Interview with Angelika Rust   2 comments

I’m interviewing Angelika Rust, the author of The Girl on the Red Pillow. Angelika is from Austria, which I got wrong on the first question, but loved the answer so much that I had to run it, even if it shows I’m less than perfect.

Austria! It’s Austria…I’m sorry. It doesn’t make much of a difference, neighboring countries, basically the same language, but…imagine telling a Scotsman he’s English, or a Canadian he’s American. Let’s just say that during the football (soccer, in the US) season, you’ll find that your average Austrian will cheer for any country as long as it’s not Germany, and leave it at that 🙂


I think the language difference makes this story even more remarkable because it is written in English and I couldn’t really sense an accent to the writing. Tell us something about yourself, Angelika.

About me, I’m in my late thirties, blissful mom of two, and happily married to a German (and luckily, neither of us has the slightest interest in football). For a living, I teach English and do the occasional bit of editing or translating. For fun, I write fantasy. Apart from The Girl on the Red Pillow, I have a series called Tales of Istonnia, which is a blend of fantasy and mafia. I could live on coffee and peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. I have a real knack for patching up jeans, but when it comes to gardening, the dandelions are winning and the dog won’t stop digging holes in the lawn, which the kids will fill with water to cook poisons and potions.


The Girl on the Red Pillow is sort of a descent into madness, ascent into sanity story exploring generational demons that many of us carry with us. What was the genesis for this project?

Originally, I wanted to write a book about the comical aspects of depression. Which, of course, is a contradiction in itself, as there’s nothing funny about it, unless you have a morbid sense of humor. (Which I have, but that’s not the point.)

Depression has been an interest of mine for some time now. There are a few cases in the family. For people who don’t suffer from it, it’s hard to understand and even harder to bear. Mood swings, breakdowns, inexplicable shyness, inability to leave the house for the simplest of tasks like going to a store…you can’t lead a normal life with a depressed person, and you’ll soon notice that there’s a wall between them and you, that something is keeping them in. Whether you’re the depressed one or the one watching has no real impact on one outcome: you’ll get angry. You’ll want to tear down that stupid wall. You’ll want someone to blame. That’s where I started writing The Girl on the Red Pillow, taking fantasy elements to express what’s going on in a depressed mind.

There are those who will tell you that it’s only a question of keeping your serotonin levels up, be good, take your meds, it will all be well, but that has never struck me as a satisfying approach. I’m a firm believer in the theory that if you hurt, you should cry. Bottle up, and one day you’ll explode. Depressions rarely come out of nowhere. Even if they are sort of a chemical reaction, I can’t help thinking they are triggered/enhanced by certain events – in case of The Girl on the Red Pillow, those events are traumatic childhood experiences – plus, they can be hereditary. Those generational demons can be a lot of things, from simple behavior patterns to very real sicknesses, and confronting them can serve as an exorcism.


What were some of the literary influences for the story?

There weren’t really any literary influences. I’ll admit, there’s an Alice in Wonderland reference, but that one sneaked in when I was almost finished writing the book, so it did nothing to shape the story. Musical influences though, I could talk all day about those. A short time ago, I went and compiled all the songs that either inspired parts of the story, or are sung or alluded to throughout the book. Have a look:


Annalee, the main character, has a lot of wry humor as she deals with facing her issues. Is she based on anyone in your real life?

Wry humor, dry humor, morbid humor, black humor – I grew up in Vienna, where the spoken language is sarcasm, paired with a close affinity to fatalism and death. So in a way, you could say Annalee is based on me. Or on a big part of the Viennese populace. Really, we’re worse than the British in that respect.


The book deals with family demons — the family secrets that follow us from generation to generation and that we often are unaware of as we grow. In this case, Annalee becomes aware and seeks a way to live with this dysfunctions. Can you talk a little bit about that?

We are often unaware, that’s precisely the problem. We rarely step back and question that which we are used to, and as humans, we have this amazing ability to get used to a lot. And we don’t talk enough about the things that pain us, thus tend to put up with more than we might need to. We accept that we hurt, and since we’re used to it, we think it’s normal and don’t go around talking about it. Why talk about what you can’t change? But by keeping silent, we rob ourselves of the chance to find out that maybe, it’s not normal at all. Maybe, had we spoken up at some point, someone would have told us, hey, what you’re going through isn’t average pain, you shouldn’t accept it, you should fight. You have the right. That’s the hardest thing, I think, to find the strength to believe that you have the right to fight your emotional burdens, to shed the weight of a guilt not your own. The worst about depressions, though, is that you’ll find that you can’t talk, even if you want to. It’s that stupid wall. And the fact that the wall is imaginary doesn’t make it any less real, or any less hard to get over.

Angelika’s books can be found at:

The Girl on the Red Pillow

Istonnia Tales (Rat Tales #1)

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