“Even though this is not the type of story I would normally read, I enjoyed the other three different themed books by this author (Fly Birdie, The Visitation and Shadow People) so much that I decided to try this latest one – and I’m glad I did, because it let me see yet another aspect of her talent as a writer.”-Chris Graham
The author has done a masterful job describing a wide range of characters. The artistic Suzette, the rugged men who work the land, the cook, maid, and tragic gardner – all have distinct personalities that leapt off the page. Enter the villainous couple who I wanted the smack from the moment I met them.”-Mark Myers
There is never a dull moment in the Hertzog household, which consists of Suzette, her loving husband Herman, their cook, Precious, the gardener, Christopher and their dog and cat who are like their children.
The novel is set in today’s Zimbabwe and Suzette, the main character – a white woman of Afrikaner heritage – cares a lot about justice and despises prejudice of any sort. Her problem is that she doesn’t want to rock the boat, is scared of most things but especially public speaking.
When the Shermans move in next door, with their ugly, racist and mean attitude, Suzette is beginning to find it difficult to contain her rage.”-Carol Balawyder
I met my guest today through what I call Blog World, the land of blogdom. We followed each other and enjoyed each others posts. Then I discovered she was an author and . . . of course . . . I had to ask for an interview. I don’t ask everyone, but she’s an amazing lady and I find her posts enjoyable and I needed to find out more. So without any more from me, it’s time to meet . . .
RW: Tell us where you’re from?
JO: I was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, but spent most of my childhood in Johannesburg and my
twenties in Cape Town. After that I lived in Zimbabwe – out in the rural lands – until last year, when I
came back home to South Africa. And very happy to be back, even though I’ll never forget the people
I met, the adventures I had, and the lessons that Zimbabwe taught me.
RW: And who would you say are your favorite authors?
JO: There aren’t many genres that I don’t like to read, so my favorite authors probably look a little mismatched. I’ve always loved horror, with Stephen King at the top of that pile for me.
Ever since I read Carpet People by Terry Pratchett when I was young, I’ve been madly in love with that man –I’ve read most of his books at least three times each.
I’m a big sci-fi and fantasy fan too, so James Herbert, Asimov of course, Anne McCaffrey, and Piers Anthony are major faves.
I also love Joanna Trollope’s gentle style of writing, and Philippa Gregory’s historical books.
RW: What is your favorite beverage to drink, any kind?
JO: I very seldom drink anything other than water during the day – boring, I know, I know, but I’m a big fan of wildly colored cocktails with umbrellas and swizzle sticks in them for now and then, and champagne and orange with breakfast now and then is not a bad thing at all.
RW: What is your favorite word?
JO: Goodness! I never knew I had one, but the first word that pops up now is love. It’s the answer to most questions and problems after all.
RW: What is your background in writing, what makes you a writer?
JO: I started writing quite abruptly a couple of years ago. I never thought about it, or planned it. It just happened. I was sitting at the kitchen table writing out a shopping list, and it went something like: Milk – Bread – Bog Roll – and then the first few paragraphs of African Me & Satellite TV happened. I’ve never changed them either. The way they are now in the book is the way that they came out then. I’d actually forgotten until recently, that I had just started a new job as a reporter for a small town newspaper when I was eighteen, and I got to interview the junior Miss Bethal and write up the article just before my mother passed away. It was published without any editing and I got a pat on the back for a job well done, but things got a bit crazy after that and writing never occurred to me again.
Reading on the other hand – I did that all the time.
RW: What is your escape from writing when you are at that about to explode point?
JO: I have quite a lot of loves, and fortunately these days my writing helps to bring them all together. I paint, and cook, and garden, and just lately I’m trying my hand at photography and digital painting too. The art and the photography aren’t guilty pleasures because those two things will hopefully help with future covers and book projects, but being out in the sun, or spending hours in a kitchen full of gorgeous aromas are pretty good explosion stoppers for me.
(I have to intrude, I now want to be in her kitchen.)
RW: What genre does African Me & Satellite TV fall into?
JO: Fictional Drama
RW: Tell us a little about your book.
JO: It’s about heartbreak caused by hatred and racism, and about healing with love and courage.
“For many years Suzette has managed very well to live her life without actually taking part in
it, avoiding any possibility of pain by very carefully ignoring reality. Until something happens.
Something so terrible that she has no choice but to abandon her cocoon of safety.
After the brutal beating of an elderly domestic worker, Suzette takes her in, and sets off a chain of events that leads to devastating heartbreak. And then an unexpected hero changes everything.
