When did you first realize you wanted to write a novel?
Mama taught me to read and write when I was four. I’ve had a pen in hand or a keyboard under my fingers ever since. I’ve turned my hand to business writing, press releases, verse, essays, skits, parodies, you name it: I thought of myself as a journeyman writer. I had a brief stint as a newspaper theatre critic, and even wrote a couple of one-act-plays; but it was not until a few years ago, in my retirement, that I joined a creative writing group and for the first time started to write fiction. The shortest of short stories: flash fiction. This was fun. It still is – I still belong to a writing group. But I never believed I had the perserverance to write a novel. I did not even have the urge to try .
Do you write from an outline or do you by the seat-of-your-pants (i.e. are you a plotter or or a “pantser” ?)
I’m a hybrid plotter/pantser. I develop my main and secondary characters fully before I start, and sketch out the skeleton of a story plan. This way works for me, as I throw my characters into a situation and know how they will react and what they will say. They develop minds of their own and often make adjustments to the story-line or carve out a larger part for themselves than I had envisaged.
What self-doubts, if any, have you experienced during the writing process and how did you overcome those doubts?
Self-doubts? Constantly – what author does not? But I try to stop comparing my writing with others. I’ve been around words for long enough to develop my own voice (or perhaps voices – I struggle to keep my irreverent streak at bay when I’m trying to be serious). With old age comes the loss of worrying what others will think of you, and this helps. I’ve adopted a motto:
GROWING OLD DISGRACEFULLY
When you think about your writing life, what accomplishment are you most proud of, and why?
It has to be my first novel. When I penned that first draft, I knew I could handle words; but what I did not know was that novel writing is a craft that I still needed to learn. I spent the next year-and-a-half sitting at the feet of Professor Google, learning as much as I could about my new craft, before my novel was ready for publication. On the 22nd September 2020, punching the “Publish” button on Amazon was one of the most thrilling moments in my life. I was 87.
What was your experience of getting your novel published and into the hands of readers.
My decision to publish as an e-book on Amazon/Kindle was made in view of my age. I no longer buy wines that have to be laid down for years before being drinkable, and I cannot afford to wait three years or more to pursue the traditional publishing route. I may consider a small print run later, to suit the need of some of my potential readers who prefer a printed version.
I am now starting on the marketing process – first step, expanding my platform on social media. Next comes setting up my website and starting my blog. Might as well put my verbosity to good use.
I published my second book — a novella set in Kwa-Zulu Natal – in December 2020, and I have a story in an Anthology which was published by the Romance Writers Organisation of South Africa (ROSA) this month.
Who provides you with feedback on your work-in-progress?
A few good friends have been my Beta readers. Some of them are writers, and they gave me valuable comments. The most significant thing I did was to join ROSA. I have been able to attend a Retreat and several Webinars, and the members have been endlessly friendly and helpful.
One member who lives nearby has become my mentor and helped me through all the pitfalls awaiting the tyro novelist, as well as editing my MS. She herself is a full-time novelist, Tanya Wilde, who writes primarily Regency Romances.
How have you gone about learning the craft of writing a novel?
I have attended a few writing retreats which were held in the Cape Province (the limit of my travelling range), but these events have since been curtailed during lockdown. Most of my learning has been through reading articles and blogs written by experienced writers. I subscribe to numerous newsletters, blogs, and writing sites. It is amazing what one can learn on the internet.
Because of poor concentration skills, I learn better through the written word than orally, but I am starting to attend some webinars (local ones, which are held in our daytime hours.) And of course, I am now reading novels in my genre, which I had not done for years.
Tell us one non-writing-related thing about yourself that not too many people know about you.
In my twenties, I took voice training with a music teacher and performed locally as a coloratura soprano. I sang several times with the Civic Orchestra in Durban, as well as on lesser concert stages. My repertoire included well-known opera arias and German lieder, and included the Queen of the Night’s arias in The Magic Flute, which soar to such high notes that the singer needs a ladder to reach them. Fortunately for my neighbours, what is left of the voice resides in the mezzo range.
What advice or words of wisdom would you give to a writer who hasn’t yet finished a novel?
Why are you sitting here reading this? Get your arse in the chair and start writing. Writers’ block – balderdash. English is richer in words than any other language – over 200,000 words, according to a recent article in Babbel Magazine. Just start smashing some of them onto the page. Any words. Open the sluice gates and they’ll start flowing.
What else would you like to share about your life as a writer?
Writing has given me a new lease of life, a new enthusiasm, and a reason for getting out of bed in the morning. And I’ve fallen in love. Three times. With the heroes of my romances. They’re gorgeous!
Till next time, from my retirement village in the lovely Garden Route.