“Once” – a collection of short stories first published in her native Afrikaans by Ronel van Vuuren – will soon be reaching a wider audience with its publication in English.
Ronel Janse van Vuuren is the author of New Adult, Young Adult and children’s fiction filled with mythology and folklore. Her dark fantasy stories can be read for free on Wattpad and on her blog Ronel the Mythmaker. She won Fiction Writer of the Year 2016 for her Afrikaans stories on INK: Skryf in Afrikaans.
Her published works can be viewed on Goodreads.
Ronel kindly agreed to answer a few questions …
You’ve mentioned that the owner of INK: Skryf in Afrikaans dubbed your collection “fairy tales for grownups” – how would you describe your book?
As a mixture of fairy tale retellings and original tales about Faerie with a Dark Fantasy twist.
Did you set out to write a collection of themed short stories, or did the idea to pull them together come later?
I started with writing how Faerie changed, learned about the publishing competition on INK and then wrote the rest of the stories by drawing from notes and character sketches in my notebooks. Something magical happened as I chose the order of the stories and realised that they were telling the story about Faerie in a different way than I had originally intended.
What kind of research did you do for “Once…” and in what way do you think it might differ to researching other genres?
I did lots of rereading of fairy tales (especially Grimm’s) and fairy tale retellings (“Cinder”, “Faery Tales and Nightmares” and “Princess of the Midnight Ball” stand out) to see what others have done with the stories. I also dug deep into the research I had already collected on Faerie and the various folklore creatures I used in this collection. Hours of fun in the world of folklore!
I think writing in other genres also includes reading what’s already out there. But unless your writing is heavily influenced by folklore and mythology, I don’t think the research aspect is as heavy (except in historical fiction, of course).
Do you hide any secrets in your stories that only a few people will find?
Yes. Though it’s not intentional. I think…
Do your stories carry a message?
Absolutely. Dark fantasy is all about examining the human condition, looking at the consequences of actions and decisions, and how the beliefs we hold can change the way we see our world. I think “Rumour Has It”, “New Divide” and “Castle of Glass” depicts all of this from different points of view about the same moment in Faerie history very well.
What makes this particular genre you are involved in so special?
I’d define “Once…” as being Dark Fantasy and New Adult. I already explained what makes Dark Fantasy special (all that digging around in the psyche and looking at reactions). New Adult is all about figuring out who you are, who you want to be and what you have to do to get there. Some would say it’s all about the journey of becoming an adult: the trials, decisions, and reactions to things in life that has far-reaching consequences. Taking all of that into consideration while writing a story means deciding how you want to depict the world and what message you want to share about growing up.
Do you find that writing energizes you, or exhausts you?
When I have a shiny new story, there’s nothing that can keep me from writing it. I have so much energy, I can’t sit still. Rewriting and editing is rather exhausting, though.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
It depends on your genre. For what I write, I think it is important to be able to feel everything your character is going through in order to know what will happen next. Otherwise things can get predictable. In this collection, I found a sudden twist in the second half of “The Ashiest Princess” as I felt everything Carina did.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I have a couple of male main characters in this collection. The easiest was to write about Tony the faery dog: his motives and story was so clear from the moment I decided to write “The Fae of Bremen”. Writing from Ciarán, the Dark King’s perspective was a lot of fun – I love writing characters like him. I did have trouble writing Emile… I understood his priorities, what he wanted out of life, but how do I write his emotions? I did figure it out – and was told it is a rather depressing story. Which, of course, was the point. His beloved did turn out to be a… Wait, that’s a spoiler.
How much of yourself do you put into your books?
Oscar Wilde said that all writing is a form of autobiography. Some of my characters have my worst traits, some have my best, some have traits I wish I had, and some do horrible things that I’m sure I’d be capable of under the right circumstances. None are carbon copies, though. My beliefs about climate change, freedom and human rights (among other things) do come through in my work. Hemingway said (paraphrasing here) there’s nothing much to writing: you sit at the keyboard and bleed.
What is the dream goal you’d like to achieve?
Wow. Let me think… For so long getting published, having readers enjoy my work, and having people want to read my stories has been the goal. Let’s add doing that before my thirtieth birthday… I’m going to have to expand on that goal now. Maybe world domination? You know, all of the above on a grand scale. Of course, I won’t be able to achieve this new goal before the middle of June this year 😉
I’d like to offer Ronel my sincere thanks for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions and to wish her huge success with “Once”. I – for one – am looking forward to reading it.
Ronel can be found tweeting about writing and other things that interest her, arguing with her characters, researching folklore for her newest story or playing with her Rottweilers when she’s not actually writing.
All of her books are available for purchase on Amazon.
To buy a copy of Ronel’s book, here are the Universal Book Links for the English and Afrikaans versions:
UBLs give you one link that leads to every online retailer selling your book, you’ll be shown a list of everywhere this book appears online, so you can choose the retailer or eReader that works best for you. One link. Every bookstore online.
Connect with Ronel on:
Ronel the Mythmaker: https://ronelthemythmaker.wordpress.com/