The Book Club Blog

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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! 




Drum Roll, please…and a giveaway!

So by now most of you have heard the news that there is a new South African author in our midsts – Paige Nick, who has written the novel ‘A Million Miles from Normal’ but you may be a little confused because the name sounds familiar?

Paige’s blog is also titled ‘A Million Miles from Normal‘ and if you haven’t yet headed over there to check it, believe me, it really is a million miles from normal. But, Paige has also been a winner at The Book Club Blog for a couple of giveaways (here and here) as well as being  one of our major contributors to The Book Raiser we did for Christmas last year.

It was with great pleasure that I  invited Paige to do an interview with us, after reading her book, I was itching to know just that little bit extra…  so without further ado, here she is… Paige  Nick, the newly published author of ‘A Million Miles from Normal’!

1)  Are the characters,events and locations in your book based on your own life experiences?

I’d say it’s 95 – 99% fictional. But some of the places and things that happen to Rachel are very loosely based on experiences I’ve had over the years.

2)  How long did it take you to write ‘A million miles from normal’?

It sounds so corny, but I really think this has taken me 35 years to write. Only because I feel like everything I’ve done to date has led me to this point.

For years I had an idea for this book I wanted to write, but it turned out to be a terrible idea that I ended up wasting years on. The best thing I ever did was put that dodgy idea aside and start something new, which then became A Million Miles From Normal. Once I knew what I wanted to write it just fell out.

In reality I started physically writing A Million Miles in September 2008.

3)  What inspired you to write ‘A Million Miles from Normal’?

I was inspired by every dodgy date, lying-cheating-stealing boyfriend, mad boss, insane client and crazy art director I’ve ever come across, I knew they’d come in handy somewhere along the line.

I was also partly inspired by the advertising industry. I’ve been a copywriter for the last sixteen years, and I love books and TV shows set in adland, like Mad Men. But there just aren’t that many books out there set in the industry. I thought it would be a fun thing to write about. And they say you should write what you know.

4)  I love how you bring ‘Five Roses’ tea into your story line, the epitome of South African tea lovers, what is the perfect setting for your perfect cuppa?

The physical writing of this book went hand in hand with endless cups of Five Roses tea. The one certainly couldn’t have happened without the other.

5)  As a newly published author, what were your experiences dealing with publishers and editors?

I think I have been incredibly lucky through this process. I nabbed an agent early, the wonderful Ron Irwin, and we put the manuscript out to pitch after two redrafts. Then we signed with Penguin in September 2009. The process has been a huge learning curve for me. After being in the advertising industry for so long, and feeling like I understand it inside and out, it’s been a fantastic challenge to get to see the inner workings of a whole new industry.

Coming up with the right cover was hard work, and probably the trickiest part of the process for me. We must have bombed over twenty covers before we finally got to this one, just days before deadline. But seeing the finished product and loving it so much instantly made all the trauma history.

6) Do you have any ideas percolating for your next book?

Yes. Yay! I’m just finishing up with the first draft of the next book which will hopefully *holds thumbs* be out next year. It’s not a sequel but something completely different. It still doesn’t have a title, but I’m hoping something will pop up soon. I really can’t call it ‘Untitled’, or as it is currently lovingly named in the folder on my computer; ‘Thingy’, for too much longer.

7)  Which authors would you recommend to read which are in a similar writing style to yours?

Well if you’re a Chick Lit fan you can never go wrong with Marian Keyes. And Cathy Kelly Rocks. And it’s not strictly speaking Chick Lit, but I’ve also loved Alexander McCall Smith’s series of books called 44 Scotland Street.

I love a book that makes me laugh or sucks me in with believable characters. I want to disappear into the pages and not come out till morning.

8)  What were your favourite books as a child?

I just loved ‘A Fly Went By’ by Mike McClintock, and devoured anything Dr Seuss. My whole family would traipse down to the library every Saturday morning to pick out our books for the week and I would always just re-check out ‘A Fly Went By’. I don’t think any of the other children in the neighbourhood ever got to read it because I always had it out.

Then when I was slightly older I remember reading and rereading Neverending Story by Michael Ende. It made me truly believe in magic.

