Natasha Mostert offers pinch of paranormal

NEW YORK Wed May 6, 2009 6:02pm BST

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - In this economy, escaping into the unknown might sound like a good option for many.

For novelist Natasha Mostert it's part of the job.

Growing up in South Africa with a witch doctor trainee as a nanny whet her appetite for the mystical, which she feels exists on the periphery of most people's mundane, rushed daily lives.

Now, she is trying to mobilize her fiercely loyal fan base to raise money for women boxers in Afghanistan so they can travel to London for the Olympic Games.

She's confident it can be done -- her fans turned out in force to help her fourth novel "Season of the Witch" win the World Book Day award in March.

An avid kickboxer, Mostert spoke to Reuters about her latest novel, "The Keeper of Light and Dust", which gives a paranormal edge to the gritty world of South London martial arts.

Q: Where does your fascination with the paranormal come from?

A: "I grew up in South Africa and had a nanny who was training to be a witch doctor. I always had the feeling when I spoke to her that there was something hovering on the edge of my peripheral vision and if I could turn my head fast enough then maybe I could catch it."

Q: Would you describe yourself as superstitious?

A: "I'm not superstitious and will gladly live on the 13th floor of an apartment building, but what my nanny did was sharpen my interest in mystical things."

Q: Who is your target audience?

A: "I am now on MySpace, my editor told me I should be, to get in touch with my readers. It's really interesting to see who gets excited about my books. They range from housewives in the Midwest to absolute goths who believe in the paranormal and believe in witchcraft."

Q: What kind of interaction do you have with your readers?

A: "I had an email from a fan yesterday with a picture of his leg which he had tattooed with images from my books. I don't know whether I should feel flattered or freaked out.

"But I do also have fans who are housewives who like to have a pinch of the paranormal, a bit of fantasy on their daily bread."

Q: Why does your latest book involve kickboxers?

A: "I'm an overly enthusiastic kickboxer. I've broken bones over the years. The dojos which I train in are in a working class environment in South London and for seven years I followed these guys from fight to fight so I know this world very well.

"Usually in martial arts fiction, the heroes are superheroes who run up walls and engage in mystical sword play. I wanted to make it a very real environment. I know what it smells like in a dojo, which is not pleasant, and I know what these guys go through when they train. So my novel has a lot of mystical overlay but is very gritty."

Q: You're donating part of the book's proceeds to Afghan women boxers. What got you interested in that particular cause?

A: "I came across an article on the Internet about Afghan women being taught how to box. I looked at the photographs and they engaged me on a personal level, because they looked so happy.

"Their trainer wants them to take part in the Olympics, but they are very underfunded so I want to help them, and perhaps ask my fans to help them. I don't have the fan base of a John Grisham, but the fans I do have are very, very loyal. I mean, they tattoo themselves!"

(Reporting by Kristina Cooke; editing by Patricia Reaney)

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