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{Homegrown} The SA Author Campaign IV

Raashida Khan is a self published author.
Her books include:
 Mirror Cracked– this won the Minara Aziz Hassim Literary Award two years ago (is also LBQT so its perfect for Pride Month AND breaks down barriers with writing about mental health in the Muslim community),
Happy Birthday, Raashi (a poetry anthology) and her latest
Your Voice, My Strength. None of which I have yet read but after reading the synopsis of Mirror Cracked it is now officially on my TBR list.
Raashida contacted me after having read and enjoyed the {HOMEGROWN} author interview series with the hopes of contributing her own Q & A. As we all know I am a huge fan of promoting and sharing SA writers, I agreed to showcase a new to me author.
Diversity is key in reading, where would be the fun in just reading the same old same old. Climb out of those comfort zones, and try something new, there are also some recommendations in the ‘authors that inspire me’ question. (I also adore the cover of her latest book!}
So without further ado, please enjoy the latest in our {homegrown} SA author Q & A.
– Do you have a specific routine that you follow when you sit down to write, or are you able to sit and write at any time?
 
It depends on what I am writing. If it’s a novel, there is a loose routine, but as long as I set a target for a day, then that helps. If it’s poetry or a blog, there is no real routine as it when i’m moved/inspired enough to write something.
 
– What book/s are you currently reading?
 
‘Made in Chatsworth’ by Kiru Naidoo and ‘Time and Time Again’ by Ben Elton. My reading is a bit slower as it Ramadaan this month, so I have less time.
 
– Which SA authors have inspired you in your own writing?
 
Always a tough one to answer as we have such a wealth of local talent. Rayda Jacobs, Alan Paton, Achmat Dangor, Zakes Mda, Fred Khumalo, and many others. I love SA writers and try and support them where I can.
 
– Did you always have a passion to write a book or did it / they stealthily creep up on you?
 
Yes, I have been saying I would write since I was a child but only started seriously about five years ago.
 
– Which has been your favourite book to write so far?
 
My first novel, ‘Mirror Cracked’. Writing this book made me recognise my passion – I put my heart and soul into it. The book really helped me to identify and engage with themes that are close to my heart. The characters were real to me and I loved them all. It also taught me so much about writing and myself and cemented my love for writing.
 
– What were your favourite books as a child?
 
I enjoyed the mystery books of Enid Blyton and school-based stories.
 
– To date, what is the worst book you have ever read, and why?
 
In all honesty, I’ve not hated any book. Every book has some merit and teaches its readers something. Generally, if a book does not grab me in the first 50-100 pages, I move on. There are too many books to read and too little time to persevere with a book that is not working for me. This is rare though, especially now that I write too. I understand and appreciate what goes into writing a book so don’t give up on them very quickly.
 
If there is any book that disappointed me, it was ‘The Ministry of Happiness’ by Arudhati Roy. She is one of my favourite authors and her first book, ‘The God of Small Things’ was one of the books that made me want to write.  I’ve also enjoyed her socio-political writings and admire her as an activist. Unfortunately, for me, this book was all over the place. There is much to be said about simplicity in writing. I felt this novel was trying to do too much – it had an interesting plot and characters but the social commentary detracted from it rather than enhancing it.
 
– Do you think SA women writers and authors are treated differently to their male counterparts in the publishing world?
 
I’m not sure about that. I would like to think that we are treated equally. If you are referring to traditional publishing, I can’t comment. As a self-published author, I think an author gets as much recognition/airtime as he/she works for. It’s all up to the individual.
 
– If there was one piece of advice you could give to aspiring SA authors, what would it be?
 
If writing is your passion, write in spite of the challenges. Stay positive. Read widely, participate in local author/reading groups (on social media and in person), attend book festivals and support other local authors wherever you can.
 
BONUS QUARANTINE QUESTIONS:
 
– If we weren’t in lockdown and you could have any authors around your table for dinner, who would they be and why?
 
Zukiswa Wanner – she has an amazing energy and is committed to supporting local and African.
Keletso Mopai – she has an incredible way with words. She weaves universal themes into her proudly local stories with artful finesse, yet her writing is so accessible.
Kopano Matlwa – her stories and style of writing are unique yet believable. I’ve seen her at a book festival, where I was stuck by her beauty, grace and humility.
 
I think I could learn much from any of these inspiring authors.
 
– What is one item you have either made/ tried/ learn’t while being in lockdown, and was it successful?
 
I cut my husband’s hair. Twice! Yes, I think it turned out well otherwise I wouldn’t have been allowed near him with a scissors a second time.
 
– While the lockdown was fairly sudden, and our new normal sprang up quickly, what has been a silver lining to you during this time?
 
I try to be grateful and appreciate what I have been given as I know I am blessed. The lockdown really helped me to take nothing for granted and to remember to pay more than lip service to giving thanks. So many others have suffered incredible hardships and have had to make sacrifices in this trying time.
 
We have all had time to realise that we miss certain things or places during this time, what is yours?
I miss my walks in the parks – I love being out in nature, the freedom to just go out when I want and visiting/meeting friends and family, especially. The connections we have with each other still continue digitally, but it’s not the same as being in the same room with someone and hugging him or her.
 
– What is one pet hate in your current situation with who you live with? Be it a partner, child or animal?
 
Honestly, no one. I’m quite lucky, I guess. We are a family of 6 (no pets) and mostly get along. It helps that the house is fairly big and we each have our own space as well as a garden, so it’s easier for us.
 
