Friends teased her as a child for her "little stories", but Hamilton 22-year-old Yvette Willemse is now a proper author with a four-book contract with an American publisher.

"When I started writing my first book at 10, I bragged to a lot of my friends and they got sick of it pretty quickly," she told the Weekend Herald yesterday, on the eve of publication of the third instalment of her young adult fantasy series, The Fledgling Account.

"I got made fun of an awful lot, so that made me a bit quieter about it."

Even her parents were left wondering what went on in her head, although they and her five sisters and brother are now proud of the author in their midst.


Although the first royalty cheque from Nashville's Permuted Press - an offshoot of publishing major Simon & Schuster - has yet to wend its way to the Waikato, her novel Rafen has been a constant presence on Amazon's Top 100 list of Christian fantasy books since appearing in August, and reached 11th place.

It has already been followed by a second, The Sianian Wolf, and the other two contracted books will be published in quick succession, on October 20 and next month.

That won't be the end of the story for Ms Willemse's leading character Rafen, a teenage boy put to work in a coal-mine but later groomed to be the personal slave of the despotic king of her invented world of Tarhia.

For she has already written a fifth novel, and is shooting for a seven-book series, which she hopes to complete before she turns 25.

With a pastor father, and a mother who home-schooled her, she took her main inspiration for the series from a children's picture-book version of John Bunyan's 17th-century Christian allegory The Pilgrim's Progress.

Although she is not looking forward to farewelling Rafen when the time comes, having developed him as a character since she started scribbling in notebooks as a 6-year-old, she has a notion to follow the series with "a really humorous little trilogy" aimed at children.

"I wrote a couple of drafts for it when I was 13, so I'm thinking about maybe coming back to that."

Ms Willemse balances her writing with work as a piano and singing teacher, and is not sure whether she will be able to become a full-time author. But she appears to have the publishing world at her feet for now.