Interview with Anja Kersten

What is your writing process?
Often I happen to improvise something and afterwards write it down. Most of the stories found in ’Inappropriate Colours, 12 story-delights for the whacky mind‘ have been created this way. I improvised, than wrote it down in my moleskin book by hand and afterwards typed and reworked it in my computer. It also can happen, that I switch languages during my writing process. For example I note something down in German and than translate it into English or vice or versa. Of course I also write stuff directly into the computer, making things up on the spot. It still feels like a form of improvisation to me. I usually don’t have much of a plan except of a vague idea, wanting to invent a quirky character for example. Or I might have heard or seen something, that inspires me to write. A couple of months ago I passed dustbins on my walk and couldn’t help but to imagine what it must be like to have disgusting leftovers thrown into you. Also, if I particularly liked one of my performances, I’ll try to turn what was said on stage into a good piece of writing. I am sure you sussed me out by now. I mainly work from my instincts. They help me uncover my original ideas. But there is a downside to this way of writing, especially when it comes to longer more complex stories. The difficulty is to find the hidden innate structure of my first draft in order to be able to take it further. Since I didn’t have a particular agenda before I started writing, I put a lot of work into finding out what the story is actually about. I’ve had my desperate moments, I can tell you. I have gotten so stuck, that I needed my editor to prompt me with some invaluable questions.
Shorter pieces are more likely to come out in one go and I don’t have to do a lot to rework them. With the longer ones, it’s a different ball game altogether. You never can tell, really!
How do you approach cover design?
That’s very simple. For the current cover of ’Inappropriate Colours, 12 story-delights for the whacky mind’ I asked a designer to come up with something that reflected the title. I know it is important to have a cover that speaks to people. I was playing with the idea to have another design, which reflects the fact, that the book is illustrated, but opted out, because at this stage would have cost too much money to implement. I would love to experiment with different cover designs for the same book and see which one works the best. I think it is really worth while to explore this area much further. To me it’s a form of art as well. In general I believe, that in terms of creativity there could be much more done in the area of book covers. I often am disappointed when I look at some of them. After all, they are the ones, which are supposed to draw you in.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
That’s a really hard one to answer. I started reading from an early age, and my parents read a lot of books to me as an alternative to TV as well. The book, which springs to mind is called ’Mio, my Mio‘ by Astrid Lindgren. The hero is a sensitive boy, setting out on an adventure to rescue other children, who have been kidnapped and held hostage by a nasty magician. It is such an enchanting story and it was thrilling to see, what this rather shy boy was really capable of. At the same time I loved the darkness in it and the potential for light. When we believe in our abilities, especially, when fate seems to have set us up on a particular path to conquer the challenge. In a sense Mio had to do, what he had to do and he succeeded against all odds. It was a true hero’s journey.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
I love ’Momo’ by Michael Ende. It’s an all time favourite of mine. I believe its main message is more relevant than ever, portraying the enchanting story of Momo and how people get more and more trapped into becoming efficient, trying to save time, while at the same time they totally ignore matters of the heart and soul. The ultimate threat are the grey gentlemen, talking people into saving their time and putting it away in their bank. In truth the grey men smoke the stolen time as rolled up cigars to survive. They are traitors and thieves. Momo is the only one, who is totally immune to their charms. She is a little girl, living on her own in a big deserted amphitheatre. She has always time and her special gift is to listen to people in such a way, that they get great insights all on their own. I tell you, it’s a must read. In general I am intrigued with the concept of time and books playing around with the very subject. Like for example the time traveler’s wife, who never has any control in which time he awakens next in. I thought the idea was extremely clever to have the time traveler meet his wife at different times throughout her life. It certainly turns the notion that time is linear upside down and you start asking yourself, whether time is an illusion after all. One of the latest books I have recently read and have been very fascinated with is ’The Secret Life of Bees’. I love how the story takes place in a real time with real issues and at the same time is interwoven with an unfathomable mysticism. Of course I also couldn’t resist the Harry Potter books. It’s the kind of fantasy world I enjoy to dive into never wanting to emerge from again.