I love how often Enid Blyton shows up on this Q&A, I think most of us have a soft spot for these children’s books. Thank you so much Raashida for getting in touch, its been great to read your answers, and I look forward to reading your books.
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{HOMEGROWN} The SA Author Campaign IIII

Have you ever discovered an author whose writing just melted in your mouth as you savoured their sentences?

This happened to myself and my daughter recently when we discovered Witchfield by local author Nicole Rimensberger. We were both delighted with this middle grade book aimed at age 8 – 12 year olds so keep your eyes peeled for our reviews soon.

In the meantime, please enjoy a Q&A with Nicole in our Homegrown series, highlighting the best of local talent in South African authors.

 

Do you have a specific routine that you follow when you sit down to write, or are you able write at any time?

I would love to be able to say I have a routine when it comes to writing, but the truth is I don’t. As someone who works fulltime and has kids, it goes without saying that life is busy. I end up writing in whatever cracks of time that are available to me – I can’t be fussy, otherwise there would never be any sentences on the page. So, basically, writing is punctuated by endless interruptions and happens in messy bits and pieces.

– What book/s are you currently reading?

I’m usually always reading something, but I have found the lockdown has affected my ability to sit down and be still enough to absorb a novel. This has made me quite sad. Recently I did read Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling and I’ve just finished Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. I’m really hoping that I’m slowly crawling my way out of this reading slump!

– Which SA authors have inspired you in your own writing?

Lauren Beukes, Marlene Van Niekerk, Clare Robertson, Fred Khumalo. There are, sadly, not many South African middle grade authors out there (if you are one – please say hi, I would love to meet you!)

My current favourite children’s authors are Lemony Snicket, Sophie Anderson, Sharon Creech, Kate DiCamillo, Chris Riddell, Neil Gaiman… how much space am I allowed?

– Did you always have a passion to write a book or did it / they stealthily creep up on you?

It’s always been there, like a bad habit I couldn’t shake. 

 – Which book has been your favourite to write so far?

What? That’s like asking which is my favourite child.

– What were your favourite books as a child?

I have to admit, I was a big Enid Blyton fan – those improbable, page-turning adventure stories and the endless possibilities offered by the magical elements like the Faraway Tree. They got me hooked.

– To date, what is the worst book you have ever read, and why?

That’s a difficult question! I don’t actually have one I would describe as worst. There are books that I’ve read that have not spoken to me, but that’s something that happens between the reader and the text. For example, I admire Zakes Mda’s work and his skill as a writer, but for some reason I don’t fully understand, I just don’t connect to his work – and I’ve tried a number of times with different titles. 

– Do you think SA women writers and authors are treated differently to their male counterparts in the publishing world?

I honestly can’t answer this question because, having gone an independent/alternative route, I’ve not had much experience with publishers!

– If there was one piece of advice you could give to aspiring SA authors, what would it be?

To write. Regardless. 

 

BONUS LOCKDOWN QUESTIONS:

– If we weren’t in lockdown and you could have any authors around your table for dinner, who would they be and why?

J.K. Rowling of course! I really admire what she did for children’s books and reading in general – I want to pick her brain about all sorts of things.

– What is one item you have either made/ tried/ learn’t while being in lockdown, and was it successful?

I have had a very un-Pinterest friendly lockdown and can sadly report no crafting, meditating, baking or acquiring of new skills (other than remote working). It’s just been survival – I’ve done things like feed my children (usually food they make faces at), clean the toilet, do laundry, do Zoom. The kind of stuff no one really wants to know about.

– While the lockdown was fairly sudden, and our new normal sprang up quickly, what has been a silver lining to you during this time?

Being together as a family and not having to do the mad morning rush to school and work.

I’ve also discovered that there is a kind of magic that is trapped under the canopy of trees that one only sees when lying under them.

– We have all had time to realise that we miss certain things or places during this time, what is yours?

A glass of wine with friends! Book shops! The wide-open spaces of the Drakensberg.

– What is something that you struggle with in your current situation with who you live with?

It’s been intense – being stuck at home means being “on” all the time when it comes to parenting, regardless of how much stuff you have to get done, but I wouldn’t say I’ve struggled with being home with my partner and our girls. If anything, I’m very grateful I wasn’t alone through lockdown!

 

Thank you so much for joining us, Nicole,  for the {HOMEGROWN} series. Now that bookstores are open, (we are thankfully no longer in Level 5 Lockdown, and in fact, will soon be heading into Level 3) you can head to your local bookstore or buy Witchfield online via Amazon. Find Nicole on Instagram @hellotypewriter. Head on over to our Instagram or Facebook page to enter our Giveaway to win yourself a copy of Witchfield. 

Stay safe as we continue to brave our new world.

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Home Grown : The SA Author Campaign III

I hope you are all enjoying these Q & A’s as much as I am! Authors are one of my favourite kinds of people and I always find it so fascinating getting to know the person behind the pages.

Introducing our next { homegrown } writer, Jen Thorpe, author of The Peculiars – (I read this in 2 days straight back in 2016 and thoroughly enjoyed it), Living While Feminist,  and her latest,  Feminism Is,  which is a collection of 31 essays by South African Women Feminists. I have yet to read this book but it is on my TBR (I know one of the contributors – shout out to Aimee-Claire – can’t wait to read your essay.

With thanks to NB Publishers for the collaboration, especially during this time where most of us are spending more time at home. So, without further ado, I welcome Jen, and her interview. Go forth and read it, then check out her books.

