Back to Illustrating Qayqa

30 Jan

This is an updated version: I promised to publish a video of myself reading Qayqa (in German) on my Tumblr, and I did. The link is below.

Welcome back, as the work on my novel Qayqa resumes!!!

In this post, you’ll read:

  • some talk about my plans for self-publishing
  • how much I love your feedback / why I call you “ayllu”
  • answering your questions about the character Ti
  • a VIDEO: an exclusive peek into Mark’s sketch book. You’ll see the sketches for the first illustrations, we’ll talk about our ideas, our deadline, and Mark will say something about sheep.


If you’ve been following my Tumblr, you’ll know that I’ve been reading up on SELF PUBLISHING, EBOOKS and PUBLICISING my novel, Qayqa. I’m chasing all the exciting information in a brilliant fat red bible entitled The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2013. If you’re a writer / artist hoping to get it done, I highly recommend you get this book. New editions are at € 20 – € 25 at Amazon, and it’s absolutely worth every penny.

It was, after all, the 2010 edition that included an essay by author Neil Gaiman, in which he suggested writers have blogs. His words haunted me for a few days until I finally caved in, signed up at WordPress, and… two years later, HERE YOU ARE WITH ME. Thank you Neil, you were right!

the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, and my breakfast

the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, and my breakfast

I think, from now on, all the upcoming posts on my blog will be dedicated to getting Qayqa ready for publication. Unless something crazy happens. I’m really hoping it doesn’t. I’m hoping life leaves me alone for a bit, because I really have to concentrate right now…

SOON I’ll be talking on my blog about THE UPCOMING BOOK TOUR. I’ll also be talking about crowdfunding, kickstarters and Unbound. I’ll be talking to YOU about how you can help Qayqa become a reality… and what you will get in return. Soon.

I promise to take you all-access behind-the-scenes on this. I might be publishing lists of Things To Do, such as contact the press & get them interested in Qayqa, print off flyers for Qayqa, and all the other WhatNot. I’m walking around town making mental lists in my head – and I intend to include YOU in the exciting process of self-publishing my first novel.


my two new reads


So while I read up on self-publishing and scourge the internet for information, I’m still juggling being a circus teacher, finishing Munay, and replying to all your lovely, lovely emails.

I adore every single letter of feedback. And I’m happy that you see how important you are to me. Thank you to a reader for this lovely note:

You make it seem like every single one of your readers is important. Not just your muse, your symbolic unicorn, but every single one of your readers.

You are important. I want to bring back the Quechua term AYLLU. You may remember it means spiritual family. I once began referring to you, my blog readers, as my ayllu, and it’s a term I intend to keep using. It’s perfect for what we’re doing here.

Plus, I love the thought of getting you guys familiar with Quechua words. I do this in my writing as well: there’s a fair bit of Quechua in Qayqa and Munay. It’s my contribution towards keeping my ancestral language alive – and, anthropologically-speaking, more exciting than making up a language, I think!


A few weeks ago, I published an extract from Munay, in which Ti speaks to Damian (yes, it was Damian…!) about Anahata’s insomnia. To this, I received very interesting feedback from an ayllu:

You wrote a very fascinating character. Ti is extremely attractive to me, I always loved old wise women in stories and I learned that though most often they seem cruel and evil at some points, they are of incredible wisdom and also knowing very well what they’re doing, they’re just misunderstood very often.

So THANK YOU for creating such a character. I am looking forward to learn more about her so much!

When I was writing Ti, I had those very wise old women in mind. I wanted to mimic the many wise & independent women I have met in my life – many who have intimidated me. Ti is based on several strong-willed strong-hearted women, women who speak without taboos; who get tattoos when they’re 50; who say: “oh Ritti, don’t worry, everyone makes mistakes” – or just look at me and say: “You stupid, stupid girl…”

They’re not easy to deal with, these strong women, especially when they love to cackle at the foolishness of your youth. Even when I was feeling so darned smart, they were quick to point out my mistake. Not because they wanted to crow over me, but because they saw my silliness, and when it’s constructive criticism, why mince your words?

I love these women. They’re tough stuff, raw cactus – wise in a desert of foolishness.

I wanted Ti to be the kind of woman who might scare me a little, but to whom I would always go to for advice, because I know that she knows.

