A creative streak lurks within me. First, I am an artist and then a writer. However, I once owned an amazing farm horse. Together we competed in endurance races against pure-bred Arabian horses. Everyone said I was a fool for wasting my time, but my horse and I proved them wrong. We went on to win several 80 km races at high speed with good recovery. Success was attained by diligent, planned training on a regular basis. Our training routine entailed a one hundred percent commitment over a three-year period. Endurance is something I know I can do—it set me up for life. Writing takes a similar commitment, dedication and staying power to maintain forward momentum.
What kind of books do you write?
My books are best likened to my protagonists who refuse to be labelled and compartmentalised. They are rebellious, spontaneous individuals who live and breathe life to its fullest with surprising outcomes. However, for the sake of this interview, Hotel Girls and The Evolution of Sylvia Graves, are coming-of-age romances. The stories are set in conservative times before social media. Back in those days, respectable girls were not taught about money, sex or politics. Too much knowledge made a girl appear too worldly for the equally innocent would-be suitor. If a girl knew more than her hunter, she was at risk of being labelled a tart, and that was no sweet thing. Back then it was fashionable for children to marry and make more children. These days, we prefer to be adults first, freeze our ova and breed later. The two extremes are irrational, but that is how it was versus how it is. Families were happy to send their cosseted virgins out to work in the hope that they would marry young, and produce children and then obey their husbands forever. However, things were changing, but parents refused to see it.
What inspired you to write?
My mother’s madness. She was a tough cookie and a dictator. The more she forced, the further I fled, but her memory is treasured. God does not appear to make people like her any more. These days, people strive to emulate politically correct ideals. At age twelve, I asked my Mum to explain the facts of life. She laughed and replied, “You know how it works. Of course, you do. Ha-ha! Go and ask your friends if you don’t.”
And so I did, but I wish I had not.
What makes your writing stand out from the crowd?
Blunt honesty. Girls are not born clever. First, they have to figure things out and only then do some wizen up. Hardship is a human phenomenon peculiar to all sexes.
What is the hardest part of writing – for you?
Getting off FaceBook and Social Media. Oops! That almost read like ‘Getting off on FaceBook.’ Please, allow me to rephrase. ‘Staying away from FaceBook.’ Better? Sigh.
Where do you like to write – what is your routine?
Mornings are best. I sit upstairs in my computer room that overlooks pine trees and sheep. A plush dog chair is situated by the window, and that is reserved for my loyal sheepdog. The rest of the house must be quiet, with the exception of my pug’s snoring. Her companionable breathing is soothing and comfortable—everyone else disagrees. It’s part of our conspiracy to keep others away during my creative phase.
What do you do when you are not writing – do you have a day job?
I had a day job for years but decided to toss it up because it kept me on a hamster wheel of nothingness that led to nowhere in a flurry of stressful activity other than rapid demise. Being enticed with one peanut thrown after another along a steep, slippery slope of decline appeals to hamsters and monkeys that are trained to run, fetch, carry and smile—not me. These days, I have a real job—I work from home. I do what I love and get to invest in my future, not my ex-boss’s. Smile! Oh, and by the way, I also run a sheep farm, keep a neat and tidy house, paint images on car bonnets and mow lawns in between my writing and social media addiction.
Do you work with an outline or just write?
A story outline is essential. Only a fool jumps into a car and drives in the wrong direction without a real destination in mind. It’s no good reaching the Mediterranean shoreline when you were heading for Moscow. An outline is the equivalent of a GPS, especially if you haven’t driven that way before. Committing things to memory is dodgy, especially if thoughts become distracted, then puzzle pieces get lost. Nobody wants an imperfect puzzle.
What advice would you have for other writers?
First, something must motivate you to write. Second, get social or risk becoming a dehydrated wallflower with dusty petals and puffball seeds. Production does not bloom in drought—ask any woman who has passed through the valley of the shadow of menopause. If your motivation is purely financial—get a job. In the long run, that is easier and faster. If you really want to write—do it. Sit down and start. Surprise! You will discover challenges. If you encounter none, then the chances are that you are making mistakes but not seeing them. Google characterisation, etc. Write a few short stories. Trial them. Put them away for a few weeks and read them again. How do they read? Be honest with yourself. Do you have the patience to re-edit and re-edit? If not, don’t start. Invest in an editing programme but don’t rely on it alone. Surround yourself with several good proofreaders. Study grammar on-line. Nobody is perfect, but having the money for professional editing helps. It’s never too late to learn and rehydrate your potential, some of the best writers are in a state of advanced years.
How important is marketing and social media for you?
If your work is out of sight, then it is out of mind. Social media is as important as petrol is to a car. As a part-time cyclist, I need wheels and pedals. Electricity is vital for lightbulb illumination. Social media is a shop window and an advertising department. It showcases works of smart. Sharpen skills and stream in.
What’s your next step?
A change of direction, simply because people don’t take romance seriously. If they did, couples would be happier, but it’s tough telling them. The best compliments received for my first two books have read something like this, “Romance is not my preferred genre, so I was delighted to find myself enjoying the wicked humour in Hotel Girls.”
Right-o, so the next coming attraction will entail veterinary stories from Africa. Put on your running shoes, discard the headphones and hear the lions roar! Energy required.