“When I was a child I thought authors were a kind of special creature” | Annelise Heurtier, Aarhus 39

“When I was a child I thought authors were a kind of special creature” | Annelise Heurtier, Aarhus 39

Annelise Heurtier is an acclaimed Tahitian-French writer, part of our Aarhus 39 selection of the best emerging writers from across Europe. Annelise will be appearing at the inaugural International Children’s Literature Hay Festival Aarhus 2017 later this month. Here she talks about her new story for Quest, our new anthology of 17 stories for children, inspired by journeys. 

Tell us about your story…
In my short story, Aveleen, the main character, is chosen to undertake a quest regarding the future of her community. After a long and challenging journey in a strange place, she understands there is more in this journey than what she thought at first sight.

Why did you pick that theme?
I spent several days thinking about the theme Journey. My very first thought was to write about the refugies from Erythrea, Syria or Libia… who make so awful journeys accross countries and sea, full of hope for a better life in Europe. This theme really matters to me, and two years ago, I wrote a novel about it. Whenever I thought to a short story related to the refugies, sentences of my novel came to my mind…so it was really difficult for me to create a new text about the same subject. So I decided to follow a totally different track.
Eventually I went to the conclusion that interessant journeys are those that make you evolve, progress, make you to know yourself better. So I decided to write a kind of initiation trip.

When did you decide to become an author?
Actually, I never decided to become an author.
I have always loved books, and I remember myself writing stories when I was a child… At school, I was the only one who loved writing assignements. Though, I never thought it could be a job. I thought authors were some kind of special creatures, either dead or alive in a different world.

After my studies, I started to work in the very classical field of marketing and communication. When I was 23, my boyfriend and I moved to Tahiti (such a great place). When I lived over there, I often sent Polynesian presents to my young goddaughter and I wrote stories about the gifts (the shell necklace belonged to the princess of the sea, the vegetal skirt to a great tamure dancer ect.). One day, by chance, my boyfriend read one of these stories. And he said : “You should write children books”. I thought it was absurd, but after that I told myself “Why not? I don’t need a degree or whatever to write stories. Why not trying? The only thing I risk is failing”.

And that was the very beginning. Now, it has become my only activity.

When did you publish your first book?
I was 24. So it is a long time ago ! I am 36 now.

What is special about writing for children?
This question reminds me of a sentence of Janus Korzack (a famous writer and pediatrist) about education…that we can translate to the art of writing.

You say: – Writing for children is difficult.

You’re right.

You Say:

- Because we have to lower ourselves to their intellect. Lower, stoop, bend, crouch down.

You are mistaken.

It isn’t that which is so difficult. But because we have to reach up to their feelings. Reach up, stretch, stand on our tiptoes.

What does it mean to you to be a part of the anthology and the Hay Festival?
I am so proud to be part of this exciting project. For me, it’s a great honour to have been chosen.

Do you have a favorite spot where you write? Where is that? And why is that your favorite spot?
I recently moved from Tahiti to France (what an idea…). In my new house, we are currently renovating an office for me. In the meantime, I’m an errant author. I write in the kitchen, or in the couch, after having removed my children’s toys.

How do you get inspired?
My inspiration comes mainly from life. What I see, what I hear, what I read…many things can be the point of departure of a great story, either a novel for young adults or an album for children. I think books are a great way to make children think about important questions of life. So I try to be aware, everytime, everywhere.