What do you read for pleasure?
I love reading a good novel for pleasure. One that takes me into another space, one which is so enthralling that I don’t want to put the book down. ’The Song of Achilles’ was such a book. I also enjoy reading psychology books, but I tend to read a bit and than put them away, whereas a good novel I can’t help but read in one go. That’s why I don’t read as many as I used to when I was much younger, because I am afraid I don’t get anything else done, but reading the book at hand.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I am at the moment mainly using my laptop. I would love to get an e reading device as soon as possible and explore that area much more.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I can’t really answer that yet. I am just starting out. I believe, that using your own network and word of mouth is still the most effective.
Describe your desk
I have a beautiful old, wooden desk. It is painted white and the natural wood is shining through in many places, where the paint has disappeared. It’s got very deep drawers. And there is always lot’s of things on top; journals, pencils, etc. I adore my desk. It’s my little treasure I found by chance.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I am originally german and I grew up in Frankonia, which is a part of Bavaria in a beautiful, quaint town called Bamberg. It has a castle, many old baroque houses and lots of nature around it. When I was little there was still a bear living in the castle called Poldi. They stopped having a bear on the premises at some point, because I think they just realised it was too cruel for the animal. Bamberg is a very romantic place. For a child, there is lots to explore, being surrounded by meadows, hills and woods. I am not sure how much Bamberg has influenced my writing but If it has, than it inspired my deep sense for everything magical, always on the hunt to discover a new secret or hidden treasure.
When did you first start writing?
I started with the exercises, we had to do in the Steiner School as part of our lessons. Writing as such became more serious to me when I turned 18, finding out that my aunt had been a secret poet for a long time, always writing a poem on my christmas and birthday cards. I only found out, when she had written a very personal poem for my 18th. I was so mesmerised, that I started experimenting with poems too, asking myself whether I was capable of what my aunt so brilliantly could do. Later, when I started doing performances for openings at galleries I started writing my own scripts. I kept on writing bits and pieces until I created my first solo show called ’Circus of Emotions’, which of course included writing a whole script from scratch. It was a very exciting time for me. Though that’s been quite a while ago now.
What's the story behind your latest book?
In 2013 when I started inventing stories and noting them down in my Moleskin book, I had been going through a challenging time, being confronted with the worsening of my autoimmune condition called ’Hashimoto’s’. I didn’t have a lot of energy, felt very down and helpless. I believed I first had to get better before I could be creative again. Of course it never works this way, does it! My rescue was a weekend course run at Falmouth University about solo improvisation. As a performer I have worked a lot with the tool of improvisation, but it had never been so important, that it became the main focus. Going on stage with nothing, making improvisation your one and only tool. When I came back home from the course, I started practicing on my own and performing in front of my flatmate. It made me feel alive again. Most of the stories you can read in my recent book are from this time and sprung from an improvisation, that I noted down afterwards. Sometimes I would eat blueberries for breakfast and my story would be influenced by that. This is how the ’Snoring Blueberry’ came about. Of course I have many more stories, than the ones I am presented in this very book. The purpose was to gather the most whacky ones. To be honest I just wanted to have fun with the stories and feel alive again. I think everyone can need a bit of wackiness in their life.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
It’s simple I don’t want to sit here and wait until someone says: ’Yes, we are going to publish your book.’ After all that might never happen. I want to share my stories now and it seems to be the most simple and direct way to do this as an indie author.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I am only on Smashwords since a very short period of time. It’s too early to really make a statement yet. I like what it stands for and it also offers a lot of free, invaluable resources about how to market your book for example. I am very curious to see how Smashwords will contribute to my success in the future.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I write every morning three pages into my Moleskin book. It’s something I picked up years ago, when working through the book ’The Artists Way’. I love how I can just write down anything, anything at all which comes to my mind. It feels very freeing, like the paper doesn’t judge me. I can say whatever I want and it even doesn’t need to be valuable per se. I love gaining some new unforeseen insights through writing and I love uncovering stories, which I didn’t know existed in the first place.
