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 so, and yet as time went by, I didn't hesitate to use up my savings to continue writing. One book, two books, three. I kept at it, and I'm so glad I did. The rejection notes piled up but there were always just enough encouraging follow-up letters to keep me going. 

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 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, freeing.

What do you write about?


An Elephant in my Kitchen will be launched in summer 2018 and it's my first non-fiction. Writing about Françoise Malby-Anthony's life on their game reserve in Zululand after the death of her husband, South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony, was a surprising turn of events for me. I never dreamed I'd ever write someone else's memoirs.

It's been a fascinating process to write a book where all the information wasn't in my own head! Now it's done, I will get back to the draft of a novel I completed at the end of 2016. 

My love for books about crime started with Enid Blyton's Famous Five and Secret Seven, and never stopped. Secrets have always intrigued me and my stories inevitably have shadows from the past that ambush the present. 

I published Shepherd's Prayer in 2014. It's a fast-paced thriller with a twist of magic realism set in Collioure, France,  and involves a wolf cult, underground caves and the kidnapped son of the village's mayor.

In 2015, I started a crime series that is still work-in-progress. Set in the fictitious village of Fontcastel, France, it is a languid police procedural where breaking for lunch is more important than processing DNA results. Every book will be 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 in the Pyrenees.   

Skeletons in the Pantry opens with Manon Maury's artisans discovering the skeleton of a woman and a baby 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 gets far more involved than she should to get to the bottom of who the skeletons are and why they're hidden behind the kitchen of one of the oldest families in the village.

In Picasso under the Floorboards, an unknown Picasso and a lock of blond hair are found under the oak floorboards of a mansion in Fontcastel. The owners deny knowledge of the painting but DNA tests on the hair prove links to the patriarch. Manon works behind the scenes with the local gendarmerie to discover secrets that threaten to split the village in two.

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

What's next?


Dust off the first draft of Skeletons in the Pantry and get it ready to publish!

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