It's always exciting for me to meet a fellow fantasy writer, and today is a prime example, as we welcome South African world builder Ilse V. Rensburg!
PB: Hi Ilse! Welcome to pjbermanbooks.com. Tell us a bit about your background.
IVR: Hi Peter! Thanks for the warm welcome. I'm from Johannesburg South Africa and I grew up with two siblings, loads of pets and a wild imagination. I've always loved to read and I spent most of my childhood playing outside in my fantasy worlds brimming with fairies, pirates and mermaids. Devoted to reading, my favourite day of each week was to visit my local library to stock up on more and more fantastical stories. Despite growing up and moving on from make-believe, I never stopped escaping into books. I ended up in interior design before finally realising that my true passion has and always will be writing and reading, and now, after studying a degree in languages and literature, I'm a copywriter by trade and a dark fantasy author in my spare time.
PB: What made you decide to become an author?
IVR: I don't think there was ever a time I officially decided to become an author. I always wrote stories and my aunt once asked if I was going to become a writer since I enjoyed it so much. I hadn't really considered the notion before but I think that was the moment I decided to write my first novel and to see what happened. That novel is still unfinished, along with many of my stories, but it sparked something inside of me and was the catalyst for my finishing Time Torn, the first book in my The Lost Days eight book saga. From there I tried agency after agency with many rejection emails before Kelan, from Sera Blue gave me the opportunity to publish.
PB: When did you first start writing?
IVR: I first started writing when I was about ten. I recall having to barter for paper from my brother who had bags and bags of it, just so I could write. He'd wanted some antique South African coins I'd kept in my piggy bank. I now realise I was conned, but the experience was worth it.
PB: What was the first story that you can remember writing?
IVR: The first story I remember writing was when I was ten. It was called something like Hoof Tails and it was about horses because I'd just discovered The Saddle Club by Bonnie Bryant and I wanted to be just like the girls in the story and not being able to afford to ride more than twice a month I used my writing as an outlet for my horse-crazy adventures. From there I explored other narratives inspired by my favourite authors - Piers Anthony and his wildly extravagant, and at times the disturbing world of Xanth, really being what pushed me toward writing fantasy.
PB: When you begin writing a new story, do you always know the ending?
IVR: The endings to my books normally come to me while I'm writing. I used to write without any clear idea of where I was headed, but I realised that it left a lot of loose ends that I had to go back and fix over and over. So now I try and outline my stories from start to finish so I can write with a direction in mind, however, a lot of the time those pre-planned endings change.
PB: If you could meet any of your characters, who would you meet, and what would you say to them?
IVR: Great question! Wow, I don't know. I think it would be a toss-up between Dextra Hyde (AKA Demento, from Sleight of Hand) or Amerie from Twisted Flames. Both are incredibly powerful women with grand ideas about their place in the world. I guess I'd tell Dextra that burning the world down for power isn't always the answer and I'd just like to listen to Amerie babble about her time in the past.
PB: Tell us about the Lost Days series.
IVR: The Lost Days was born twelve years ago in the office of my first job as a secretary for an insurance company. My high school friend had just died and I'd bought a book on spirit communication. I never used the book to communicate with her, but I read a really interesting section on people that communicate with the dead through painting. It got me thinking about how the spirits might forewarn of the end of the world. I have always been intrigued by vampires and I knew I wanted something to happen to our world where mythological creatures of all kinds could become a reality. It was supposed to be an urban fantasy and has grown into an epic that will eventually consist of eight books exploring an alternate version of earth where magic and mythological creatures are real. The first two books are out - Time Torn and Twisted Fate. They introduce readers to a world broken by war and two characters who need to find themselves as heroes in a world they don't understand.
PB: Where did the idea for Sleight of Hand come from?
IVR: I was doing a Facebook interview for Books and Everything when Jason Hes, author of Our Immaculate praised me on my debut novelette, Blood Sipper. I had just read Our Immaculate and I really liked his writing style. Kelan suggested we write something hauntingly beautiful together and we decided to make it happen. We got chatting and after a number of ideas for our project, decided on Sleight of Hand. From there the idea just flowed and we built the historic 1920's world around our protagonists, Dextra and Gwen.
PB: Of all your achievements, which are you most proud of?
IVR: I'm most proud of Blood Sipper. Not only was it my first published work but Kelan had given me a very tight deadline of a week to add three thousand words to the original short story. Once finished I designed the cover for it and started my own advertising campaign. It was hard work, but it was so worth it when I finally held a copy in my hands. I will never forget that feeling of achievement and satisfaction and it's what pushes me to write and finish more books.
PB: What is your favourite book series to read and why?
IVR: My favourite book series is Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. There is something so magical and poetic about the way Laini writes. Every time I read one of her works I know that she's the kind of writer I inspire to be. Her characters are authentic and charming. The way she links everything together is genius, a genius I haven't come across since reading Harry Potter. There's foreshadowing and parts that just make you go, "what?!" ( I say this after finishing her Strange the Dreamer series which connects to this one in this way that just makes you excited for whatever she publishes next.)
PB: What are your long term ambitions with regards to writing?
IVR: My long term ambitions for writing is to enjoy it and to get as many of my stories out into the world as possible. I think every book holds a type of magic that changes people in ways they don't expect and if I can help someone escape from a world they don't feel they belong in and make them feel safe, then I've done my job.
PB: If you weren’t an author, what career would you be in?
IVR: If I didn't write I might still be a decorator or an English teacher. I've always enjoyed sharing my knowledge and I don't ever see myself going in a direction that isn't creative.
PB: What’s the next target for you?
IVR: As South Africa is currently still in lockdown, I've been working on finishing a number of works that I would never have had the time to focus on before. I'm hoping to publish them this year, however, the pandemic is going to play a big factor in when that will be. My main target is to publish, Talisman, a story I started writing around the same time as Blood Sipper. It's another paranormal horror involving two sisters and a monster from Mexican folklore.
PB: Tell us a random fact about yourself.
IVR: A random fact about myself is that I have Trypophobia. If I see anything with small clusters of bumps or holes I'm incredibly creeped out and uncomfortable. I collect rare plants, so I come across this way more than I'd like to.
Ilse V. Rensburg, it's been a pleasure. Thank you so much for talking to us today. For all you readers out there, if you'd like to try Ilse's books or get to know more about her work, you can do so via the links below:
Until next time, happy reading!