9) What authors would you most like around your dinner table, and if you could ask them one question, what would it be?

At this stage I’d love to have dinner with any prolific author. I’m only just starting out here and any advice would go a long way. I’m curious how my process measures up to other writer’s processes.

But if I had to be specific, I’d love to meet Alexander McCall Smith and pick his brains. And my new all-time favourite author is Jim Crace. He writes literary fiction that is lyrical and poetic and magnificent. I could see myself stalking him quite easily.

Thanks, Paige for sharing with us, it was great to hear a little of the ‘behind the scenes’ action, and once again, congratulations!

And to celebrate with Paige, we have one copy of ‘A Million Miles from Normal’ to giveaway! Why, because we like celebrations and that’s what we do here at The Book Club Blog!

What you need to do to stand the chance of winning is leave a comment, telling us one thing which has happened to you, which was a million miles from normal. The giveaway is open to everybody, yes, you read correctly, so that means, internationally and come next week Friday 16 April, will pick a lucky winner. You never know, it could be you. You know what they say, you have to be in it to win it;-)

And believe me, this is one giveaway that you don’t want to miss!


International Children’s Author interviewed here at The Book Club Blog

Rescuing Darcy - higher resQuenelda rescuing Darcy

So, it has been a little while since we have had an author interview over here at Book Club,but fret not, my dear readers, this little issue has been rectified  and today I would like to introduce to you: Lucinda Hare!

She is the well known children’s  author of the first book in the Dragonsdome Chronicles –  ‘The Dragon Whisperer’ -(and if you haven’t yet  read the review, kindly sent in by Daniella who is 12 – almost 13, you can head on over here to get the lowdown on the book) who, although she is an international author, has lived in Cape Town and Johannesburg.  She is a lovely lady, who draws beautiful illustrations as you can see with the two pictures featured on this post and I am so pleased that she is visiting us here at Book Club.

So, lets get to it, here are the questions that Daniella and myself put together to find out more about Lucinda and her books. Enjoy!

1)  What inspired you to write ‘The Dragon Whisperer’?

Quite simply because I love children and I don’t have a family of my own to share my imagination with. By writing The Dragonsdome Chronicles I am coming into contact with children all over the world and I love that. I make time to respond to each and every one.

2)  In the book, Quenalda clearly has a passion for dragons. Do you share her passion, but for animals?

I have a passion for all animals from spiders and earwigs to elephants.  We have a large family of rescued dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and ex-battery hens – mostly animals who are old, ill or have been abandoned, neglected or been badly treated. They bring a great deal of love and peace into our lives.  We also have a great deal of wildlife in our garden which borders a river. There are tawny owls, deer, fox, buzzards, heron, moorhens, and a very social rookery in the woods behind. Animals provide the inspiration behind my dragon characters; even the baddies – the hobgoblins – are based on frogs and great white sharks.

3)  What types of books do you enjoy reading?

I enjoy a very wide range of books from graphic comics to history books to novels. We have a house full of books from top to bottom.

4)   As an author, what would your advice be to someone wanting to write a children’s novel?

I think to be an author you have to have an imagination; you have to have a story to tell.  You can learn how to write but not what to write.  You either have an imagination or you don’t. Imagination is the true magic in real life, and children have bucket loads of it.

5)  What were your favourite books as a child?

The first book I remember loving was The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle which is one of the more scary Sherlock Holmes stories.  In my early teens my parents introduced me to Dorothy Dunnet.  But the one book that I loved beyond all others and still do, is the Lord of the Rings, which combines my passions for history, myth, legend, and day dreaming!

6)  What inspired you to write children’s  fantasy?

I have always had an overactive imagination and been creatively inclined, so possibly there were always stories to tell, but until recently they have been mostly expressed through drawing and illustration.  We have huge Halloween, Christmas and fireworks parties, and I create anything from large wool spider’s webs, to glass painting on the lounge window of all our animals or witches and cauldrons.  But it was only fairly recently that my husband Paul gave me the opportunity and time needed to turn my hand to writing (which also allows me to spend all day with our animals and each other).

Writing the Dragonsdome Chronicles also gives expression to my passion for history, animals and respect for our armed forces.  I wanted to set my book against a backdrop of war because that is the reality for so many children.

