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Whitehorse resident Astrid Zoer has had her first book published this summer, called The Ladybug Ring.
You might know Astrid Zoer from Hendrik's Barber Shop in Whitehorse, or as the psychic medium at Lifepath Readings, but she recently added "author" to her resume. Zoer self-published her first novel in July, The Ladybug Ring. This novel is set in her native Holland during the Second World War, and tells the story of two young girls' enduring friendship in wartime.
I chased her by email for a month while she traipsed around the European countryside in a "hippie van," but we finally got the chance to chat about her life, work, and new book.
DMC: Why did you write The Ladybug Ring?
AZ: When I was growing up in Holland, I would sneak out of bed and sit in the corner and listen to stories. My family lived in the northern part and wasn't in the midst of the horror of the war. They still went through it all and met people who had gone through it, but their stories – the ones of an ordinary family – weren't being told. The stories were all mostly the hero stories or ones about bombing.
DMC: Did the real-life war experiences in the book come from your family?
AZ: Actually, a lot of the stories came from people I met when I moved to Canada 37 years ago. So many Canadians had been to Holland during the war, or had fathers or grandfathers who'd gone. When they heard I was from there, they wanted to tell me their stories. The Canadians and Dutch are really close because of the war.
I also got many of the stories from veterans sitting in my barber's chair or meeting people other places, like a coffee shop. During these 15-minute conversations they never really go into the deeper details, but always have a little something to tell you. All the little things you hear over the years add up.
DMC: Yes – into a book! Is it all based on facts?
AZ: No, I'm not a historian. Half is real and half I made up. For that reason I never say exactly what village it is, or when it is.
DMC: Did you use your abilities as a psychic medium help you write it?
AZ: Maybe. I read behind the words and formed a connection with people's psyches, their emotions, and the way they tell things. I think being a barber helped more. I've worked there since I moved to Whitehorse 13 years ago. You see customers every six weeks for haircuts and have a good relationship. They like to visit and they always have something to tell you or ask you.
DMC: Will you write another book?
AZ: I'm already working on the next one. I have all these stories in my head – and if I don't tell them, no one else will. I never realized how much work it is to write a book and all the stuff that comes after to get it into book form. I taught myself how to use the computer and software programs, and worked really hard on the grammar. When I talk people hear the accent and don't usually correct me if I use the wrong word; but in a book, the grammar has to be perfect.
There were times when I asked myself what I was doing, but when I start something, I finish it. It's enjoyable having a book with my name on it and people tell me they enjoy it, that it's an easy read. So I'm really glad I did it.
Astrid Zoer's ebook The Ladybug Ring sells for $2.99 on Amazon.ca and $9.99 (paperback) or $19.99 (hardcover) through FriesenPress.com.