– Do you have a specific routine that you follow when you sit down to write, or are you able to sit and write at any time?

If I sit down, I write. It’s the sitting down that’s the difficult part. 

When I’m writing fiction, I do like to make sure that my desk is tidy, that I have a blank piece of paper nearby to write down ideas or things I should look up later or try to work out, and a big piece of cardboard where I can write the character names down as I go.

I normally write non-fiction or opinion pieces when something has provoked an emotional response in me. I generally sit down and try to get all my thoughts on paper, and then I clean it up afterwards.

– What book/s are you currently reading?

Fiction: I’ve just finished Naomi Alderman – the Lessons. I’m about to start Anna Burns – Milkman.

Non-fiction: I’ve just finished David Sedaris – Theft by Finding. It was AMAZING. I’m currently reading How Fiction Works by James Wood; In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood; and Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly.

– Which SA authors have inspired you in your own writing?

So many! Lauren Beukes, Sarah Lotz, Pumla Gqola, Hedley Twidle, Dominique Botha, Kerry Hammerton, Koleka Putuma, Tlaleng Mofokeng, Maire Fischer and Rahla Xenopoulos in their workshops … I could go on all day. 

I should also say that I find the book festivals in SA very inspiring in terms of coming up with ideas and hearing from other authors. Open Book festival is my absolute favourite.

– Did you always have a passion to write a book or did it / they stealthily creep up on you?

I think a more appropriate description is that I go through periods of giving myself permission to write, and periods of pretending that other things are more important. When I give myself permission then the writing comes, but when I send my attention elsewhere, it doesn’t.

– Which has been your favourite book to write so far?

I really enjoyed writing my forthcoming book, The Fall. I enjoyed plotting the characters and the creativity that comes when you decide that the rules of the real world need not apply in your story. 

– What were your favourite books as a child?

To be honest I just loved reading and would read pretty much anything I could get my hands on. I loved the Famous Five and Secret Seven books, loved Roald Dahl and anything where the grown-ups were getting into trouble. I really enjoyed choose your own adventure books too. I enjoyed horror and scary books but also stories that followed the same characters for several books – so you might find me reading Goosebumps or Stephen King one week and Sweet Valley High the next.

– To date, what is the worst book you have ever read, and why?

In our book club we try to read quite widely, and we went a bit too wide once with an old book called – Iphegenia: The Diary of a Young Lady Who Wrote Because She Was Bored. By the end of it I was bored too, and I hated the main character.

– Do you think SA women writers and authors are treated differently to their male counterparts in the publishing world?

Next year I’ll be studying again and focusing on that topic exactly! So I’ll let you know more once I find out.

My experience in the publishing world has had its good and bad times, but I must say that the all-female publishing team that I get to work with at Kwela are phenomenal and I trust them with my work wholeheartedly.

I think categories like ‘women’s fiction’ are problematic, in that they suggest that there is something a bit odd or different about the way that women write stories, so I’m glad that South African publishers don’t really emphasise that category. 

– If there was one piece of advice you could give to aspiring SA authors, what would it be?

Write, write honestly, write bravely, and write as much as you can. 

BONUS QUARANTINE QUESTIONS:

– If we weren’t in lockdown and you could have any authors around your table for dinner, who would they be and why?

David Sedaris (for the humour), Scarlett Thomas (to pick her brain about writing), Malcom Gladwell (because he is interested in everything and I’m sure the conversation would go wild places), Zadie Smith (because I’m a huge fan!), Pettina Gappah (because her writing is just fantastic)… wait, how big is my dinner table?

– What is one item you have either made/ tried/ learn’t while being in lockdown, and was it successful?

I’ve gotten really into drawing during the lockdown and I’m enjoying it. I’ve always been quite into yoga, so I’m glad to have reconnected to that practice.

– While the lockdown was fairly sudden, and our new normal sprang up quickly, what has been a silver lining to you during this time?

I have a few:

  • It gave me some ideas for a new book, and I’ve started writing it. 
  • Our Living While Feminist author party via Zoom.
  • Zoom calls with friends and family to keep you feeling a bit normal. 
  • Yoga! Yoga! Yoga!
  • Spending time with my husband.
  • More open conversations online about the way we work and the new, kinder and better ways we could be doing it.
  • Fiction podcasts.

– We have all had time to realise that we miss certain things or places during this time, what is yours?

I miss the forest and walking on the mountain, the smell of fynbos and earth, the sound of the different birds and how the gravel crunches under my feet. 

I miss hugging my family and friends.

I miss bookshops and art shops.

– What is one pet hate in your current situation with who you live with? Be it a partner, child or animal?

Honestly, I don’t have one.

Thanks so much Jen for chatting to us, it was great to see a snippet of you.  We readers are so blessed with such an abundance of talent in our own country. 

Here’s to week 5, our final in Level 5  Quarantine (we hope). May you all stay safe and well.

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Home Grown : The SA Author Campaign II

I am very pleased to share with you our next author in our author campaign,  Finuala Dowling. I discovered Finuala with her book Homemaking for the Down-At-Heart which I loved. It will forever be one of those books that stay with me because it was set in Kalk Bay, the place I called my home during my teenage years (and one of my favourite places in the world).

A big thanks to NB Publishers for collaborating with me on showcasing a few of our SA women authors, especially during this time of lockdown. This is an easy to read Q&A which I hope you will all enjoy.

