Hello! I’m Avon Van Hassel, author and owner of avonvanhassel.com.
I started writing from a young age, forever playing with ideas and trying to make them fit together into interesting stories. I’m fascinated by the grey areas of history and mythology, the missing details, the ‘why’s of behaviour. I write to make sense of the world, to puzzle out the questions that bother me, to reshape the things I see into images that I can understand. And I hope, along the way, I create something that can be enjoyed by others as well.
The first stories I can remember writing were in first grade. I recall finding ways to fold leprechauns into math problems, because it was March and I’ve always been fascinated by celebrating the seasons. By fourth grade, I was writing Cats (the musical) fanfiction and trying to write my own musicals, before realising that I have no musical talent. In Jr High, I discovered Tolkien and fell into the Fantasy genre in a big way (and the accompanying fanfiction), and in High School, I was introduced properly to the works of Shakespeare and never looked back. At my first college, I had enough hours between classes that I would sit in the library and read, and manage a book every couple of weeks, a habit I’m working my way back to. In University, I decided to take a chance on National Novel Writing Month at a particularly hellish time, and that also, had a massive impact on the way I write now.
Another major influence on my taste from a very young age, was the American Girl series, though I don’t believe I ever did write fan fiction for them. Perhaps it’s because when I was reading them I hadn’t yet developed the area of the brain that self-inserts. Though I certainly did write stories for the Just Like You doll I was given in second grade. Regardless of how I saw myself within the AG universe, the stories certainly impacted me. Even to this day, the majority of what I write has a young female protagonist from the past, going against the odds to change the world.
With the exception of NaNoWriMo, my writing and reading fell off a little during my university days. The pace of life and my heavily science-based Archaeology degree didn’t leave much time or brain energy for being creative, but what it did give me was the tools and foundation for what has become probably my greatest love: research. Give me a topic that inspires me, and I’ll be an expert in weeks. I have the focus of a hawk and the jaws of a bulldog when I’ve spotted a quarry worthy of my attention.
I feel like this marriage of writing and history was almost fated, in a way. Both sides of my family are very proud of their heritage and work hard to preserve the history, both sides highly value academia and lifelong study, and both sides are heavily involved in the arts. I was encouraged to think for myself and read anything I could get my hands on growing up, and I gravitated toward the fantastical and the nostalgic. Fairy tales are rarely set in the modern world, but magic can be found even here in the city, if you know where to look.
Finding magic is what I do. I have no interest in the mundane (which isn’t to say I don’t have a practical side, but you won’t find me among the real-life inspirational stories or exposes. Those genres are perfectly valid and have a dedicated fanbase–I’m just not one of them). Show me mermaids and Afrofuturism, fairy tale noir and doppelgangers: the outlandish with a tingle of the familiar.
So, if this sounds like something you’d like to see, come with me, and my co-author, Cassie, and we’ll show you my world.