Some Thoughts with … Tessa Hastjarjanto

25 Aug 2022

The Author/s

Tessa Hastjarjanto

Tessa Hastjarjanto

Tessa Hastjarjanto is a Dutch/Indonesian writer from the Netherlands. She writes speculative fiction, and blogs at about books, fountain pens, and writing.

From a young age, she imitated popular stories and games in creating her own worlds. This love eventually led to a master’s degree in media and game studies at the University of Utrecht. However a mundane desk job was enough to inspire her to follow her creative passion. The first fanfics were written in lunch breaks and soon original fiction followed.

With the support of her husband, she now focuses on her writing career while battling chronic pain. Swiss white shepherd, Shiro, acts as a therapy dog to keep her healthy and reduce stress through extensive cuddle sessions.

The Interview

1.- What made you decide to go into the self publishing route?

Over a decade ago, I got so sick I thought I didn’t have much time left on this planet and I made a list of things I wanted to do before dying. 1. Go to Japan. 2. See a giant panda bear in real life. 3. Publish a book. By that point I was already writing but nothing serious. I had finished a couple of short stories and I decided that was the one I wanted to finish. After six months, I began to feel better but my list stuck. I wanted to do all three, and publishing a book was the most difficult. I only had short stories but I didn’t think anyone would want a collection of short stories written by a biracial woman from the Netherlands.

Even though I didn’t know much about the inner workings of publishing, I knew I’d have to work thrice as hard to get published via that route. But I was (am) still sick. Chronic pain is a daily nemesis. And while I work hard, I didn’t have the energy to deal with it while having a day job. So I looked into self-publishing. I worked with several editors before as part of previous writing projects including fan fiction and knew I’d need an editor to help me out. Luckily, I had friends who did that (I paid them), and my sister was sweet enough to do the cover (check out @kraaico on Twitter and Instagram). And here we are.

2.- After some years of writing, which aspects do you find more difficult/challenging of it?

Editing is the part I like the least about the whole publishing process. My chronic pain is a complex thing but one part of it is also blunt head trauma. After bumping my head, I had major headaches for a long while and language was really hard, reading, writing, and speaking. It was like I couldn’t access certain parts of my brain and vocabulary. Not ideal when you’re a writer. While that blockade (as I call it) is gone, there are still parts that are hard to access. My prose isn’t complex, or purple, or wordly, or filled with long, difficult words. There are also concepts I can’t explain well anymore. I have a master’s degree and have read a lot about art philosophy, ethical technology, and narrative design. Reading academic and highly complex research used to be fun. Now I can’t comprehend most of it. And I see that in my writing. That’s why most of what I’ve written is YA since the expectations for complex prose aren’t as high.

And maybe talking about my books. I can sell anything, except for my own books. They’re not perfect, and they probably won’t win awards, but I want the reader to enjoy them. Knowing they’re flawed, how are you going to tell someone «Read my book! It’s amazing! You’ll love it!» I don’t know. I tell anyone to only read my books if and when they want. Reading should always be fun. So DNF away, even if it’s my book.

3.- Apart from Lunis Aquaria, you also have the Infernal Contract series,  could you talk to us a little bit about it?

Devil’s Deal (the first book in the Infernal Contract trilogy) is a passion project. While I was working to get Tales of Lunis Aquaria published, I wanted to do NaNoWriMo and my mind kept thinking about this one. So I wrote 40k words for it. Since it was nearly done, I decided to finish and publish it. This time I did no editing, and made my own cover. Why? Because I knew I still had a lot to learn and this passion project would be my learning process. I also didn’t have money for a cover and editing. I uploaded it, booked a tour, and got (surprisingly) a lot of three and four stars with notes about ‘potential’. I also got a tax break and another freelance project I picked up while I was writing the second book. My husband proposed that we buy covers with that money and pay for editing. The whole makeover project took about a year and a half, and I republished Devil’s Deal with the new cover, editing, and new and deleted scenes just before Christmas last year. The second book, Lucifer’s Favour was released in April. And I’m currently working hard to publish Beelzebub’s Bargain (the final book) before Halloween.

It’s the biggest mistake I’ve made in my short self-publishing career but it gave me a chance to grow in so many different ways. Not just as a writer, but also as a publisher.