The dragons in my books take the place of  Chinook and Apache helicopters, F22 Raptor stealth fighters and Harrier jump jets. The SDS regiments are modelled upon our real life Special Air Service regiments; the SAS; and the Bonecrackers on our marines and commandos.  Another reason is that I see Quenelda, Tangnost, Root and their dragons as a way of promoting responsible pet/animal ownership and welfare.

7)  Do you have a favourite fantasy novel/author or series?

I love Memory, Sorrow & Thorn by Tad Williams, and the first three books of Steven Erikson’s: Tales of the Malazan Book of the Fallen.  I also love Robin Hobb’s three trilogies and The Edge Chronicles by Stewart and Riddel.

8)  What authors would you most like to have around your dinner table and if you could ask them one question, what would it be?

I know it’s impossible, but JRR Tolkien would be my first choice.  I would ask him if he ever imagined he would captivate half the world with his writing.

9)  How many books are  you planning for the Dragonsdome Chronicles?

I am hoping six.  Book two, Flight to Dragon Isle, is written pending a final edit, and I have made a start on Dragon Lords Rising with an outline structure for book four:  A Storm of Dragons.  Flight to Dragon Isle will be published by Random House Children’s Books in spring 2011.

My website is:

To help me keep in touch with fans as actively as possible, I have started a blog at: and, having spent a year and a half in Johannesburg and Cape Town after I graduated, I would love to hear from South African readers.  At some point I hope to visit again.  This time I might get to the Drakensberg Mountains, and the Kruger National Park.

Thank you, Lucinda, it was fabulous to have you over at The Book Club Blog, and for those of you who haven’t read this book yet, best you get your paws on a copy and get reading!

Root and QueneldaChasing the stars:  I can fly!


You’ve read the review,now read the interview.

Now that you have read my review of A Legal Alien, and if you haven’t, what are you waiting for, go here to read it, I would like to introduce to you – Jo Latimer. She is the South African author of this delightful and very funny book.  Jo found The Book Club Blog and when I found out that she had written a book, I jumped at the chance to suggest an interview and what luck! She said yes.

With no further pomp and circumstance, here are the answers to the interview questions. As you will soon see, Jo has a fabulous way with words and her humour shines through this interview.  If you haven’t yet read her book, this is just a small taste of what you can expect.

1)  What were your favourite books as a child?

Before I could read, my grandmother read me the Noddy books, my aunt read me the Narnia series and my mom read me the Stan and Jan Berenstains Bear books (“The big honey hunt” / “The bears holiday”) and the Oscar Wilde Fairy Tales. Those books all hold very special meaning for me as a result. When I started reading I read anything I could get my hands on – I remember Flat Stanley, The Secret Garden and a series (I think) written about a hamster called Hafferty Hamster Diamond. When I was a bit older anything by Roald Dahl – I’m still a fan, Wind in the Willows, Water Babies, Peter Pan… The list is endless!

2)  What book/s are you currently reading?

My last book club left me with all the books (3 huge bags full), so I am working my way through all the ones which have piqued my interest, but which I haven’t had time to read over the last year. Next up is “Three cups of tea”, “The Whale Caller” and as soon as I get my hands on it, the 3rd in the Stieg Larsson trilogy – one of the best series I have read in years.

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

I always try and give a book a chance – some I will even give until the last page in the remote hope that something redemptive happens. I am sure there have been others, but the one book I absolutely loathed in the recent past was “Love in the Time of Cholera”. Calling it a love story is akin to calling ‘Requiem for a Dream’ a cheery comedy. It’s not about the quality of the writing, but probably the fact that it was ‘Oprah-ised’ and built up to impossible heights – and then I read it and discovered that it’s predominantly quite a dark, twisted tale of a life-long obsession. No thanks! Perhaps I will try reading it again when I’m in the mood for dark and twisted.

4)  What inspired you to write ‘A legal Alien’ and are any of your characters based on real life people?