Without further ado, I introduce to you,  Finuala Dowling author of Okay Okay Okay.

– Do you have a specific routine that you follow when you sit down to write, or are you able to sit and write at any time?

I like to start writing in the morning,  to be sure of several uninterrupted hours ahead.

 

– What book/s are you currently reading?

I’ve just finished Patrick Leigh Fermor’s Between the Woods and Water, and have moved on to Mavis Gallant’s Selected Stories.

 

– Which SA authors have inspired you in your own writing?

I’ve been inspired by the strong, uncompromising voices of Olive Schreiner, Bessie Head, Antjie Krog and Ingrid de Kok.

 

– Did you always have a passion to write a book or did it / they stealthily creep up on you?

When I was younger I wanted to write a book, now I find that there’s a book that wants me to write it.

 

– Which has been your favourite book to write so far?

My first (published) novel was probably the most fun to write. I only had two months to do it in, and I just let rip.

 

– What were your favourite books as a child?

A Japanese story called ‘Three Strong Women’, and folk and fairy tales generally. I started on Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice when I was twelve or thirteen, and never looked back.

 

– To date, what is the worst book you have ever read, and why?

There are several contenders, but the one I remember left me irritated, confused and infuriated was The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde. It’s the third in a series, and I hadn’t read the other two, which might explain my reaction, but it seemed like the book was just an opportunity for the author to show off. I think writers should disappear behind the story, not stand in front of it waving a flag.

 

– Do you think SA women writers and authors are treated differently to their male counterparts in the publishing world?

I think sometimes male SA writers are seen as more worthy of literary critical study.

 

– If there was one piece of advice you could give to aspiring SA authors, what would it be?

Use your first novel to explore a theme or a problem that passionately interests you.

 

BONUS QUARANTINE QUESTIONS:

 

– If we weren’t in lockdown and you could have any authors around your table for dinner, who would they be and why?

Lyndall Gordon, Ann Tyler, Elizabeth Strout, Michiel Heyns and Damon Galgut – compassionate, empathetic writers with irony.

 

– What is one item you have either made/ tried/ learn’t while being in lockdown, and was it successful?

I confess that lockdown has forced me to get over my antipathy to Skype.  It isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

 

– While the lockdown was fairly sudden, and our new normal sprang up quickly, what has been a silver lining to you during this time?

The silence that has descended, the uninterrupted hours for writing that have arrived. I no longer wake up feeling threatened about what people will expect from me today. They expect nothing.

 

– We have all had time to realise that we miss certain things or places during this time, what is yours?

I miss the beach, and bottle stores.

 

– What is one pet hate in your current situation with who you live with? Be it a partner, child or animal?

I live with my sister and she’s stopped drinking whiskey because she knows how much I love it.

 

Thank you Finuala for keeping us entertained by answering these questions, it was great to get to see the author behind the books. I look forward to reading your new book.

Heres to Week 4 of Quarantine Lockdown, Day 26 in Cape Town. May you all stay safe and well.

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Homegrown : The SA Author Campaign

I am an avid reader, and particularly love to read South African authors. We have some of the best writers in the world, and with them comes a unique vantage point of relatability. For that reason I do believe we need to support and show them off to the rest of the world.  In March it was International Women’s month which sparked the idea to kick off a campaign representing our female authors – I had seen a run of great books being published so I contacted NB Publishers with regards to showcasing a selection of authors with their latest books, and with that a collaboration was born.

Please welcome Kirsten Miller, author of All that is Left, to our  SA author Q & A Campaign.

 

– Do you have a specific routine that you follow when you sit down to write, or are you able to sit and write at any time?

I don’t have any writing routine. I can write at any time, in any place, in longhand or at a computer. What I love to do is go down to the river in the nature reserve that is just below the house where I live, and sit on the rocks and free-write. I do my best writing when I’m alone, but solitude is a luxury I don’t often have anymore. So I do try to get away by myself when I can – even to a coffee shop or to the beach. I can edit my own work, though, when other people are around, if I have to. It’s the initial writing phase that’s more difficult for me, if I have the distraction of other people’s presence.

– What book/s are you currently reading?

I’ve just finished Michael Ondaartje’s Running in the Family and I’m re-reading Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus. I’ve also just started Orhan Pamuk’s Snow. I try to keep a book of fiction and one of non-fiction going at the same time.

– Which SA authors have inspired you in your own writing?

Sello Duiker is probably the South African author whose writing I most admire. I think his body of work over time would have been phenomenal, if it hadn’t been too painful for him to continue. One of the most memorable short stories I’ve ever read was Lidudumalingani Mqombothi’s Memories We Lost, for which he won the Caine Prize. That kind of writing inspires me and keeps me reaching for beautiful, quality literature.

– Did you always have a passion to write a book or did it / they stealthily creep up on you?

I always have a book I want to write, but they do all creep up on me. I first tried to write a book when I was seven. When I was fourteen completed a full-length manuscript of a novel. I don’t have it anymore and no doubt it was terrible. But writing books is something that I’ve always felt  motivated or driven to do. I like the process as much as the end goal. For me, writing is not unlike dreaming.

– Which has been your favourite book to write so far?

My previous novel, The Hum of the Sun, published in 2018 by Kwela, has been my favourite book so far. I like the main characters, Ash and Zuko, very much. I spent a focused year on that novel, during which I visited my parents for a couple of weeks. My mother cooked for me and I could just write and didn’t have to do anything else, so I had a small window of uninterrupted time. That was a great gift.

