This is me, on a windy day in June.

My name is Katarina West and I’m the author of the Angel Aid fantasy series, as well as Witchcraft Couture and Absolute Truth, For Beginners. I live in Chianti in a poorly heated farmhouse, together with a German ghost, two hairy mops of dogs, computer-game-wizard schoolboy and a grumbling, conservative Italian professor husband whose female students have sat Indiana Jones style in the front row of the lecture hall with I Love You painted into their eyelids.

I was born in Helsinki, Finland, next to woods where all the neighbourhood children wandered barefoot in the summer and within walking distance of the seashore where on a clear day you could see ships passing towards Sweden.

The weight of words.

When I was twelve I vowed that I was going to be a writer. Stories had a special aura in my eyes: they were a journey to a faraway country, a place no one had heard of. Unmapped and unseen, it lingered beyond the horizon, on the far side of everything, and in its heights and gullies lived the spirits of another world. I swore that one day I would travel to that land.

Years passed and I journeyed, though not to the world I had seen as a child. Instead I studied in London and Florence, learned Swahili in Zanzibar, read anything but Lolita with schoolgirls in Kathmandu, did a PhD in political science and published a book based on it, declined a banquet invitation to the Royal Yacht Britannia (yet participated in a dissident’s get-together in a Chilean prison), dreaded teaching as a visiting university lecturer in Italy and office life as a WEU researcher in Paris, searched for pygmies in Rwanda and the perfect sentence as a Finnish freelance journalist.

I started to write my first novel in earnest only when my husband and I moved to Chianti, into a seventeenth-century farmhouse standing alone on top of a hill. And that’s where I am today, writing, making notes, planning chapters… or cooking, baking, carrying firewood, bottling jam jars, mowing, sand-papering, weeding, cleaning, watering, dusting, ironing, repairing, repainting: for life here in the countryside is never idle, and you’ve always got something to do.

These are my hills.

World’s comfiest armchair, perfect for reading.

Whenever there’s a quiet moment, I read – even at dinner table, despite my conscience telling me that it’s Bad Parenting. I love the scent of old libraries and freshly printed books, yet have shunned librarians ever since a dog from my childhood ate a priceless scientific volume. I love languages, no matter what shape or size they come in: I have studied many and forgotten them all.

But I still pray in Italian, dream in Finnish and write in English – currently the next Angel Aid book.

The silence of a Tuscan evening.