I write my young adult novels under the name KA van Wyk. The K stands for Karen but, apparently boys don't read books written by women and, as I write martial arts fiction, I use my initials rather than my full name.
I'm currently working on my first non-YA book. It's called Safe Haven and it will be published under the name Karen van Wyk.
I am also an artist. I work mainly in papier mache.
I have been known to do the occasional oil painting and acrylic, though I'm apt to start paintings and never get them finished.
This picture is a typical KA van Wyk acryilic - unfinished. It's a painting of a Himba woman and her child.
It hung on my kitchen wall for quite a while in that state then, in the last house move, I seem to have misplaced it.
Who knows, it may turn up one day, but I suspect it went the way of several other pieces of art and ended up in a skip:(
Himba Mother and Child by KA van Wyk
KA van Wyk - The Writer
I got into writing fiction quite by accident. Writing a novel was never high on my list of priorities, Sanchin just sort of happened.
Okay, maybe it wasn't quite that simple, so I'll tell you the story:
I've always walked around with my head in the clouds. I'm sure my teachers at school thought I was out of my tree. You see, I have one of those 'what if?' kind of minds - and it has a very bad habit of asking the question at the most inopportune times.
One minute I'd be sitting behind my desk in the English class listening to Miss Scott extolling the virtues of Hardy, and the next I'd be thinking, 'What if a velociraptor leapt through the window and ripped her leg off?'
As you can imagine, that little turn of events was far more intriguing to a thirteen-year-old mind than the Mayor of Casterbridge. It didn't make for the best education, but stories have always been part of my life.
I wrote a lot of short fiction just to get the stories out of my head, but I never had any intention of publishing them, and writing a novel really did happen by accident.
I had a bit of a trauma in my life so I moved from South Africa to the UK. I was feeling pretty low at the time and, to top it off, I contracted glandular fever. This led to what the doctor called 'post viral complications', whatever that means.
To me it meant I couldn't even walk down a flight of stairs without stopping for a breather. Medical science was of the opinion that it was something I had to live with, and that it may, or may not, improve in the future. Gee, thanks guys! Answers like that are really confidence inspiring.
Anyway, I tried several medications which, despite me having no appetite at all, caused my weight to balloon by 20kg. Daily life became a nightmare and, worst of all, it meant I had to give up my passion - Kyokushin karate.
So what did I do?
I sulked, of course. No, not really, though I did suffer a bout of depression that saw me reluctant to leave the house. That may have had something to do with the sudden dizzy spells which left me reeling like a drunkard and in dire danger of losing the contents of my stomach. Not the most attractive way to behave in public.
So I wrote.
At first it was just random ramblings with no apparent direction, but then a friend suggested I try National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo happens every November and the idea is to write 50 000 words in 30 days.
Writing a novel sounded like just the challenge I needed. So, on 31st October 2007, I signed up and wrote 56 000 words - of utter nonsense. But something happened while I was writing it. I fell in love. I loved the world I had created, loved my characters and I loved the process of getting it all onto the page. And when I put it to one side at the end of November, I missed it so much that I couldn't get it out of my head.
I needed to spend more time with 'my friends' so I rewrote the whole thing and Sanchin was the result. A young adult novel about a teenage boy with a chip on his shoulder, issues with his friends and family, and a passion for Kyokushin karate.
Through Sanchin, I discovered the joy of writing and the peril of self-editing. Then, much to my surprise, I ended up with a novel on Amazon.
Even more surprising was the fact that I actually went on to write another one. The second novel, Yantsu, was published about a year and a half later.
Both Sanchin and Yantsu are based on a full contact style of karate and are known as the Knockdown Karate Series.
My third novel, Where There's Life, is well on the way to second draft and will be released in mid 2013. Although this one is about a classical musician, and therefore very different to Sanchin and Yantsu, there will be a third book in the Knockdown Karate Series coming soon.
KA van Wyk - The Artist
I got into art pretty much by accident too. As a child I always wanted a horse, but as we moved around so much it was never going to happen.
So what did I do?
I sulked, of course. Okay, this time I really did, but I soon got over it and decided to make my own. We had a stable-type kitchen door, and one day my mom came home from town to see a horse's head peering over it and out into the garden.
I'd used chicken wire and old pairs of tights to make it. Since then I've made many animals and several other 3D art pieces. These days I mainly use papier mache as you can pretty much make anything you can imagine.
It's also cheap, or even free, as the materials are readily available.
A 'KA van Wyk original'. Bonding with a papier mache hippo head I made. I didn't like the idea of a mounted trophy look, so I made him crashing through the wall.
Annemarie and me with the PM elephant money box made for a game lodge in Zambia. It is used to raise funds for community charities in the area.
KA van Wyk - The Karateka
Okay, I wasn't going to put this bit in, but I do get a few people asking me if I'm qualified to write the Knockdown Karate series.
Well, I'm not sure novelists need to be qualified, we just need to know how to research well. As it happens, I do have some experience in martial arts, but I'm by no means a master.
I started training Wado Ryu in the UK too many years ago to mention. When I went back to South Africa I swapped the dojo for the beaches of Durban and spend several years training in 'beach bummery'.
When I moved to Cape Town the water was far too cold for my liking, so I turned back to karate. I discovered Kyokushin and fell in love. I knew then that knockdown karate was right for me.
I was devastated when I moved back to the UK and ended up living about 100km from the closest Kyokushin dojo. Unwilling to give up completely I began training in Shotokan. My erratic lifestyle meant I couldn't train anywhere near as regularly as I wanted to and when I got to third kyu I was no longer able to make it to the dojo at all.
I do still train fairly regularly, but with a reluctant housemate and a greyhound as my only sparring partners, there's little chance of progress.
KA van Wyk - The Watersports Enthusiast
I love water so much, I think I should have been born a fish.
Unfortunately, I'm pretty much landlocked at the moment, though I do gravitate towards the wet stuff as often as I can.
Having said that I'm landlocked, with all of the rain we had in 2012 I could have opened a canoe school in the back garden.
Freediving and SCUBA are two of my favourite pastimes, though I rarely get to indulge in either these days.
<----- Oh well, a girl can dream.
I have a couple of water-based novels in the pipeline so I'll need to get wet pretty soon. For research purposes, of course.
KA van Wyk - The Nutter (AKA KA van Wyk - The Crazy Greyhound Lady)
Nutter? Apparently so. I spend most of my time barefoot, I wear my hair in dreads, I believe in the Law of Attraction, and I follow a Primal/Paleo lifestyle. According to most people I know, that makes me a nutter.
2012 was a year that changed my life. I made one of my nuttier decisions and inadvertently became the parent of an ex-racing rescue greyhound.
I've always considered myself to be a cat person, but when a former client became too ill to look after his boy I impulsively agreed to take him in.
This guy really has opened my eyes to how amazing these dogs are.
I couldn't have imagined a more wonderful pet, and everyone I've spoken to who has had anything to do with greyhounds agrees.
I've never been able to settle in one place, but Radley has changed all of that. I'd really love to have a house on a plot of land big enough to rescue a whole 'herd' of them.
He's made a cameo appearance in one of my novels already, and he's crept into the first draft of another. Before I know it he'll be going for world domination. Or at least KA van Wyk novel domination.