What do your fans mean to you?
Fan is such a weird word, don’t you think! I immediately see the rock star, surrounded by his groupies, shouting and screaming! Not that I don’t like this little fantasy, but a writer’s fans are very unlikely to do that…
I love when people come and talk to me. When a story struck a cord with them, sharing their own ideas or memories with me. A retired musician came up to me after he had read my memoir about me traveling as a teenager together with my mom to Portugal. He said: ’God, I so could relate to your story. I had a tough time being a teenager as well, feeling so not seen like you. Playing my guitar was my only refuge.’ Bingo!
I live for that moment of connection. A person, being impacted by what I have to say, opening their heart towards me. Ultimately, I want to have a lot of meaningful conversations with the people, who feel drawn to my work, inspiring them as much as I possibly can.
What are you working on next?
I am designing something exciting, enabling my readers to engage even more deeply with the material. I am working on 12 character driven short stories. Needless to say, that most of them are on the whacky side, staying true to the current chosen path of absurdity. The great thing is, that people will be able to subscribe, getting one story a month directly into their inbox. Each story will come with one of my whacky illustrations. On top of that I will give some jump off pointers, which can be used as inspiration to create one’s own story. This is going to be great. I also would love to bring out a memoire and essay based story book, including accounts like the one about Portugal.
Who are your favorite authors?
I am really hung up on my childhood authors. I adore Michael Ende, best known for ’Neverending Story’. Roald Dahl’s sense of humour is right up my street. And of course Astrid Lindgren, who invented so many wonderful stories. Pippi Longstockings was my all time favourite hero.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Sorry, but I love my bed. When I was a kid I enjoyed imagining, floating with my mattress through space as a practice to fall to sleep. I also had a lovely children’s book whose hero was an older guy. He one day decided to transform his bed into a traveling modality. He could fly, drive, as well as swim the ocean with it. Once it was finished, he started traveling to foreign and exotic places. If I actually could find someone who’d transform my bed into such a vehicle I’d be the first one to give it a go. Until then I use my bed for dreaming and forget about getting up.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I love to perform. I go once a week to the Frug Night (open stage to all performers) in the St. Ives Arts Club. I usually improvise something or dance or do something else weird and unexpected. Other than that I like walking and sitting on the cliffs. In the future I want to travel more. I get lost in romantic comedies and really well written novels of all sorts.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Up to now I haven’t read many e-books yet, having been invested more into print books. Most of the e-books I have read I mainly discovered through online courses or them being given away for free. At the moment I just have my laptop as a reading device. I want to explore that area much more in the near future.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
When I was ten years of age I changed from primary school over to a Steiner-School. I was a very dreamy child, not being interested in the lessons about autobahns and other boring subjects the teachers used to talk about. After I had changed over to the Steiner School in Nuremberg I was a much happier child. One day we had to write a little story about 4 characters climbing on a mountain, based on the four temperaments. It was so much fun to imagine what could go wrong, when these different personalities at play. The one being in a rage all the time, the one who made fun of everything, the one who seemed to carry the burden of the world on his shoulders. Not to forget the one, who couldn’t be asked to ever do anything of any sort. I believe my four characters never made it to the top of the mountain, being busy with arguing constantly. It was a comedic piece and I hugely enjoyed myself.
Published 2016-07-16.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Inappropriate Colours, 12 Story-Delights for the Whacky Mind
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 14,560. Language: English. Published: July 8, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Short stories
(5.00)
Inappropriate Colours,12 story-delights for the whacky mind is for adventurers at hearts like you, who love to venture into new imaginary realms, full of absurdity, laughter and surprising twists you didn’t see coming. Meet Mr. Nobody or Somebody, the pasta measurer or the conductor frog amongst many other peculiar characters.