– What were your favourite books as a child?

I only realized as an adult how privileged I was that, after food, my mother prioritized books over everything else. I had access to libraries from before I went to school. Some of our best writers in South Africa only stepped into a library for the first time when they were students, or adults, because of the apartheid system. That is such a terrible thing to do to people. I went through various reading stages, depending on my age. When I was very young it was The World of Pooh, The Wind in the Willows and some of the Oz books. Later I had a wonderful book of folk tales called The Potato King that I read repeatedly, and I still have it. I have a Roald Dahl collection, and Danny the Champion of the World was my favourite for a long time. The relationship between Danny and his father captivated me, and a part of me still wants to live in a caravan. There was also a book in our house called Things to Make and Do. I loved paging through it, wishing I could make everything in it. I read JM Coetzee’s The Life and Times of Michael K when I was about thirteen or fourteen, and this book fundamentally opened up my awareness of what was going on in my country.

– To date, what is the worst book you have ever read, and why?

I don’t have a worst book. If a book isn’t doing it for me on either a narrative, character or language level, I get bored and move on. As a consequence I’ve read so many books but none I consider bad! Life is too short, and there are too many great books to read.

– Do you think SA women writers and authors are treated differently to their male counterparts in the publishing world?

Yes. Not by those in the book publishing industry, but certainly by readers and by the media. The act of reading itself is still so gendered. For so many hundreds of years the presumed reader was always male, and women writers would adopt a male pseudonym. And it persists that women today read books by authors who are men and authors who are women, whereas men primarily read books by other men. I have been called a woman writer a few times by readers in panel discussions and each time it’s a jolt, because I have never heard of anyone being addressed as a ‘man writer’. I understand that previously marginalised groups such as black writers and women writers need increased representation because of previous and current power imbalances, but I think that’s the wrong way to go about it. I would completely support the term ‘feminist writer,’ for instance, as feminism is an ideology that is chosen and assumed in the sense of being taken on deliberately. Being a woman is out of my control. It’s unchosen. I don’t think it’s fair to separate women from other writers because of it. It only entrenches difference and stereotyping. If we’re reading and engaging with texts, we know who the writers are. One can’t assume that I have a particular agenda or narrative content because I’m a woman. I’m a writer. A novel writer or a fiction writer. That’s it. That’s the kind of world I hope we can get to.

– If there was one piece of advice you could give to aspiring SA authors, what would it be?

If you are lucky enough to get comments and feedback when you submit your work, don’t be too proud to consider these carefully and keep crafting what you’ve written. Work for improving quality. Don’t underestimate the value of a good story, and the beauty of language. Not only will this improve your own writing, but it will continue to raise the standard of South African literature.

BONUS QUARANTINE QUESTIONS:

– If we weren’t in lockdown and you could have any authors around your table for dinner, who would they be and why?

Emanuel Dongala (Johnny Mad Dog) and Mandla Langa (The Texture of Shadows), because I have had conversations with these authors in the past and they have lived through political histories that people forget too easily. I would love to hear more of their stories and their experiences. Maya Angelou (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings), if she were alive, because of her incredible depth of understanding about being human and to talk about the influence of blues music on her work, and Haruki Murakami (Kafka On The Shore), because I would like to tell him in person how much I enjoy his books.

– What is one item you have either made/ tried/ learnt while being in lockdown, and was it successful?

Launching All That is Left (Kwela) online was interesting – I actually enjoyed it very much! It felt more intimate than a real-life launch, and it made it possible for my mother to be there. Also, at the last minute the Time of the Writer Festival had to teleport to an on-line platform so, as one of the participants, it was interesting and challenging to do a 3-way live twitter interview for the first time. I’ve certainly learnt a few skills, having had to engage more with technology during the lockdown.

– While the lockdown was fairly sudden, and our new normal sprang up quickly, what has been a silver lining to you during this time?

It’s given me time to clean the house properly. This has been a relief and incredibly satisfying. Not having a daily commute has also given me an hour and twenty extra minutes to my weekdays. That’s six hours and forty minutes every week. Time is my most valuable resource. It is one thing we can never get back.

– We have all had time to realise that we miss certain things or places during this time, what is yours?

I miss the smiles of and interactions with colleagues, I miss being able to have coffee or a drink with a friend, I miss laughter, I miss my morning sea swims and my afternoon walks.

– What is one pet hate in your current situation with who you live with? Be it a partner, child or animal?

Just the inability to be alone sometimes. I think I absorb the presence of other people too easily. This impacts my writing, and slows it down..

Thank you Kirsten for sharing your thoughts and time with us, it was lovely getting to know the person behind the book. If anyone would like a sneak peak into All That Is Left you can read an extract here.

And here’s to week three of Quarantine Lockdown, day 19 in Cape Town. May you all stay safe and well.

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Interview with Greg Lazarus

Greg Lazarus is a South African husband and wife duo writing team, who brought us ‘ The Book of Jacob’ and ‘When in broad daylight I open my eyes’. The most recent novel to come from the two of them is Paradise, set in Cape Town. Here is a quick summary:

Maja Jellema is in Cape Town to do what she does best – steal. Her new employer wants a certain item from a building in Loop Street, and the only thing that stands between Maja and her prize is Hershel Bloch, the bumbling building manager. But what seems like the easiest job Maja has ever seen is about to get a whole lot more complicated . . .