A few weeks later, I received another email from the same ayllu. She sent this picture, asking if this is what Ti looks like:

maybe ti

I love the question, so I wanted to reply in a special way.

I decided to give you extracts from both Qayqa and Munay, wherein Ti is described. I hope this helps you make up your mind on her character, perhaps her looks, what she smells like. Hold on to your vision of her, even if Mark & I illustrate her differently. It will be interesting to know how you see her, in comparison to how I see her, even when we have the same texts.

From Munay:

This woman intrigued me. I wanted to touch her raspy ash skin and understand what made it different to mine. I wanted to sit under her hair and smell the amlika tree. Looking back, I don’t think I ever really perceived her as a woman, but more as a force of nature. She was inconspicuously small, beriddled and deeply rooted in The Way Things Are. That comforted me, because among such people things rarely go wrong. With her warm skin like a shea tree and the smacking lips of a mother, I felt safe.

From Qayqa:

I had too much mead one night so, feeling cocky and boisterous, I asked Anka to let me try juggling three fire balls. It was a disaster and I almost burnt all my knots. Ti ran out of a caravan and whacked my head with a towel, yelling, “You don’t get rid of them knots that easy now, Damian! You don’t burn a problem to ash, you solve it!”


The fire’s reaction to me left me no peace. I mulled it over for days and finally reached a conclusion: fire doesn’t want to be feared, it wants to be played with. When I told Ti this, she replied, “Ah, that’s the nature of life, boy.”

From Munay: 

The brightly lit caravans flooded me from all sides, making it impossible to look at her. No matter which caravan I shielded my eyes against, there was always another light blinding me. Although she never moved, she seemed to know very well that exactly where she was standing was the only place where I couldn’t see her.

This was the first of her many paradoxes that I would come to know. She was the only person I ever knew who could be obscured by light.

That just made me chuckle, because in these extracts you can really see the difference between the narrators: Damian narrates Qayqa and Anahata narrates Munay. Ti plays, more or less, the same role to both Damian and Anahata – yet they have very distinct relationships. And even in such short extracts, you can already tell what kind of people Damian and Anahata are.

It fascinates me that Ti is becoming a character of such interest. She was never meant to be more than a recurring “antagonist”, but with main characters such as the egocentric Damian and the elusive Anahata, it’s really no surprise that Ti is so popular. Is it her wisdom, while Damian, Anahata & all of us are still learning? Do we need a mama like Ti in our lives?


Mark Klawikowski illustrating Qayqa

Mark Klawikowski illustrating Qayqa

Mark and I took an illustrating break over the Christmas holidays, and now we’re back, working at full blast. Two weeks ago, he broke some crazy news to me: he’s leaving Germany in March to walk with nomadic sheep around Turkey.

I’m not joking.

He’s signed up with a group of artists, so aptly called Ulmer Gestalten, to join their exciting venture travelling with nomadic sheep farmers in Turkey. It sounds absolutely brilliant, and Mark is already inventing puppets to ride the sheep.

This venture also gives us a DEADLINE. All the illustrations for Qayqa must be done before he leaves. So we’re working at full blast.

I’m going through Qayqa and making lists of scenes I would like illustrated, how they could be formatted, and what little details should be included. He’s sketching like crazy. Whenever I go over to his, I carry heavy books about plants, ethnobotany and Peruvian shamanism. I’ll be recording myself reading Qayqa so that he can listen to each chapter while he works on the illustrations. That will give him a feeling for the book, and perhaps even inspire new details.

Just to give you FULL ACCESS: I have published the video of me reading the opening pages of Qayqa (in German!) onto my Tumblr. It’s on now!

Today, we worked very hard. And we made another VIDEO for you! In this video, you’ll get an EXCLUSIVE peek into Mark’s sketch book. We’ll show you what we’ve been working on, and, in the end, we’ll discuss which illustrations will be kicked out… Very sad.

This video is such a fun little teaser, because it hints at all the weird, weird things that are going to happen…! Hallucinating in the forest?? Oh, absolutely.

That’s it from me tonight, ayllu! In the upcoming posts, I’ll talk a bit about the MATHEMATICS of self-publishing, and I’ll tell you all about my ideas for THE QAYQA BOOK TOUR. Exciting times are coming, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of each other as the months pass by.

As always, feedback away. If you liked it, tell a friend. If you hated it, bore a friend with it.  Take care out there, ayllu. I will see you soon!!


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