In the beginning it wasn’t easy to go with the flow. I had to learn how to let go of control to be truly creative.
Mia Lutsch – 18 March 2017
The Back Flap
Akim is a boy who has a rare gift of communicating with spirits. He finds himself at odds with the physical world where power reigns and duty has the final say in matters of love. His conflict with the material world explodes when he uses his talents in the service of a good king and falls in love with the princess, a girl called Matima. Interests of power clash and the two lovers make a pact to flee to a legendary Golden City where they will be free to love without restraint.
Akim and Matima are in danger, and their journey is complicated by the fact that they do not know how to reach their destination. Their quest takes them into a mystical landscape where the border between the physical world and the one of the imagination can barely be distinguished. When they are separated by a band of gypsy women who claim to know the secret of their destiny, Akim faces a terrible challenge which he has to conquer on his own.
About the book
What is the book about?
In essence it’s about searching for happiness and the freedom to love. There is a metaphysical undertone because my protagonist, peasant Akim, is very much in touch with the spiritual realms. In his eyes the world is much brighter and more interesting than what “reality” allows him to believe. The traditions of the kingdom where he lives feel alienating. Nonetheless, the king employs him because of his gifts of divination and healing. He falls in love with the princess Matima, which causes conflict on many different levels. Matima wants to save the kingdom but she also wants to be with the man she loves. They flee to a legendary Golden City with nothing but faith to guide them. Nearly everything in the book is symbolic.
When did you start writing the book?
October 2012, when I was ill with hepatitis. At the time I had a full time office job. Writing a book was something I had wanted to do for many years, but I kept making excuses. I don’t have time, I don’t have inspiration, I’ll do it when I’m ready … I set a deadline for myself earlier that year that I would make a start before my birthday in September. I didn’t keep my commitment to myself and fell ill two weeks later. I was booked off for three weeks and started writing out of sheer frustration.
How long did it take you to write it?
A few months to finish the first draft. After that I worked through it a few times on and off as time allowed.
Where did you get the idea from?
I did a course in cross-cultural shamanism in 2010. We learned some basic techniques of shamanic journeying, which I would describe as accessing the unconscious, creative aspect of the mind. I used these techniques to find my story and some of the symbols in it.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
In the beginning it wasn’t easy to go with the flow. I had to learn how to let go of control to be truly creative. But writing made me so happy that I did it for the sake of it rather than to impress anyone. (Of course I had to go back and edit my free-flowing work later).
What came easily?
There were parts of the book where I became so immersed in my work that I forgot about my present reality. Interestingly, this is where concepts emerged that I later also found in myths and the writings of others, in particular a friend that I only met later. After I finished writing my book, I learned about Joseph Campbell’s notion of the hero’s journey. It is almost uncanny how close those parts of my book are to some of these universal mythic themes. It led me to believe that there is something bigger going on.
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
My characters are 100% fictitious, but of course my main protagonist occasionally acts as a mouthpiece for my views.
We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
Yes, in particular Paulo Coelho and Neil Gaiman. I remember reading The Alchemist for the first time and wondering what the hype was. I just didn’t connect with it. Then at a later stage when I was going through some relationship issues I read The Zahir and it spoke to me. Reading Paulo Coelho’s work made me realise that there can be more to good literature than just plot, imagination and words. Sometimes there is a kind of force behind a book that touches the reader at the right time. I admire Neil Gaiman’s work because it is so imaginative. I read an interview with him where he said that he does not always have everything figured out from start to finish before he starts writing. That encouraged me to just sit down and do it and see where it takes me.
Do you have a target reader?
Ideally I would want the reader to connect with my work and feel something of what I felt when I wrote it. I don’t confine this kind of reader to age, gender or demographics.
Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
I have ideas coming to me. I make a loose commitment, such as sitting down to write x number of hours a week. Once I have something to work with, I re-work it carefully, a certain number of hours a week. I usually take breaks between drafts to gain perspective.
Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?
Not too much. I just write down what comes to me before I forget. Usually the book takes a slightly different direction from what I planned anyway.
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
A bit of both.
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?
No. I can do that while painting but not while writing. The lyrics interfere with my words.
Did you submit your work to Agents?
Initially yes, but after I learned that some publishers are happy to work with authors directly, I submitted to the publisher.
What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher?
When I finished writing my book, the book publishing industry was very new to me. The only kind of publishing I had experience of was online marketing content. I didn’t want to go down the self-publishing route because I needed support. I write for existential more than commercial reasons, and in All Things That Matter Press I found a publisher whose vision was close to my own.
Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
A gradual process. I started from scratch and had to do lots of research.
Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?
My husband is a professional graphic designer and he was kind enough to make a cover drawing for me. The rest of the cover was designed by the publisher.
Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?
I have ideas, but I am mostly winging it. This is my first novel, so I learn through trial and error as I go along. I have my blog, which has been running since 2013. It’s not necessarily fiction related, but is an authentic representation of my thoughts and inner world.
Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
Write what you want to write and take it from there. It might not be the easiest route, but you are likely to find some satisfaction as a writer that way.
Where did you grow up?
Pretoria, South Africa.
Where do you live now?
What would you like readers to know about you?
I am interested in mythology, symbolism and healing. In psychoanalytic terms, there are always archetypes in my work.
What are you working on now?
A novel that is more grounded in the real world, less fantastic than my first. The protagonist, Benjamin, tries to find the reasons for his misfortune and meets the devil himself. It’s a very subtle commentary on politics and the abuse of power.
End of Interview: