She once heard, says Katja Brandis with amusement, that in order to be really good at something, you have to spend at least 10,000 hours doing it.

She knows what she's talking about because she's experienced it first hand.

She's a writing junkie.

Katja Brandis has been writing stories since she was eleven and has now published around seventy books.

Initially with variable success, but today her books are storming the bestseller lists.

Very few of her fans know that Katja Brandis is not her real name.

The author began writing picture and non-fiction books under her name Sylvia Englert.

But when the first successes came, she took on a pseudonym.

It was also a tribute to her favorite writer at the time, sci-fi writer Mark Brandis.

The "story" is in the foreground

Today, Katja Brandis, author of the well-known “Woodwalker” and “Seawalker” series for children aged ten and over, has a huge number of fans herself. They write her e-mails and letters, contact her via her homepage and often use her first-name terms. She almost had to throw a few admirers out of her garden because they had become so pushy. She is very open and answers a lot of e-mails, she says, but she is not a "hands-on author" after all.

This year Katja Brandis will be 52 years old. 15 years ago she took the plunge from her job as a journalist and became a freelance writer. And the Europe-wide success proved her right. To date, 1.5 million books have been printed from their two “Walker” series, and they are bestsellers in Russia and Scandinavia. "Insanely fun" is the experience of becoming a celebrity, she says, but also very stressful. Everything she used to do besides writing, workshops, coaching or editing, she had to give up. Not only to have more time to write, but above all to devote time to her fans and the marketing around her books. She now spends several hours a day answering letters, making video recordings and interviews,Writing contests and online stories. And then there are still blurbs to be written and cover photos to be looked through, readings and interviews to be organised.

The first test listener of new stories is always her 15-year-old son. She reads her manuscripts to him, discusses action scenes with him, and when reading them she automatically checks the sound and rhythm of her texts.

And that's important to her.

"I'm not a noble feather," she says cheerfully, meaning that the "story" is paramount to her.

She knows how to build good stories and create characters that her fans can love.

And who have so much potential that they can carry the plot over an entire series.

Sensitize children and young people to nature

Just like in the "Seawalker" series, the last volume of which has just been published, eagerly awaited by thousands of fans. There, as in the six-volume “Woodwalker” series, shapeshifters are the focus. Animals that can transform into girls and boys. They all go to a boarding school for shapeshifters and experience dangerous and exciting adventures. It is important to her that children can identify with her characters.

Katja Brandis has a lot of fun inventing fantasy stories, because here she can let her ideas run wild. And all of her novels, even those that do not belong to any of her series, have a common denominator: they tell of the harmony between the human world and nature and draw their readers into stories that deal with nature and environmental protection. You can feel in each of her books that Katja Brandis used to work as an environmental journalist. Some are even "really eco". But their concern should not come across as a message, but rather sensitize children and young people to nature as a sideline.

Katja Brandis laughs a lot and loves it, and she's good at laughing at herself. It doesn't matter whether it's about her perfectionism, which, as she says herself, can sometimes be rather exhausting for her environment. Or about her "bad weakness" for sweets of all kinds. Or about her almost Prussian work ethic: She considers herself a "strict boss". But nothing comes from nothing, and in her case perseverance and an irrepressible desire to invent, tell stories and write also brought success. Despite this, Katja Brandis is keeping her feet on the ground, and as she looks out the window of her study, whose shelves are full of manuscripts, books, research literature and autograph cards, she is already looking forward to three more books that will be published this spring. And on their trip to Namibia in the summer. Because that's where her next youth novel takes place.