Welcome to the first episode of Catching Stars- an occasional series of interviews with other astrologers.
And what better way to start a series like this than with one of my personal favourites- April Elliott Kent of Big Sky Astrology.
April is the author of three books, the upcoming Astrological Transits (which I’m so looking forward to reading and reviewing for you), The Essential Guide to Practical Astrology, and Star Guide to Weddings.
If you want to know more about April, check out her about page.
Have you always been interested in astrology?
It sort of feels like it, but I think I first heard the word when I was about 10 years old and began studying it at age 12. It’s fascinated me ever since!
Did you study formally, or are you self-taught? Or a combination of the two?
I studied on my own (in the grim, pre-Internet 1970s and 1980s) for about 15 years before I ever met an astrologer. A guy I worked with —an engineer, older guy, totally unlikely astrology enthusiast—
casually mentioned he was going to see his astrologer after work. I couldn’t get her phone number fast enough! She did a reading for me, and I ended up studying with her for a couple of years before I started offering readings professionally.
Do you have a particular philosophy or interest in a specific area of astrology?
I enjoy astrology most when it’s personal. I like it when astrologers use real life to illustrate astrological ideas, which is something that you do, Jo, to great effect. (ed note: awwwww shucks) It can be tricky to walk the fine line between personal and self-indulgent, and I haven’t always managed it, though I do feel I’ve gotten much better at it in recent years.
What was the inspiration behind Astrological transits? Did you write it for a specific audience?
My career as an author has been singularly bizarre, in that I didn’t set out to write any of my books: they were opportunities that came my way from publishers who had a particular topic in mind. Astrological Transits is designed to help readers who have a pretty solid grasp of signs, planets, houses, and aspects, but who need help jumping to the next level.
Astrological Transits is your third book, do you think that the writing gets easier or more difficult as you go along?
Writing is very hard work for me, and I don’t particularly enjoy it, but it has definitely gotten easier over the years. It took a long time for me to settle into the voice that works for me, because I always vacillated wildly between my natural tendency to crack wise and my desire to be a little more soulful.
Writing books, specifically, has gotten much easier each time! The first book, which had a very simple structure, was just murder. And with the second one, I had such an aggressive deadline—I had to write a 400 page book in two and a half months—that was a real trial by fire; I had no choice but to blaze through and get it done. To this day, I crack open that book and find things I have absolutely no memory of writing! But it was still easier than the first book, and Astrological Transits was easier still. I’ve learned how to pace myself and organize the work, know how to take care of myself while I do it, and have developed little tricks to keep me on track and motivated.
I remember reading that you wrote a good proportion of this on a train. I have this romantic ideal of a writer’s retreat speeding across the American landscape. What was that experience like?
This was one of the tricks I used to stay motivated! I had read an article about how Amtrak, our U.S. national train service, was awarding residencies to a couple dozen writers so they could ride around the country writing. I loved the idea and decided to book my own mini-residency. It wasn’t quite as terrific because I had to pay for it myself, and I had to restrict myself to day-long trips between San Diego and Los Angeles–but it was so much fun! Writing with a view of the Pacific Ocean is pretty hard to beat. My theory is that because writers sit still all day, we need to have some kind of motion around us for inspiration and to relieve boredom. It was also extremely helpful to have six hours of solid, uninterrupted writing time!
I have to confess to having a bit of a fan girl moment when it comes to your work, April…I just love your voice. What astrologers have you most admired over the years…or who have influenced you?
Well goodness, that’s kind! I appreciate that so much. As a writer, you know how wonderful it is to feel that your words are out there having an effect on people. Certainly, Steven Forrest and Dana Gerhardt have had a profound influence on me, both as an astrologer and an astrology writer. I’m also an insatiable reader and plenty of non-astrologers have had a huge impact on my writing—the novels of Anne Tyler and essays/ memoirs by a lot of funny and sarcastic people, like Jen Lancaster, Joe Queenan, Sandra Tsing Loh, and Laurie Notaro.
What’s next for April Elliott Kent? Another book…or something else entirely?
I have no idea. I never really know! My second book, The Essential Guide to Practical Astrology, went out of print rather quickly, so I’m in the process of reprinting it through my former teacher’s publishing company. I’d dearly love to do a good book about progressions; there’s not a lot out there on the subject. And for years I’ve been meaning to put together a book of some of my essays. We’ll see – any suggestions? I take requests!
Placidus, Koch or whole house…and why?
I’m fond of saying I’m a complete agnostic on the subject of house systems. It’s not as though there are actual lines in the sky, separating it into houses, so other than the angles it’s all academic! I use Koch, because my teacher did and because my Koch chart responds perfectly to transits and progressions. And it’s hard to argue with whole signs when Rob Hand uses it! But if a client prefers another house system, I’m completely happy to work with it. I figure if that’s the lens they’re comfortable with, that’s how I’ll take the picture.
Any tips for budding astrologers?
If you’re going to be a professional astrologer, study with a good teacher for a while. There are so many fabulous resources for self-study online, but it’s also a little too easy to skip over the bits you find boring; a teacher keeps you honest by making sure you know what you need to know. Then, figure out where your strengths lie. If you’re a good writer, a fascinating public speaking, a terrific teacher, or a great counselor, build your practice around that! Few astrologers are fantastic at all of them, but if you’re very, very good at one and make an effort to become competent in the rest, you can do very well.
Thanks so much for being part of this, April.
Thank you, Jo! I love your blog and your sunny Pisces spirit!
April’s latest book, Astrological Transits, is available on pre-order now from the usual on-line sellers.