Sue was the one of the first authors I interviewed for this blog almost a year ago, so it seems serendipitous that the first launch I attended post lockdown was for her new book A Family Affair. I had never attended a Book Revue launch before, Pippa Smith facilitated a lovely, informal discussion and provided delicious eats and coffee, plus we were outside, so we didn’t have to worry about spreading our Covid germs. It was truly wonderful to be back amongst the bookish community and to catch up with friends. Sue is hectically busy at the moment and very much in demand, but she was kind enough to write down a few of her favourite things…
Favourite restaurants in Joburg?
This is a difficult question, I have quite a few and many more to discover.
But because I have a 6 year old son I now have to stick to child friendly ones so Pappachinos becomes the staple diet if we are going out with him. I will be honest with you, since Lockdown, we have opted for takeouts versus going out to eat. Last month in Harties I ate out for the first time at a Portuguese restaurant called Caravela. They had great food or maybe it’s like having sex after a long time, it just feels good! *laughs*
Favourite coffee shops?
Not a coffee shop person. You won’t find me hanging around one or writing in one. But if we really have to do the Joburg cliché of “Let’s do coffee” then Fournos is my place of choice. For a more intimate meet up with some glam I will definitely pick Annica’s in Dainfern Square.
- Rupert and Rothschild
- Wilderer Fynbos Gin
I am not a whisky girl, I just get high on the smell of it. I can drink Southern Comfort which is considered a faux whiskey.
All of them!! I love any shop that has books in it. I am drawn to them like a moth to a light.
Favourite TV shows?
- Generations and I am not just saying this, Pam. It is really entertaining! (Sue is currently working on Generations )
- The Crown S1-2 – that cast overhaul they did in S3 and 4 is unforgivable. Now what they should have done was start with the Queen in S3 and then S1 and S2 become a flashback when they were younger. That way the change isn’t as jarring!
- Game of Thrones S1-S7 (in my head, season 8 did not happen)
- Downtown Abbey (All of it, movie included!)
Favourite gyms/hikes/yoga studios/swimming pools?
Old Eds Virgin Active in Houghton
Favourite beauty salons?
Revive Wellness Spa
Pre-Covid – Mmuja in Parkhurst (it belongs to Sue’s cousin!) and now I have it done at home (contact Sindisiswe on 071 007 9777)
Any hidden gems you want to share with us?
Revive Wellness Spa is an undiscovered gem.
Tell us your favourite place(s) to go on holiday in Southern Africa. What is it you love so much about the particular region/resort?
And Beyond Phinda Game Reserve, it’s in close proximity to the elephant coast which means you get the both of best worlds in one location. It’s absolute luxury.
Favourite mode of travel? Roadtrips/rail/bus/plane/private jet?
Road trips are unrivalled with music. The soundtrack to the journey is everything. The thing with road tripping is that you can also stop and explore towns en route to the destination. I like to take the scenic route, especially when travelling in Africa.
Favourite way of spoiling yourself when you’re away?
Spa treatments. I lead a stressful life so when I get a chance to be pampered I won’t say no.
Any plans for the Christmas hols?
Depends if our borders are open. If there’s anything COVID19 has taught me is to not make long range plans. I would love to see my parents. I don’t know where, but just to be in their presence.
Favourite reads for the hols?
- Critical but Stable by Angela Makholwa
- Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson
- Charlotte by Helen Moffett
- Sashenka by Simon Sebag Montefiore
What is the new book about?
A Family Affair peers behind the facade of what appears to be a picture perfect, middle-class family, headed by Abraham who is the pastor of a church and his long-standing wife, Phumla. It is a family saga set in Bulawayo against the backdrop of patriarchy, religion and traditional family values. Add to this, romance and sex, sometimes illicit and not always consensual. Then stir in some humour, drama and intrigue and that is what #AFamilyAffair is about.
Explain your writing process for this book. What kind of research did you have to do for it?
I have been writing this book for years. It’s a story I have wanted to tell about African women growing up in traditional patriarchal families trying to negotiate or carve out an identity for themselves in the modern world as we know it. There is always tension, trying to negotiate longstanding cultural beliefs and impositions that come with religion and what society deems to be perfect womanhood.
Writing this book involved on drawing on a lot of lived experiences and those of other women around me. It’s like going to a party and quietly sitting in the corner and taking notes instead of dancing on tables.
Because I started writing this book in my 20s there have been many drafts of it but the nice thing is they were developed over the years. Rewriting a book like this is hard because you are not sure what to discard or what to maintain with each new draft. It’s also about trusting your instinct and believing that your original line of thought was correct. I am glad though that it was only published now; I was much too young to write when I did but I am glad to have started the process then.
How many words do you write a day/week?
I don’t have a word limit. If I can write a chapter a day that’s great. As a writer you know that some days are better than others. Some are just dry days like the Sahara. On those days I do research. I always say rather research instead of typing into oblivion.
How do you fit writing into your day job?
I don’t think you can. Well at least I never could when I had a day job in corporate investments which was divorced from creative writing. So writing was something I pursued in the early hours of the morning between 3am and 6am. So now I have a day job that entails writing which is important to remain creatively stimulated.
Do you write at home/coffee shops?
I prefer to write at home. I crave silence when I write. Which is why the 3am writing shift was always alluring to me. It’s the quietest time of the day and I get clarity of thought at that hour. During the day there are so many disturbances which I find distracting then you lose your train of thought. So when I write I like to finally reach that stage where I zone out and I am no longer aware of what is happening around me.
Will there be a book launch?
I had a physical book hosted by Exclusive Books Hyde Park with all social distancing protocols observed. Looking at the masked audience reminded me that we are not out of the woods yet, that Covid19 is still with us. I kinda miss the energy and buzz of previous book launches which we will never be able to recapture. There is now this guardedness as we negotiate the new normal at arm’s length. I also had a virtual launch on the 20th of October. I won’t be doing a book tour or any other book related events in the foreseeable future.
Where can fans get your book? Are there signed copies available?
Fans are able to get my books at the big chainstore bookshops like Bargain Books, CNA and Exclusive Books. A lot of independent bookstores like Bridge Books, Book Circle, Book Lounge, Clarkes, Love Books, Uppercase Books also carry my books. Then you get them at online bookstores like Afrokulcha, Amazon, Kobo and Snapplify.
Favourite piece of writing advice?
Writers write. Just start. Anywhere. Write those first thoughts as incoherent as they may seem. People always talk about writing and never get round to doing it. Stop talking and start writing.
What’s next for you? What are you busy working on at the moment?
So A Family Affair is a reworked manuscript which as I said I started in my 20s. I have another unpublished manuscript which I would like to rework. It’s also a thickie and I would not like to waste it. It will require a bit more research which is what I plan to do.
So that is a project for 2022. I have to deliver the sequel to The Polygamist, fans have been hounding me so I will make good on that next year.
Also, next year readers can look out for a non-fiction anthology which is yet to be titled. I don’t like writing one book hot on the heels of another so I just want to breathe and focus on honing my screenwriting skills.
2020 has been a shitty year but do you have a favourite moment?
#AFamilyAffair will definitely be the highlight of 2020. This is why I was so keen to have a physical launch; I didn’t want COVID19 to take away the joy of celebrating my 3rd born.
Thank you so much for taking part in Friday Reads! A Family Affair has been so popular, it’s ALREADY been reprinted – HUGEST congrats to Sue and the team at Pan Macmillan South Africa. May it carry on flying off the shelves! xxx