Author of the Word Mage Tales
Join me as chat to USA Today Bestselling author Astrid VJ about her fantasy novels The StoryTeller’s Apprentice and the associated Wordmage Tales set in the same world. The Companion’s Tale was released on July 9th, 2021. I am fortunate to have read both The Companion’s Tale and Astrid’s Apprentice Storyteller. I highly recommend both and you can find my book reviews here. Astrid welcome! Please tell us about your Wordmage’s tales series.
Astrid: I’ve just released The Companion’s Tale, which is the first book in The Wordmage’s Tales series. It happens to be the third one I’ve published in this series because things got a little too tight with my pre-order dates on the other books, while this one being a permafree offering didn’t have a pre-order and could wait. Thankfully, each of the tales in this series is a stand-alone, so I didn’t have to worry too much about publishing the books out of order.
The Companion’s Tale combines my love of fairytales, and my desire to have tales that reflect our modern sensibilities, with my passion for transformation. This tale grew out of a dream and I realised during my certification training that this, and the other tales in the series, was connected to a specific principle of transformation. The principle in question happens to be the potential we all have for finding our purpose and achieving what might appear to be impossible, if only we give possibility and opportunity a chance.
This tale is connected to my novel The Apprentice Storyteller, as The Companion’s Tale is one of the stories the apprentice learns from master storyteller, Viola Alerion. What I loved about writing this story is how it can simply be read and enjoyed on it’s own, while at the same time it also expands on the worldbuilding in The Apprentice Storyteller, and forms as part of the history of that novel. It’s been fun to expand on the greater universe I’ve created, while still keeping everything bite-sized for my readers.
Helen: I love the way you are gradually building up your world by telling a tale within a tale. You also have a theme behind your covers, don’t you?
Astrid: The Wordmage’s Tales emblem, a “W” with an Asian dragon and a lyre is the symbol I’ve created for my character Jo from The Apprentice Storyteller. In essence, he IS the wordmage, for there is only one. The dragon symbolises his ability to tap into the greater cosmic forces and wield powers far beyond what is common for magicians in this universe. The lyre represents the wordmage’s talents as a bard, for he is not simply a storyteller, but weaves magic and tale together, creating something entirely new and utterly powerful.
The first four stories of The Wordmage’s Tales have a green cover because they symbolize growth. They are the tales connected to the first four principles of transformation that have also been labelled “the blueprinting stage”. Essentially, these are the tales that represent the seed for success and simply engage with our potential for achieving anything we set our minds to.
The subsequent three stories of The Wordmage’s Tales have a blue cover because they symbolize the power and potential all of us have to bridge the gap between where we find ourselves and where we long to be, most simply represented in the transition from earth to sky (hence the blue). When placed beside one another, the green of the first four stories (representing earth) become the blue of the second set of stories (representing the sky).
Which brings us to the final set of stories, as yet unwritten, but certainly envisioned. These three tales will have red covers. The red symbolizing the inner fire of every individual who tempers their nature and transforms themselves into the best possible version they can become. Red is also representative of the heart, lifesblood; but at the same time is the colour of the grounding chakra at the base of the spine. The stories with the red cover are the tales dealing with the principles that allow transformation to flourish.
Helen: Thank you for sharing the story behind your covers. It adds to the reading experience to understand how the cover enhances or compliments the story. I am sure you have put as much thought behind your titles.
Astrid: My titles come to me in different ways. The Companion’s Tale came to me quite easily, since this is a story about the companion to a princess. Each of The Wordmage’s Tales originated in a dream and the titles are closely linked to the experience of waking up and remembering every detail of the dream as if I’d personally lived it.
However, I would like to take this opportunity to discuss the titles in the accompanying series, the Wishmaster series. The first book in this trilogy is The Apprentice Storyteller, and this one took me quite some time to come up with. The original spark for a story about a wandering fabler and her apprentice came to me through one of my favourite songs by the Finnish band, Nightwish. One of the lines in the song is as follows: The apprentice becoming… master!
I wanted to honour that seed of my original idea by referring back to the song through the titles of the books in this series, which are as follows:
Book 1: The Apprentice Storyteller
Book 2: Becoming Spellwright
Book 3: Master Wordmage
I’ve even gotten my cover designer to use different fonts in the first and second parts of the titles so that this continuity and the reference to the song remain clear, even if I’m the only one who notices.
Helen: What made you write these books as a series of tales?
