My Next Big Thing
Rachel Zadok wrote a book called Gem Squash Tokoloshe, I know it’s a great book (an intelligent group of people who shortlisted it for the 2005 Whitbread First Novel Award thought so too) but I could only bring myself to read about a third of it. I’m too much of a scaredy-cat and Rachel too good at writing words that can crawl beneath your skin and stay there. Recently, Rachel asked me to participate in The Next Big Thing. It’s an opportunity for writers in the blogsphere to tell readers what they’ve been working on, and introduce them to the works of other writers they may or may not already be fans of. A kind of chain cake except there’s no baking involved or a relay race without the baton or hotpants and everyone’s a winner. Rachel answered questions about her next big thing HERE. I sought out a copy of Gem Squash Tokoloshe off kalahari.com and I am waiting eagerly to read a third of Rachel’s soon-to-be-released novel Sister-Sister or maybe I’ll be brave and read the whole.
Here’s more about my Next Big Thing.
What is the working title of your book?
Your House is on Fire
It’s supposed to be a kind of warning, a shout to wake up.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
It started from looking at what we tolerate as human beings, unworkable situations and suffering. Tolerance is normally seen as a good thing (tolerate your neighbour) but this aspect I’m interested in is the making-do of undesirable circumstances. How we ignore our own lack of fulfilment, an unhappy job, a partner who cheats, corrupt leaders. It seems like we think we need to push through, that we have no choice but we end up colluding with our unhappiness. I wanted to write about this thing, through two old women at the end of their lives looking back, not without sadness, at all the things they didn’t fight for, the things they were too scared to want.
What genre does your book fall under?
No idea. Is there a genre called “human being stuff”? It’s literary fiction.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
There are two main characters – one Jewish South African and one Barbadian. And then a minor character, younger and also female. In terms of who could act as them I can’t think of any specific names. When we audition for the movie 🙂 I’ll be on the lookout for actors that can capture the real truth of what it is to be human – to be flawed, heavily so, to be ugly even, but still be human and not monster. Both main characters seem pretty nasty at times, but you won’t hate them.
And the accents have to be dead-on so that’s another requirement from the actors. So many films are ruined by actors struggling to portray the authentic voice of their character; many times we take a Hollywood star and sacrifice the accuracy of the voice. Not for me and my movie of my unpublished unfinished novel – no Ma’am.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Two widows, wealthy and over 80, Hortensia and Marion, share only hatred between themselves, but they are neighbours and when Hortensia fractures her leg and refuses the home-nurse it is Marion who must care for her; forced into intimacy with a black woman Marion is confronted with her prejudice and her shame while Hortensia readies herself to meet her recently dead husband’s love-child, all grown up and on her way to Cape Town to claim her portion of her father’s will.
That is a really long sentence – I apologise.
When will your book be published?
When someone nice makes me an offer to do so. I’m planning that it will be ready in the second half of 2014.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I find it takes longer in the beginning and then it speeds up at the end. Exponential. I’m still writing my first draft and if I obey my schedule and finish it on time it would have taken me anything from 6 to 9 months. That’s not necessarily all those months of plonking away at a keyboard, a lot of time is spent thinking, turning characters over in your head, talking to others and reading.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I didn’t set out to write a political story (I wanted to simply write a good one) but the book has ended up with some politics as backdrop to these women’s lives. Some of the things I write about in the book are to do with Cape Town and how it’s still racially segregated in 2013; the forced removals and the land restitution system particularly relating to areas like Constantia, the slave history of this part of Cape Town; the creep of corruption in South Africa – is our house on fire? And if it is what do we do about it?
So let me go and write this thing. As usual I know exactly what I want the cover to look like and need only to find an obliging publisher who would listen to me. The chain cake stroke relay race moves on to Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah and Gbenga Awomodu who will blog about their next big thing on Wednesday 9 January 2013.
Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah is the brave author of the blog Adventures from the bedrooms of African women. She began the blog four years ago in a bid to create a platform where African women could converse and have open frank conversations about sex, their sexuality, their bodies and all the related issues that go with these. Nana’s next big thing is a collection of fictional and non-fictional pieces on a similar theme to her blog.
Read all about Nana’s next big thing HERE.
Gbenga Awomodu is an editorial assistant at online magazine Bella Naija, a writer, a chemical-engineering graduate and an aspirant world-class business strategist. With time to spare he blogs on Gbenga’s Notebook. It is HERE he will be sharing with you, on the 9th, his next big thing which involves his upcoming novel. I’ll leave it for him to unveil.