without it. It’s totally changed my life. Then I love John Galsworthy’s The Forsyte Saga, because it’s probably the most incredible example of descriptive writing and character development that I have ever read. The dialogue is incredible. And J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is another essential for my bookshelf. I learned so much about setting up a series from reading this book.

14. What are your top three favourite films and why?

I’m going to be really uncreative here and just say The Lord of the Rings trilogy forms my favourite three. I’ve just never seen any other films that move me so much and that speak to my heart in this way. They’re not too idealistic either. I felt like the Harry Potter series was a bit idealistic – at the end, in the books, Harry’s not torn up by everything that he’s seen. He’s not struggling to go back to normal life or to heal. He’s thinking about Kreacher bringing him a sandwich, and in the background, Peeves the ghost is singing. Such a let down at the end of an epic series. Frodo’s state of mind, after all his travails, was much more realistic, even comforting. The idea that feeling old scars isn’t a sin was very reassuring.

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(A sample of the script invented for the series.)

So there you have it. Yvette’s novel Rafen, the first book of “The Fledgling Account” is now available from various places around this turgid little planet. Here are the links:

Amazon

Amazon UK

Amazon Australia

Wheelers

Fishpond

I had the privilege of reading Rafen before publication and I can definitely recommend it. Something different in the world of fantasy.

Russell Proctor   www.russellproctor.com

It’s Only Rock and Roll…But the Church Doesn’t Like It

Religion is at it again.
This time, a church in England has stopped a grieving family from putting what they want on a relative’s gravestone. It seems Charles Clapham was a Rolling Stones fan (which means he had good taste in music, so he couldn’t have been all bad). But when they wanted to put “It was only rock and roll” on his gravestone the All Saint’s Church in Standon, England, decided that was not suitable for an epitaph.

 

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Did they fear it was music of the devil? Is there a certain standard of subject matter that even the dead are supposed to conform to? Were they afraid visitors to the graveyard would be offended by a reference to Mick and Keith and Ronnie and Charlie? I can’t think of any other reasons they might have against it.
How dare the church forbid a grieving family’s wishes to farewell a relative in what they see as an appropriate manner. Sure, if they wanted to erect a giant statue of Mick Jagger over the man’s grave lit up in neon, or have “Sympathy for the Devil” pumping out night and day over loudspeakers, probably that would be a good call to ban it. But a few words written in what I suppose was to be a tasteful manner, as a dead man’s last tribute to a band that gave him untold joy during his life? I don’t think so.
This is particularly resonant with me because something a bit like it happened with my own father’s funeral back in 2007. Dad liked Louis Armstrong (again, proves his good taste in music) and we wanted to play some Satchmo at his funeral. But the Anglican Minister who was going to officiate at the ceremony refused to allow it because “rock and roll” (that’s what he called Armstrong’s music – I know, I know…) was not suitable for such a ritual. Besides, he said, he didn’t have a “ghetto blaster” (again, his words – shows how in-touch he is) to allow a “record” to be played.

 

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Yes, this is 2007 we are talking about here. Playing records over ghetto blasters. This guy was really in touch with the modern world.
My mother was too upset about Dad’s death in the first place to argue. Besides, she had great emotional ties with this particular church in relation to her own parents. I was there and quietly seethed, not wanting to create a scene in front of my distressed mother. So we didn’t get Satchmo. We did manage to get “For those in peril on the sea” sung, which Dad would have enjoyed and which made a relevant reference to his love of boats. But that’s a hymn, so that’s all right. God’s mentioned in it. That must be the clincher.
How dare the church dictate ritual to this extent. What a family wants at a funeral is their affair. Of course, there are limits to this, but I’m sure the vast majority of people are aware of this and do not ask for outrageous, or racist, or obscene things. But modern music (or not so modern?) That’s a bit rich.
I’m not going to have a funeral. Not at a church. And not just because I’m an atheist. Funerals are more for the living left behind than the dead person. “She would have wanted it this way” doesn’t cut it with most funerals. I’m not going to have a church funeral because I don’t like their attitude, and since it’s been years since I stepped inside a church anyway, I’m not going to start after I’m dead.

– Russell Proctor    www.russellproctor.com

Garfunkel and Oates v The Stupid

Let’s face it, there’s a lot of stupidity in the world. But I’m comforted by the knowledge that Garfunkel and Oates are there to point out exactly where it is.

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Garfunkel and Oates are the musical personas of singer/songwriters Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci. I’ve listened to their album All Over Your Face (http://www.amazon.com/Over-Your-Face-Garfunkel-Oates/dp/B004VMXA46) a lot since I received it only yesterday. Ten songs about what is stupid about a lot of things, from sexual expectations to cannabis licences to sex with ducks. Yes, that’s right, ducks. Although, it’s not actually sex with ducks they claim is stupid, just the belief that it has anything to do with gay marriage.

Some people no doubt have complained about their explicit language. Even the song titles contain profanity, such as one charming number called simply Fuck You. But pointing out stupidity often requires profanity. As the American philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett commented: “…there is a time for politeness and there is a time when you are obliged to be rude, as rude as you have to be.”

These girls know about being rude, and there isn’t anyone, apparently, they are afraid to take on. This is a healthy thing, and made healthier by the insertion (they would find a great rhyme for that word) of a good deal of humour into their otherwise bitter comments.

Far removed from the angst-ridden excesses and self-guilt of someone like Alanis Morrisette, Garfunkel and Oates lay the blame for failings in the world squarely on other people’s shoulders where they belong. Morrisette might sing deep-and-meaningfully about love and relationships and connection; Garfunkel and Oates climb out of the bed and try to sneak out of the room while putting their bras on. They don’t sing about love, they sing about lust and one night stands and, well, fucking. Even pregnant women get told where to go. And it’s about time.

I pride myself on being a grumpy old man. I treat people the way they ask to be treated. As my father used to say, “Act like a mug, you get treated like a mug.” So if someone treats me like an idiot, I treat them the same way back. But I have been put in the shade by these two young women, who dare to say things that would attract more criticism were they not so fucking hilarious.

I look forward to lots more G&O.

As for the sex with ducks…just listen to the song.