katja willemsen

katja's bio...

Why writing?

In 2003, the day before Christmas, a bully-boy chairman kicked me off the corporate ladder.  Forty-eight shocked hours and a nudge from The Alchemist  later, I turned my back on my briefcase, the bags under my eyes, having pots of money for shoes, and started writing full time. 

Thank heavens I had no idea what I was doing. Writing is a fantastic life, if you don't care about money.  I did care about money, very much, and yet I didn't hesitate for a moment about using all my savings to keep writing. One book, two books, three. I kept at it. And thank God I did. Yes, the rejection notes piled up but there were enough encouraging follow-up letters to keep me going. 

Then e-books arrived and getting a book out there was within my reach. Next thing I knew, my fourth novel, Shepherd's Prayer, was published! It's a fast-paced thriller about a wolf cult and a kidnapped child set in Collioure, France.

What next? I planned to take off the summer then dive into my writing warehouse and haul out my first three manuscripts.  What fun, I thought, to revisit these old friends - edit, fiddle, rework. 

But instead of fixing up my earlier work, my husband and I fixed up an abandoned cottage in the Pyrenees.  No, don't panic. My next book isn't about renovating a dream house in France but it does draw on that time. 

Where are you from?

I was born in Holland, grew up in South Africa, and now live in a Pyrenean village with my husband, Dave, and our one and a half cats: Pixie and hell-kitten Frodo. I look Dutch, feel South African, and our love for sun and solitude will keep us in our mountain hamlet forever.

Did you always want to write?


No. I never had visions of book deals in my future, but I was always a story-teller. Ask my brothers. They're now in their forties but they'll be able to recite endless stories about the magic helicopter that was parked in the attic of our old family home, just above their beds, and whose whirring blades meant a new adventure was about to start....

Was there life before writing?

Yes and No. 
My other life in three words:  stress, soulless, exhausting.
 writing life in three words:  passion, electrifying, free.

What do you write about?


Secrets intrigue me and my stories inevitably involve shadows from the past that ambush the present. My love for crime fiction started with Enid Blyton's Famous Five and Secret Seven, and never stopped. 

Shepherd's Prayer is a fast-paced thriller. Magic realism set in Collioure, France, involving a wolf cult, underground caves and a kidnapped child.

Skeletons in the Pantry is a languid police procedural where breaking for lunch is more important than processing DNA results. It is the first of the Manon Maury Investigation series and combines everything I love: part plot, part travelogue, part food. 

The protagonist, Manon Maury, gives up her life in Paris, her husband, and her position as top investigative agent for France's equivalent of the FBI, to take over her parents' carpentry business, Menuiserie Maury.  

Skeletons in the Pantry
opens with Manon Maury's artisans discovering two skeletons in a hidden room behind the kitchen of an old Catalan farmhouse that Manon and her team have been called in to refurbish. Once a cop, always a cop, and Manon helps the local gendarmerie uncover their identity.

In Picasso under the Floor, an unknown Picasso and a lock of blond hair are found when Manon Maury and her team are called in to lay new wooden floors in a mansion in Céret. 

In Diary in the Staircase, a diary is unearthed in a staircase that Menuiserie Maury have been commissioned to repair. It contains details of a horrific crime that will change the political face of France.

What's next?


Publish Skeletons in the Pantry and continue work on an exciting memoir which I'll write more about in the new year.

Chilling with Big Guy Vespa...
Do you really have to work?
Frodo has good taste in books
Pixie resting in between mad moments...