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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.


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