I spent two years living in London. By the time I returned home to South Africa, I still felt rather perplexed by all the odd contradictions, characters and rules I had been exposed to. The book began as a kind of literary therapy called “A South Africans Survival Guide to Living in London” which I started for friends and family who had been through the whole experience with me. It was a tongue-in-cheek poke at the seriousness with which the Brits sometimes take themselves. I know that no-one makes fun of the Brits as well as they do themselves (which is part of the strange contradictory nature of living there), but this is my contribution.

There are indeed bits and pieces of people I know in the characters I wrote. For instance, Terry has shades of two very good friends of mine who are the most naturally funny people I have ever met. Glenda is probably one of the characters where I borrowed most blatantly from real life – she is based on a real-life rellie my aunt dug up and the two of us hit it off. We’re still in contact years later and she’s one of my biggest fans. Then there’s the friend of my brother who taps his nose knowingly and tells me that ‘he knows who all the characters are’. I wish he’d clue me in!

5)  Are the incidents described in your book ‘true to life’ or did you use ‘literary licence’?

Some of the incidents have grains of truth at their centre, but in most cases they have been outrageously and shamelessly exaggerated. The rest is pure fiction. Embarrassingly enough, the vibrating vanity case is a true story – although I was travelling to meet my husband with my in-laws who had come over to visit. They pretended not to know me.

6)  Did you always have a passion to write a book, or did this one stealthily creep up and surprise you?

I’ve always had a passion for writing, but never considered taking it any further than storing copious amounts of full, attractively bound notebooks in cupboards. Then I was challenged to try finishing something I had started writing and this was the result. I suppose, then, that the answer is that it was one of those stealthy surprises.

7)  Who are your favourite South African authors and who inspires you to put pen to paper?

There are too many! I love writers who can tell a story simply, but in a way that is so evocative you can see / hear / feel / taste what they are experiencing. A few years ago I was in an academic bookstore and happened to pick up a book by a South African poet which was called “The dream in the next body” – the poet was Gabeba Baderoon and I was transfixed by the simplicity and beauty of her writing. I love happy accidents like that.

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

Simply put: Don’t give up. Be prepared to revise, NOT compromise on your work. In all likelihood, most writers will experience rejection of some sort before their manuscript is accepted. When I started approaching publishers, I was told that although they enjoyed the story and my writing, the way the book was written was problematic – a lovely man (who originally came from England and got all nostalgic reading about the room-temperature ale) very kindly told me that the South African publishing world was rather conservative (this was in 2006) and that I should consider re-writing. I considered this and ultimately rejected his well-meant advice, because the story just doesn’t work any other way. It may have taken a few years longer, but it happened.

9)  What is your idea of happiness?

Being on my farm with my ‘Italian-South African’, 3 dogs, 6 cats, 1 rescue horse who can’t be ridden & an assortment of wild animals. Nothing better.

Thank you, Jo, for being such a willing participant at The Book Club Blog, we enjoyed having you!

(And for those of you who are still not in the know, we have two copies of ‘A Legal Alien’ to give away, for your opportunity, please leave a comment on the review page of this book. The draw will take place on the 15th January and winners will be announced on the 16th. Good Luck!)

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International Author Interview! (and a giveaway)


Sarah Waters novels may be well known for their lesbian content, but her writing is more than just a label.(Though if one is new to lesbian authors, she is great one to start with).  She has story telling down to a fine art, with the twists and turns of a characters path, with the ability to transport you to the places she describes in a blink of an eye and with the knack of just the right pace to set her tone at. Her atmospheric ability is astounding and the relationships between the characters are so believable, you find yourself rooting for them, or not as the case may be.

She has written 5 books, ‘Tipping the Velvet‘ – her first and by far my most favourite of all of them; ‘Affinity‘;  ‘Fingersmith‘ – I read this book twice, I enjoyed it so much; ‘The night watch‘ – slightly different to her first three in that this one is set in the second world war and her latest ‘ The Little Stranger‘ – a ghost story with meaning. Three of her books have been adapted for the screen: Tipping the Velvet, Affinity and Fingersmith. Her books have won awards and really, if you don’t believe me when I say, she is a phenomenal writer, you can believe the facts.

And now that I have told you a little bit about her, let me introduce you to Sarah Waters, as she answers questions for The Book Club Blog:

1) Are any of the characters  and characters relationships in your books based on ‘real life’ people?