Will Maja be able to finish the  job in time to save her no-good brother from large Dutch men with no sense of humour?

Can Hersh turn his topsy-turvy world around before he gets fired from Black Enterprises for being the worst estate agent in the history of the universe?

Will Surita finally make peace with her father and stop using her judo skills on people who just want to hug her?

Can the rage-filled waitresses at The People’s Republic – the greatest socialist coffee shop in all of Cape Town – produce even one cup of coffee without backchat?

Only time will tell. And it’s running out.

Which does sound rather interesting I have to admit, and once I have read it I will let you know the verdict.

But here I am, jumping ahead of myself! The Book Club Blog asked Greg and Lisa a couple of questions regarding writing together while being married, I mean, really, I know it happens, but if I try to imagine myself and The Man attempting to write something together I imagine flames coming out of his nostril and extreme frustration on my part;-) so, I do believe it takes some sort of harmonious energy in order to do it and by the looks of things to do it well.

So, without further ado, lets see how they do it!

How did you decide to write together?

We had a baby. And then we fought all the time. Seriously!

 Our first book, The Book of Jacob, was a memoir and we wrote it for cathartic reasons. We also thought that readers might be interested in hearing how one’s life and relationships are radically changed from both a male and a female perspective. Most memoirs about babies are written from the women’s point of view. A few are written by men about their experiences. We wanted both.

 After that, it was a short step to fiction. In our fantasy or imaginary world of writing, we never argued – it might sound strange, but it’s true: writing is the one area of our life that is free from any conflict. There’s also something deeply romantic about sharing an imaginary world with your partner. 

 There are certain places around Cape Town where we know the other one is imagining the same thing. We have a tense scene in When in Broad Daylight I Open my Eyes, a psychological thriller, at Graaff’s pool in Sea Point. Whenever we walk on the promenade, we look at Graaff’s pool and imagine our central character Kristof, an enigmatic and sexually perverse philosopher, diving into the water and swimming out to sea.

 How do you set the rules as to who does what and how do you reach consensus when writing. How does this affect your writing and your relationship?

Writing, as we mentioned, feels good for our relationship. We used very different strategies for our two novels, When in Broad Daylight and Paradise. For the first novel, the thriller, we began with a simple idea.  There would be two main characters: a female psychologist and a man with bad intentions. Every scene was to be written from the perspective of either the psychologist or the menacing figure. We each took charge of one character, and assigned the scenes accordingly.

 That first draft was a mess. However, once we had finished it, we had gained more insight into our characters, plot and setting. We then went back to the beginning and rewrote everything scene by scene. This time we collaborated closely: we bounced the chapters between each other many times, deleting scenes, adding new ones. Then we worked through the book again, and again…  

 For Paradise – a comedy about lawlessness and a serious allegory about oppression, in which we’ve tried to present engaging and believable characters – we passed the manuscript between us for the first draft, each of us writing between 300 and 1000 words at a time. We found this a better method as there was more coherence in plot and character. We felt immersed in the story together, from early on. 

 And what motivates you to put pen to paper?

We’re driven to do it. Of course we love books and everything to do with books – libraries and book launches, authors (well, most authors) and book shops. And going out for coffee – because during or after a visit to a book shop, you always have to go out for coffee.

 We were both voracious childhood readers and we’ve always charted our lives through books. We remember periods of our lives partly through what we were reading. Because we love and respect stories, we want to add some of our own to this huge resource, to create worlds that some people might wish to visit.


Thank you Lisa and Greg for you candid honesty in this interview, it was great to see ‘How you do it’.(And I HAVE to agree that you yes, you have to go out for coffee after going to a book shop, they just go together.)

If you would like more information on this great writing duo you can check out their website here and buy their books here.

 

 

 

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For all you food lovers out there, a Q&A with Jackie Cameron

Jackie Cameron Cooks at Home, One of my new favourite cookbooks at the moment… check out my review here. I promise you won’t be disappointed with this cook book…

Thanks Jackie for doing a Q&A with The Book Club Blog!

1) In a market that is saturated with cookbooks, what do you think makes yours unique?

I find a lot of recipe books out there are trying to prove to the world that the authors are extremely creative and know about food.  So they are doing items that impress on paper so a stew fruit with a rose syrup this and a lavender essence that…in my book you find a delicious STEW FRUIT just how my grandmother would make.  No bells and whistles just great flavours.  I am not trying to prove to the world that I can cook (I am confident in this fact) I’m merely trying to help the house-cook to improve their day-to-day cooking.  To bring the how-to recipe book filled with recipes that work.  I truly believe if people are cooking better at home they will expect a higher level of food in restaurants and in-turn the entire level of food will step up.

2) What made you decide to write a cookbook?

Why not…I wanted to do one by the age of 30-I just wanted that!  I started writing my Witness Newspaper column years ago as a base to work off.  It was all aligning me in understanding the basics in recipe writing, development and truly what people enjoy cooking.  The more comments I get the more popular I feel the recipe.  With everything I do there is normally a very well thought through process of which I go through to ensure I can make the most out of the situation I throw myself into.

3) Clearly a food lover, your book “Jackie Cameron Cooks At Home’ has some lovely recipes for an aspiring foodie, what is your favourite recipe from your book and why?

This is like asking a parent which child is his or her favourite.  Every recipe in the book I have a connection with and a little story to go with it…all are very special in one or other way.

4) What is your favourite memory associated with food and why?

Most of my foodie-memories are around childhood happiness around a kitchen or dining room table.