If you liked Twilight or Fallen, you might like Devil’s Deal. It’s a YA Paranormal romance set in the fictional version of my hometown in the Netherlands. Some parts are close parallels to my own life, but I’ll let you figure out that one.

4.- I loved Nebula, the cat, and there are details that really remember me of my own pet, what inspired you into writing him?

I’ll be honest, I’m not a cat person. I’m slightly allergic and I get scratched a lot. That aside, cats are magical, aren’t they? And I love galaxies. And mashing up random things. And then Nebula was born. A serval-like cat with fur as dark as the night sky with the patterns of the stars moving across his fur and nebulas in his eyes.

He’s interesting, mostly because I have no idea what he’s up to. Who is he? Where did he come from? 

5.- The Lady as a whole concept is really interesting, what impulsed you into writing her?

One of the things that fascinated me during my teen years was the Wiccan religion and the Goddess in particular. I wanted a deity-like person who cultivated a planet, much like Mother Earth, or Gaia, to make it liveable for these creatures called humans. 

6.- I want to talk about the concept of leylines, how would you define them?

And that’s where leylines come in! I could’ve written The Lady as filled with magic and with a flick of her magic wand, the world was perfect. But that wouldn’t be interesting, right? Leylines are a concept often used in stories with a magical element, a network of energy flowing below the crust. Wizards, witches, warlocks, mages, and other magical beings would tap into these sources of energy to create extraordinary spells. It’s an exchange of power, taking from the leyline and releasing on the other side. These sources aren’t limitless and energy can be corrupted (see where I’m going?) so it’s better if not everyone has access and to teach those who do, to be ethical. The leylines don’t just feed the magic in Lunis Aquaria, but also life in general.

7.- You also have your own blog, Narratess, and organize your own indie sale. As reader, thank you for doing that. What made you start this Indie Sale?

I’m a big reader too and I saw all these sales pop up like the SPFBO sale run by E.G. Radcliff. I’m not an SPFBO alumni so I couldn’t take part. Many of my indie friends also couldn’t. So I asked a few friends if they wanted to join in and we’d do a sale together. At that time, I had already twelve people interested and my husband said, why not invite more? And I did. My tweet to ask for collaborators for a new thing I was doing went semi-viral and by the end, we had 97 books and over 70 authors taking part in the first Indie Sale. It was the perfect opportunity for me to yell about the books I loved and new books I discovered (because I bought a lot too). I love the indie community and want to give back as much as possible.

8.- This year, you are a BBNYA judge, how would you describe the experience?

Speaking of giving back to the indie community, this is another initiative that I’ve enjoyed. This is my third year as a panellist and second year as a team lead. I’ve discovered so many new authors and amazing books through the competition. It’s open to all genres so I’m not reading only one genre and that’s what keeps it fun. Every excerpt is a new surprise. I’m currently reading the second round excerpts (the first 10k of a novel) and my scores are so close. Honestly, the quality of books submitted each year goes up, it’s insane.

Good luck to all the authors. It’s a tough competition because all of you deliver such amazing books!

9.- As you always said that you love fountain pens, I want to ask you something more personal. Which model is your favourite and which ink is your chosen one?

My favourite model is the TWSBI Eco which is also one of the cheapest fountain pens I own. It’s sturdy, can hold a lot of ink, and is light enough for my crampy hands. And at $35 it’s still considered a budget pen. I don’t feel bad for owning five of them haha. Favourite ink is hard. I recently got a new one, Dormant Industries Sunset. It’s a pastel purple ink with pink/rose gold glitter. It really reminds me of a summer sunset with purple-hued skies. I like my shinies.


10.- What can we expect from Tessa Hastjarjanto in the future?

The next book coming out is the final book in the Infernal Contracts trilogy. After that, I’m going back to the world of Lunis Aquaria. I’ve got a standalone novel planned which is a follow-up to one of the short stories in Tales of Lunis Aquaria. Then I’ll be working on another series, the project I pitch as my desert heist saga. This is only the beginning though. So much is going to happen in Lunis Aquaria and I haven’t even planned out a quarter of it. I’d compare the overall book universe to Discworld. Several interconnected series which can also be read on their own with standalone novels added to the mix and a hint of short stories to further worldbuilding.