Well, not really – at least, not in ways that anyone else would recognise. Inevitably, a certain amount of my own experience finds its way into my stories and characters; that must be true for every writer. But those details are combined with all sorts of other things: things I make up, things I read in the paper, things I overhear on the bus… So while there are always threads from my own life in my books, they are usually lost in the larger pattern. I hope so, anyway! I would hate for anyone I know to feel that I had ‘used’ them for a novel.

2) The Little Stranger is quite different to your other books, where did you find the inspiration to write this novel? And did you have a particular house that you have based Hundreds Hall on?

I became increasingly interested in 1940s Britain while I was writing The Night Watch, which is set in London in the Second World War. I finished that novel wanting to look more closely at post-war changes – in particular, I was intrigued by what had happened to the British class system, which had become really shaken up. A Labour government had been voted in, and working-class people were looking forward to a fairer future: that was tremendously exciting for some people, but for other, more conservative, people, the country seemed to be sliding into chaos. I began to think that that turmoil, and the middle-class dread which accompanied it, might best be explored through the image of a haunted house… I didn’t base Hundreds Hall on any actual house, but I did visit a lot of big country houses while I was writing the novel, and I suppose Hundreds is a bit of a patchwork of details from all of them.

3) Your first three novels are set in the Victorian era (which I loved) where did your propensity for this era come from?

I began writing fiction after finishing a PhD thesis on lesbian and gay writing from the nineteenth century onwards. The thesis had shown me what a lot of interesting material there was about the sexual underworlds of late-Victorian London, and I thought I’d like to use them in a novel – that became my first book, Tipping the Velvet. After that, I just became more and more fascinated by nineteenth-century life. I like the fact that the Victorians are quite close to us, but also, in many ways, quite alien. They lived without a welfare state, and before the rise of mass media, which meant that there must have been pockets of experience which were really eccentric, quirky, odd, or grotesque – the sort of thing captured by Dickens, I suppose. It’s those strange and shadowy bits of Victorian culture that appeal to me most.

4) Which has been your favourite book, to date, that you enjoyed writing more?

Tipping the Velvet was a real joy to write – lots of fun, from start to finish. But that was partly, simply, because it was my first novel: I had no confidence it would ever be published, and was really just writing it for myself. Fingersmith was fun, too, with its extravagant plot, and its larger-than-life characters, and its twists. I always enjoy trying to create particular effects for my readers: surprises, revelations, shocks. I really enjoyed trying to unnerve people with The Little Stranger.

5) Do you ever think about the characters from your novels and wonder what they may be doing now?

No, I can honestly say I don’t. Readers have often asked me whether I plan to write a sequel to, say, Tipping the Velvet or The Night Watch. But the fact is, though I usually grow very fond of my characters and am always sorry to see them go, they exist for me solely for the purposes of the books they inhabit: they are like parts of a machine. I only think about their futures if they are relevant to their stories as a whole – ie, if a narrative is clearly heading in a certain direction (as it is, for example, for poor Margaret in Affinity). Sounds a bit heartless, doesn’t it?

6) What were your favourite books as a child?

I read a lot of rubbish as a child, so only a few books really stand out in my memory. John Chrisopher’s sci-fi novel The White Mountains was one; I also recall very fondly The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster,  A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle, and Ian Serraillier’s The Silver Sword. That’s about it, for children’s books – though my main reading was adult ghost and horror stories, and some of those impressed me very deeply. W.W. Jacobs’s ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ is still one of my favourite ever stories.

7) What book/s are you currently reading?

I usually have a couple of books on the go at the same time, often a contemporary novel for bed-time reading, and something older for during the day. At the moment, my bed-time book is the utterly brilliant Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel. I’ve also just finished the two wonderful novellas published as The Hunters, by Claire Messud. My current daytime reading is Patrick Hamilton’s The Gorse Trilogy, first published in the 1950s – a book which, like all of Hamilton’s work, manages to be funny, sad and exquisitely painful, all at once.

8) What is your idea of happiness?

A book going well! Those occasional moments when writing feels genuinely inspired – which make up for all the hours when it just feels like a horrible slog.

9) Where do you find your greatest support while writing?