Astrid: The Wordmage’s Tales were originally envisioned as forming a part of The Apprentice Storyteller as nested short stories, much like 1001 Arabian Nights. However, when I realised that each of the shorter tales was actually connected to a principle of human transformation, I understood that I would have to take a different approach to the one originally envisioned. The Apprentice Storyteller would have become a Lord of the Rings-style megalith and that wasn’t what I was going for. This is why I decided to separate the two series, having the novels dedicated to the journey of the apprentice as the Wishmaster series, while expanding each of the tales into a novella that could be a stand-alone within The Wordmage’s Tales series.
Helen: You typically write fantasy novels. Is Fantasy the only genre you write?
Astrid: I’ve always written fantasy because that simply has been the most natural for me. My fascination with magic has a long history and I started writing in this genre and never really stopped. That said, I do write in a wide variety of subgenres. I have fairytale retellings that have a whimsical feel to them and are heavily influenced by the styles of Austen and Guy Gavriel Kay. I have young adult fantasy, particularly portal and academy fantasy stories that are more heavily influenced by Nordic lore of the “little folk”. And then there’s the Wishmaster series, which is a combination of fantasy and space opera, blending my love of magic and technology into something wholly different. Finally, The Wordmage’s Tales have a strongly historical feel to them and are not strictly speaking fantasy. Many of these tales don’t actually feature any magic, but as they are set in my universe for The Apprentice Storyteller, where magic does exist, and since all my other works are classified as fantasy, it seemed easiest to consider these tales “historical fantasy”.
Helen: What made you first start writing?
Astrid: I had an idea and it wouldn’t let me go. From there, a ripple effect happened and hundreds of ideas have found expression in my head and want to break free into the realm of my writings.
Helen: How do you come up with ideas for your books?
Astrid: They tend to come to me spontaneously or through dreams. Sometimes I’ll read a book and it will get me thinking on a “what if” questions, which will evolve into a book idea.
Helen: What are you curently working on?
Astrid: I’m currently working on two books. I’m writing Warring Lions, the next tale in The Wordmage’s Tales series. This story is all dedicated to the transformational principle of overcoming fear and reaching for a better future even if that is terrifying. It’s also my first LGBTQ+ romance.
I’m also working through self-editing Naiya’s Wish, my next novel. I’m due to submit it to my editor in a few weeks, which is really exciting. This is my third retelling of a lesser-known fairytale. This story has been so much fun to work with. The fairytale, The Nixie of the Mill-pond is so very beautiful and empowering, but as I’ve been writing, we’ve met some characters who will have their own fairytales too. I’m so inspired to keep writing! Absolutely loving where the fairytales are taking me.
Additionally, Naiya’s Wish has turned into my exploration of the condition of women over time. I’ve drawn on anecdotes from women in my and my husband’s families and woven them into this story. In recent times I’ve noticed how ahistorical our perspectives often are. We seem to struggle to put into perspective what life was like in times past. I’ve explored some of the questions I often ask myself about the lives of women in the past, particularly over time. For this reason, my three main characters for this story are at different points in their lives. Amina is an adolescent and has a beautiful and powerful story. Balancing her are Naiya and Hilda who are older characters and together illustrate other aspects of the female experience, aspects which are so often ignored in stories for younger readers. This is something I, for one, want to rectify.
Helen: Thank you so much for spending time with me today. It has been great finding out more about your books, and the meaning behind your covers and titles. Just to close us out, tell us something random about yourself.
Astrid: I love to cross-stitch. My particular specialisation is creating patterns of my favourite anime characters. A few years ago, I made one of my husband’s favourite anime character from when he was a child, and his friends all thought it was so cool they commissioned me to make them each one with their own favourite character. It was a fun project. Recently I haven’t gotten to do as much cross stitching, firstly because it’s a little hazardous trying to do that with young children who can’t sit still and constantly need to poke at what mom is doing. Another reason is I’ve been putting a lot more time into my writing, which has affected the time I have for cross-stitching.
About the Author:
I am a USA Today Bestselling and Literary Classics award-winning author, social anthropologist, and transformational life coach. I grew up in South Africa and currently live in Gothenburg, Sweden (after having lived in many exciting and interesting places). I live with my husband and our two children.
My South African-German heritage and the experiences of living and integrating into other societies have given me a great deal to think about and process. The training in anthropology has given me the tools to think beyond simple stereotypes and ideological explanations of social interaction while the understanding I have of human potential underlying my certification as a transformational life coach allows me to see what is possible and to appreciate the human capacity to achieve success in the face of adversity.
My parents instilled in me a love for books, and the natural world that we inhabit. This love has led to a deep appreciation of the written word and the desire to contribute as much as I can towards improving the state of the world. I would like to use my expertise and passion for cultures to help us move forward.
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You can purchase Astrid’s novel from Amazon:
The Companion’s Tale
Amazon UK: eBook
Amazon US: eBook
The Apprentice Storyteller
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