5) Because this is a book blog interview, what books do you like to read when you are not cooking?

I am always reading something foodie if the time allows.  Always trying to learn and improve the knowledge of which I have.  From recipe books to memoirs.

6) Do you have a favourite author?

Any foodie author…Thomas Keller’s recipe books to Gordan Ramsey’s memoirs to Anthony Bourdain-Kitchen confidential.  All must reads of which I can learn and gain from reading.

7) Who are your foodie inspirations?

I am inspired not only by the world-class chefs out-there but also by the environment I live and the people I work with.

8) What is the weirdest thing that you have a) cooked and b) eaten?

Mapani worms.  I cooked these for a South African celebration event in Prague.  Not ideal.

9) What to you do in your ‘off’ time?

Off time…what is that? ; ) There is nothing better than going to Pennington on the South Coast, were we have a cottage, and just chilling.

10) Tell us one thing about yourself that is not public knowledge.

That is difficult as I am pretty-open.  I am looking into getting a pet-pig as I think this will be wonderfully different.  Imagine walking a pig!  My pig can enjoy all our kitchen leftovers…I hate waste ; )  We shall see many people are steering me against this.

Thank you for doing an interview with The Book Club Blog.  I love your cook book and will be trying out your chocolate chip cookies and corn fritters this week.

Wonderful, I am so so so sorry for the delay.  Things have been crazy!Thanks so very much for asking me to do this.  Your support is appreciated!  Hope you enjoyed the cookies and corn fritters ; )

Yes, Jackie, the cookies were delicious and the fritters are now a weekly regular round at our house!

 

 

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Q&A with Riaan Manser and an Awesome Give away!

As promised here is the interview with Riaan Manser, author of Around Africa On My Bicycle, Around Madagascar on my Kayak and Around Iceland on Inspiration.

Enjoy it, I have to say that I have great admiration for this man and what he does! As I used in my Pilates this morning: What doesn’t challenge you won’t change you! So very apt I think!

So, without further ado, Ladies and Gentleman, I present Riaan Manser!

1)    In writing ‘Around Africa on my bicycle’ did you find it difficult to remember your journey in as vivid detail as what you described? Especially when your notes were stolen?

Not at all. My diary was stolen on the Around Madagascar circumnavigation but returned after the robbers were caught the next evening while robbing someone else.

My Africa circumnavigation was different. I wrote notes on small pieces of paper and sent them home every now and then. It was amazing how many notes I had taken throughout the two years. I remember writing the Around Africa book and been mesmerized at how not only memories flooded back but even distinct smells!

2) If there was just one memory that you could keep from your journey around Africa what would it be?

Crossing that finish line feeling. It was unbelievable to imagine someone actually took a bicycle where I had and HOW I had. And that person was ME. Strange to say but it probably was the first time in my life where I was genuinely proud of myself.

 3) Since traversing the African continent (including climbing Mount Kilaminjaro -which is definitely on my ‘list of things to do before I die) and kayaking around Iceland and Madagascar, is there anything in your ‘creature comforts’ of home that could compare with any of those expeditions?

I love sleeping on the floor. Just a blanket over me and maybe a few books as a pillow. I also have a weird obsession with cold weather. I don’t like getting too hot.

 4) How did you meet Dan Skinstad and how did he need much convincing in order to go around Iceland on a kayak?

Nope Dan was super eager. I had met him through his famous big brother. Dan pulled at my heart string and I wanted to do something for him that would change his life. I think we accomplished that in the Iceland circumnavigation.

 5) What is your main inspiration to be exceptional?

I don’t have a father who I can look up to and appreciate. A father I can brag about and call on when times are tough. My goal is simple. I want to make a legend of my life so my children one day can be proud of me. Probably every man’s goal I think.

 6) What was it like to meet Mandela, our heart of our nation? 

 Surreal. Mr Mandela is what all human beings want to be. That humanness that cannot be reproduced or bottled. The time I spent with Mr Mandela was probably the highlight of my career thus far. The special moment in our meeting was when he paused for a long time. Looking me square in the eyes, and then telling me that I don’t realize how great an achievement this Africa journey was. He said it is a journey that will inspire the youth of our continent .

 7) In your book, you alluded to your childhood and foster care, do you think that you would write a book about your experiences there? 

Without a doubt. I’m just very sensitive about it and not brave enough. I grew up feeling inadequate , abandoned and unwanted. It’s cowardly I guess but I will in time share everything.

8) What is your hardest part about putting pen to paper and telling us readers about your journeys?

All writers will tell you that there are days when the words just flow and you’re a runaway train . Then there are those days where you cannot even get a paragraph out in one days sitting. Hyper self critique is the most debilitating .

 9) How did you decide on your charity ‘ No food for Lazy man’ to work with children and sport. I really like that they need to give back in some way, in this day and age so many children grow up with a sense of entitlement but yet give nothing in return or even work for that sense of entitlement. 

 You’re spot on. But the reality is that that entitlement you speak of is taught. Children don’t expect unless someone is always just giving.  I want any kid that is blessed through NO FOOD FOR LAZYMAN to pass that blessing on, in which ever way they can. Two things are taught and learnt here. One is that nothing in life is free. And secondly , no matter how dire your situation you can still help someone else.

 10) Would you like to have children of your own one day? And if so, would you do an adventure with your child?

Having children is actually my BIGGEST dream. I want to have 6 kids if possible. My kids entire life with me will be an adventure!