My girlfriend, Lucy, is the best partner a writer could have: smart, supportive, encouraging – and honest.

Thank you , Sarah, for joining us at The Book Club Blog.

I hope you all enjoyed this interview and if you haven’t read any of her novels, I hope this inspires you to give them a go! And if that isn’t enough to tantalise those taste- buds….

The Book Club Blog has one copy of The Little Stranger to GIVE AWAY! All you need to do, is leave a comment in the comment section giving me your reason why you should win this book. See, simple as that. Just remember that this giveaway is only open to South African residents and the winner will be announced on the 30 November 2009.

Happy Commenting!

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Annica Foxcroft is the South African author of ‘There are ants in my sugar’ and ‘More Ants’. The first book I was lucky enough to discover at one of my favourite second hand stores and hadn’t realised until I had finished reading it that it had been recently published, imagine my delight when I found out she had written a second one!

Annica’s writing is humorous and entertaining. It delights the soul in showing how she overcame her ‘adversary’ the kakibos and how her community is diverse and even though it was the sixties, with the apartheid reign still happening, she manages to overcome that ‘boundary’ with friendship.

I am pleased to say that after reading her book I decided to contact her and see if she would be willing to do an interview for The Book Club, which she very kindly was! (How lucky are we?)  As you can see by her answers that her writing style is not only limited to her books and you get a taste for what is in store for you in ‘The Ants series’.

1)  When did you first decide to put pen to paper and write ‘There are Ants in my sugar’ and what made you decide to write about that period of your life?

A very popular novel came out in the 70’s or early 80’s; A Year in Provence. It was written by a London ad agent who retired to France and nearly went beserk trying to deal with the peculiarly french idea of how to live, work, eat. When I read it I was highly amused and though ‘ha!You should hear about my year in Walker’s Fruit Farms!’ For no defensible reason, though, I didn’t attempt to write this story until three years ago. Inexplicably, one Sunday afternoon, the bug bit and I sat down and started writing. I wrote in the early mornings before work, after work, over weekends, and, six weeks later it was done, leaving me panting and wide eyed.

2) I simply loved the character of May. Was she as true to life as you portrayed her to be, or did you embellish somewhat?
I can really understand your asking that question! Jenny Crwyss-Williams asked me how much I ‘pimped’ May. No, I did no airbrushing at all, she was an original and totally authentic.

3) How long did you actually live in the ‘pondokkie’ for?

I managed to remain for about four or five years before grabbing my child under one arm and my cat under the other, and running for my life. Human nature is so odd: Over the years I used to drive out to the country every now and then and, nostalgically(!!) go and see that the beat-up little heritage pondokkie was still there, largely unchanged. Then two years ago, I drove out again and – whoooops! It had been demolished! I had such a shock of bereavement – How daft is that?

4) Your first book is largely autobiographical, is ‘More Ants’ just the same?

I tried very hard to announce the ‘More Ants’ was  a work of fiction – but of course, it isnt entirely. My uncontrollable family energetically push their way into every unoccupied space in my life, and they are far from fictional!
5) Are you thinking of doing a book tour around South Africa?

What a totally stunning idea! I hadn’t thought of it. How on earth would one finance it?!
6) What were your favourite books as a child?
Oh, what a question! I read all the books my generation read – and which one cannot find even in second-hand bookstores now: Mowgli, all Kipling’s stuff, Charles Dickens – the lot, poetry by the mile, Don Camillo, every novel on the Saint. Of course, Shakespeare, anything I could get my hands on even vaguely related to archaeology, ancient history, comparative religions, metaphysics. If books were not available, I read papers, magazines, final notices, instructions on the labels of drain cleaners and packets of seeds. Nothing much has changed.
I tried all over Joburg to find a copy of Kipling’s JUST SO stories to give my grandson – in particular, my favourite THE CAT WHO WALKED ALONE. Can you believe, people looked at me as though I were trying to buy a copy of 17th century erotica. They’d never heard of Kipling. Well this is sad.
Perhaps this last century has just passed very fast. I say this because, some years ago when I visited my daughter and son-in-law in Canada, they took me to a vast museum across the border in the USA. It was full of steam trains, Ford motor cars, paraffin stoves, irons that one heated up on the back of coal stoves, milk separators and butter churns.. and my family marvelled at the quaint antique curiosities. I was speechless. “Look here, these aren’t antiques!” I protested irritably. “I grew up with these things!” Of course the family gave me one of those trout-eyed looks and said, “Our point exactly.” The cheek – I’m not even seventy yet.