Finally finding her voice, she speaks out, and her world explodes, culminating in the death of a very special man.
On her path to make amends, she discovers the story of his life, connects with the people of his past, and finds the chance to fully live her life once again if that’s what she chooses to.”
RW: What inspired the book?
JO: I saw a terrible verbal racist attack take place on a street in Zimbabwe. White person screaming abuse – black person standing silently looking at the ground until the white person made an exit with screeching wheels bouncing off the pavement. It sort of smacked me in the face then that we had all just stood and gaped. Not a single one of us had uttered a word or stepped in, when somebody really, really should have. The foulness of that incident stayed in the back of my mind for a long time, and eventually became the inspiration for African Me.
RW: Tell us about your main character(s) and what you think will them connect to readers.
JO: hey’re human, and they have flaws. Suzette has quite a few to be honest, and until you get to know her you might want to give her a little shake or two. Christopher has suffered a great deal in his life, and fallen at one of life’s hurdles, so he’s also flawed. But they have strengths too. I think that all of the characters in this story came to life with their own very distinctive traits – good, bad, or just plain odd, and I’m pretty fond of most of them, warts and all.
RW: Who would play your main character(s) in a movie?
JO: Funny you should ask that – it has occurred to me. I suppose all of us scribblers consider that now and then. I would go for Charlize Theron and Morgan Freeman – in fact they were made for these roles! Hang on a bit – just off to email them…..
RW: What message do you think your book delivers to the reader?
JO: That all humans need to respect all other humans as equals, and treat them as such, because at the end of the day it is the truth. And that when some who feel so terribly superior to others have hatred in their hearts, and act out on it, only sorrow and loss can result.
RW: Describe your book in one word.
JO: That’s a sneaky one! I think it will have to be “Live”, as in – Live your life.
RW: Where can we get your book now?
JO: There are several options:
RW: How do people connect with you through all forms of social media?
JO: Mainly through my blog, which is my favourite place to be online, and I have Contact Me pages there and also on my website. Google+ is lovely and interactive, and Twitter is great for chats. I don’t have much time to spend on Facebook these days, although I’m going to try and make some. The problem with Facebook is that once you open it up, you fly through some sort of warped and twisted portal that turns what you think are minutes into hours. And of there is also Goodreads.
RW: Do you currently have representation? If so who, and if not describe what qualities you would like in an agent and what you would bring to the relationship.
JO: I’ve never looked for an agent or publisher, and the couple that offered didn’t look overly fantastic to me. I’ve worked very hard to learn what I know now about independent publishing, so I would have to be offered a very good deal to hand over the reins to any of my work, and with my control issues I don’t think that I’d be easy to work with. I wouldn’t like to work with me that way. Apart from my short story with Springbok Publications I only represent myself. Like it like that.
RW: What are you working on right now?
JO: I’ve had a lot of major interruptions to my work this past year and things have piled up, so I’m working on polishing three books at the moment, and I’ll publish all of them within weeks of each other probably. The Hunger is the second book in my Shadow People series. Emmaline, which is the first in my Ghost Writer collection, and a third, which even though it does have a title, I probably won’t share that until I publish it. Or maybe I will – just not yet.
RW: What book are you reading at this time?
JO: I have a large pile of indie published books that I’m reading my way through to review right now on my Kindle, but at the same time I’m slowly reading the paper version of Further Along The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck. I loved the first book, and this one is also the kind of book that takes time to read in little bits, because of all the long pauses to stop and think a while.
RW: What is your biggest tip for someone to getting published?
JO: Write it and then do it. For an indie published writer, my advice would definitely be not to publish the book that you’ve been slaving away on for years first. Publish a shorter story to begin with to learn the ropes a little, figure out how things work, see how other authors are marketing their books, and then head on in with your novel. Especially if you don’t already have much of an online presence -you’ll be to talking to the wall if there’s nobody in the room to buy your book. Also, don’t be shy to ask for help with the technical bits. Writers are kind souls, and they are mostly all willing to help you with your first time round.
RW: If you could have written any book that exists, other than your own, what would it be and why?
JO: I can think of a couple that I would have liked to have watched being written so I could get inside their authors heads, but I can’t think of any that I would have liked to have written myself – apart from Harry Potter because if I had I’d be rolling in dough and have all the time in the world to write my own stuff, and not have to worry about crusts of bread and so on.
I would like to thank Jo for agreeing to the interview today and I am going to be begging for her to come back when it’s time for the release of her new books. I think when she described her book in one were she was describing what she does. I think we can all agree that Jo Robinson does live a life to its fullest.
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