And there you have it! Admit it, you feel inspired don’t you?

And now, we have an awesome give away! We are giving away one of your choice of Riaan’s books. Choose one out of his three books AND get a personalised inscription in the front cover!

What do you need to do to stand a chance to win?

* Tell us in the comments section one crazy thing you have either done, or would like to do with your life.

* Share this giveaway on FB, twitter and/or your blog (an extra entry for each one)

* Make sure you include an email address so we can contact you if you win.

Simple as that!

So, even if you are not inspired, maybe you know of someone who needs that little nudge in following their dreams and knowing that anything is possible if you put your mind to it? Enter on behalf of them and get a personalised inscription from the man himself.

This give away is unfortunately Not international.

Get your comments on and holding thumbs you win!

Give away closes on the 13th June and the winner announced on the 14th.

You can see my reviews here and here.

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The 100 year old man who climbed out of a window and disappeared review.

The 100 year old man who climbed out of the window and dissapeard by Jonas Johnson

My first fully finished book for 2013 and what a fantastic and fabulous read. I received it from the Post Office on Thursday afternoon, I started reading it on Saturday morning and finished it at 4pm on Sunday. (Yes, luckily I did have time to read but granted I did stay up until some silly hour in the morning and when awoke, began reading again…)

What is it about? Well, in a nutshell, about a hundered year old man who climbed out of a window and disappeared… hehe, sorry, couldn’t resist that…

But honestly, that is exactly how it starts (and ends for that matter) and the meaty bits in between the beginning and end is where the story lies. It is a humorous, filled with famous people weaved into the story line and with a cast of characters that make the book unique.

The story is in two time lines, 2005 and then through the years as the 100 year old man grows up back into his present day.

I LOVED this book, it really was the perfect book, exactly the type of thing I like to read. Reality with a hint of the unreal to pepper things up a bit. Truly, give it a go, I don’t think you will be dissapointed, unless of course, you are a realist and do not like hints of the fantastical thrown into your reading… Though I still think that this book will stay in my top ten list for 2013. Lets see at the end of the year, shall we??

Have you read it? What did you think?

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Interview Q & A with Alex Latimer author of Aardvark to Zuma

Alex Latimer, author of The Boy who Cried Ninjah, Penguins Hidden Talent, The South African Alphabet and Aardvark to Zuma very kindly answered some questions in an email interview for The Book Club Blog. I had reviewed Aardvark to Zuma and loved it as well as the illustrations!

Alex Latimer

I hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as I did!

1)  What were your favourite books as a child?

 My father (Dick Latimer)  published a children’s book in 1983 called The Expedition to the Rainbow’s Heart – and that for me was a special book. Not only was it beautiful to look at, but it brought the world of publishing to my attention at a young age. I also loved the Asterix books – looking at them now, they’re quite amazing. The humour and the storylines were so well crafted – and the drawings of Roman cities were so simple yet full of detail. 

2)  What book/s are you currently reading?

 I’m reading several books right now – Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker, Leonard S Marcus’ book Show me a Story as well as a pile of others beside my bed.

3) To date, what is the worst book that you have read?

 No question about it – Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel. I may have started worse books and not finished them, but I got all the way through Beatrice and Virgil hoping it’d redeem itself. I still feel cheated that I wasted time reading that book. I’m sure Yann Martel is a nice guy, and I’m sure he’ll write good books again – but that was undoubtably the worst for me.

4)  What inspired you to write Aardvark to Zuma?

 Before the World Cup came to South Africa I got to thinking that there’d be a lot of tourists who just wouldn’t understand South African culture. So I thought about making the book for that, as an educational tool – but as I worked on it, I found that it was more of a book for South Africans. I suppose that’s because it’s full of in-jokes that only South Africans will really understand.

5)  When did you first become aware that you were interested in illustration?

 I’ve always loved to draw – but I don’t think I realised I could be an illustrator until about eight years ago. It was then that I wrote the script for my first children’s book The Boy Who Cried Ninja – and having had no luck in finding an illustrator to draw it up, I did it myself. It took a lot of practice and hard work, but I’m very glad I did it.

6)  Who is your favourite illustrator and what book would your recommend to read?

 I have a lot of favourites – right now I’d say Scott C. and Johan Klassen are my top two. Try Great Showdowns and I Want My Hat Back.

7)  Do you find inspiration in the every day or is there a particular muse that strikes inspiration within?

 I think my muse is a tight deadline. 

8) How did you come into the children’s book writing genre?

 It’d difficult to say. I suppose I’ve always wanted to write books, and I thought that starting with something short would be easier. I was mistaken. Quite often the shorter the text, the more difficult it is to write.

9) Is there another picture book for adults in the pipeline?

 Yes. I’m working on an illustrated version of The Just So Stories. Kipling’s stories are so lovely and I think children and adults still love them as much today as when they were written.

10)  I know this is a bit of a cliched question, but if you had any advice for an aspiring illustrator, what would it be?

 Find your own unique style. Being able to draw in a variety of styles is great – but having your own signature style makes your work memorable and sets you apart from the competition.

 

I have to say that I agree whole heartedly with Alex regarding the awfullness of Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel, all though I didn’t manage to finish it. I am also excited to see the illustrated version of The Just So Stories and I am sure so will Michel Heyns as I know from his interview with us, that he loved The Just So Stories as a child.

Alex, thank you so much for joining us here on The Book Club Blog, it was great to have you! 

 

 

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