7) What book/s are you currently reading?

The five languages of love. The Sirius Mystery. (Rereading)Hamlet’s Mill, The 7-day MBA, The art of war, The Netherworld. I enjoy reading a number of books sort of in one glorious overwhelm of fascination.

8) What is your idea of happiness?

FREE TIME! That means having the money to be able to do what I want to do when I want to do it and for as long as I want to do it. Haven’t quite got the knack of this yet! And I would spend my time writing, reading, travelling, loving the important people and animals in my life..and in anguished prayer that some super entity would halt the looming horror of global warming, polar bear extinction, the flooding of Venice…

9) What question do you wish interviewers would stop asking you?

I have no problem with questions – only when interviewers stop asking them!

If you have any other questions for Annica please write them in the comments section and we can see if we can get a follow up interview at a later stage…


Exclusive Author Interview with Michiel Heyns!

bodiespassengertypewriterchildrens day

Michiel Heyns grew up all over South Africa including Kimberley and Cape Town. He lectured at the University of Stellenbosch but after the publication of his first novel ‘The Children’s Day’ he decided to take up writing full time. His second novel ‘The Reluctant Passenger’ was published in 2003 and ‘The Typewriters Tale’, his third novel, in 2005. His latest novel ‘Bodies Politic’ was recently published  and I am pleased to say that I have just started reading it.

I can honestly say that I have enjoyed all of his works and it brings me great pleasure to bring this interview with him to you. He is definitely one of my favourite authors and the fact that he is South African makes me feel very proud!

I will be reviewing ‘The Reluctant Passenger’ later this week as well as ‘Bodies Politic’ once I have finished reading it. But for now, I introduce to you, MICHIEL HEYNS, maybe this is the day you discover a new author to read, if of course, you haven’t already!

1) Where did you find your inspiration to write ‘The Reluctant Passenger’ and are any of the characters based on ‘real life’ people?

In fact, the two questions have a single answer. The central character, who was also the inspiration behind the novel, was and I’m pleased to say still is, a good friend of mine. Of course, it’s a caricature of him, but that’s where I started: from, for instance, his addiction to chicken mayonnaise sandwiches. Other minor characters were also based on real people, but it would be libellous to say which. And I’ve never known a baboon socially.

2) Which has been your favourite book, to date, that you enjoyed writing more?

The Typewriter’s Tale. It’s a period I know, about a character that I love (Henry James), and I think I managed to write a passing imitation of a James novel. I found the Jamesian style very congenial, and I enjoyed sending it up slightly. A technical challenge, then – but I also like my central character, Frieda, who was the one invention in the novel.

3) I have found that you are one of a few authors (that I know of) that has written such vastly different novels, where do you find your inspiration for your stories and characters?
From various sources, as the differences between my novels indicate – from a single incident (the epileptic fit in The Children’s Day), to a single character (The Reluctant Passenger, see above), a situation (what must it have been like to be Henry James’s typist?); all of the above (in Bodies Politic, Sylvia Pankhurst’s extraordinary request to the woman whom her dying brother was in love with, and the resulting situation).

4) What were your favourite books as a child?

The much-maligned Edith Blyton — I read everything she wrote. Then The William books. A really colonial little boy I was. But there wasn’t much indigenous literature around — oh, except for an Afrikaans author, Helena J.F. Lochner, whom I loved.

5) What book/s are you currently reading?

Summertime by JM Coetzee, of course, like everyone else.
Also Small Moving Parts by Sally-Ann Murray. And next in line is ‘The Children’s Book’ by AS Byatt.

As for the question I wish interviewers would stop asking, which mercifully you haven’t asked: What are you writing at the moment?

And there we have it, our first exclusive author interview, only at The Book Club Blog! Thank you, Michiel, for being a willing interviewee, it has been fabulous and we appreciate it.