Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Sally-Ann Murray

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category

Big or small, the next thing could come from anywhere…

In the game of literary tag that’s going around, I was zapped by Elana Bregin (thank you!), and relayed the opportunity to others. I recently caught up with Francine Simon. That’s not yet a name that many people will know, but just give it a little time….Several of Francine’s poems were short-listed for the 2012 Sol Plaatje European Union Award, and they’ve been published in the competition antho compiled by Liesl Jobson for Jacana. Francine is almost done with an MA in creative writing at UZKN. She knows that poetry is not likely to be The Next Big Thing in anyone’s book, but she writes regardless because she’s not interested in being labelled.


your kitchen had a strong white breath

fixed with pots. Husband and wife

a pipe


its second element


you are a man of no shape

especially in the early morning

bat neck

cow feet

a spiracle love of pools


she takes the teabag from her cup

squeezes it leaves it

on the windowsill to age

soft as skin

dark as cum


Now she is with me.

We picnic often.

You always thought you knew too much.


What is the working title of your book? Shadow Sounds.

Where did the idea come from? A shoebox of old photographs. I was looking for a particular picture and then suddenly the idea struck: faded images, the memory of voices, imagining the voices of family members I’d never known, working to locate these creatively in relation to different forms of personal and ‘collective’ history.

What genre does your book fall under? Well, I hope it doesn’t just ‘fall’ anywhere! But the genre is very difficult to pinpoint as the poems cross lyrical, narrative and experimental forms.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? If my collection were a movie, and if race weren’t an issue, I would like to see Carey Mulligan, Kathy Bates and Dominic Cooper play the primary roles. However as my work is poetry, I would love to hear these three actors read my poems.

 What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? ‘Girl’ is a word for the many sounds of family.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? I might be getting ahead of myself here, but I will definitely seek a formal publisher. Modjaji? Kwela? I’m hoping.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I took around six months to complete the first draft. But I keep editing and also writing more material. Which is good, I suppose, as there will be plenty of poems from which to choose for the final collection.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Touch by Meena Kandasamy and Illiterate Heart by Meena Alexander. (With some Plath for good measure, and maybe some Carol Ann Duffy.)

 Who or what inspired you to write this book? My family’s so-called Indian culture was a major starting point for the collection – what points of connection I have with what’s called ‘Indian’, and where I diverge. (My mother has particular resonance when I think of what influenced me to write these poems, and how so often the perspective is female.) Despite the ways in which Durban positions me, I was not very familiar with my family’s historical culture when I began to write, and curiosity was a primary contributing factor.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? I think that a reader might find the question of wide cultural diversity within one family very intriguing; the mix of Catholic and Tamil roots is not something a reader might immediately recognise, yet I hope that the poems will also persuade a reader at both the emotional level, and in terms of unusual language.


Another Durban writer I tagged is Cristy Zinn. She – usually – writes speculative fiction, and has a story in AfroSF, the first-ever anthology of Science Fiction by African writers. The book was edited and produced by Ivor Hartmann in 2012, and there’s an e-publication and a print edition, so you get to choose. Karen Burnham of the Locus Review suggests that the antho contains “highly readable and enjoyable stories that take the raw materials of science fiction and give them a different spin”.  Cristy has posted her reponse to TNBThing questions on her own blog, and has also roped in other writers. She warns that she is branching out into fantasy fiction….Could it be something in Durban’s water? Here’s the link:



» read article

Nnedi Okorafor: Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing

What is your working title of your book?


Where did the idea come from for the book?

I started writing it as a Nollywood screenplay for Nigerian director Tchidi Chikere. I’d recently seen the science fiction film District 9 and I was really angry about how the film had spitefully stereotyped Nigerians. I started asking questions about how Nigerians would really react to aliens and soon I was writing a screenplay. I wanted to write an African science fiction narrative heavily influenced by the high drama of a Nollywood film. The story that came to me wanted to be what it wanted to be and soon it moved away from being any sort of response to District 9. Then it went from being a screenplay to being a novel, and the rest is history…alternative history, in this case, since the story takes place in an alternative version of 2009 Nigeria.

What genre does your book fall under?

Science fiction…I think. Mostly. Yeah. It’s whatever you want it to be.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

There is a pretty big cast of characters in this novel but here are my ideas for the three most central characters:

Agu- Idris Elba
Adaora- Genevieve Nnaji
Anthony Dey Kraze- Kwaw Kese

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

The Nigerian megacity of Lagos is invaded by aliens, and it nearly consumes itself because of it.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Lagoon will be published by Hodder and Stoughton, a major publishing house based in the UK.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The first draft took me about a year and a half. However, I wrote it as a screenplay months prior; the screenplay took me three months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Under the Dome by Stephen King and Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

As I said earlier, my anger at the film District 9 got me wanting to write about aliens in Nigeria. But, also, reading Stephen King’s Under the Dome inspired me to try my hand at writing a narrative that featured many different but interconnected points of view. As I read and enjoyed the novel, I remember thinking that I could never write a story like that. I normally write stories from ONE character’s close point of view. When I realized I was so resistant to changing my ways, I decided that the only way I could evolve was to try writing in multiple points of view.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Of all my novels, this book is my most ambitious. In Lagoon, you’ll find cross-dressers, an absent president, monsters, kidnappers, rogue military men, spiders, religious fanaticism, Nollywood-style hijinks, aliens and much more. Oh yeah, and be ready to learn some Pidgin English.

» read article

Like a Stranger and More than Most are the Next Big Things

 photo ruinsandruby005_10240x7680_zps945a83fd.jpg

What is the working title of your book?
I’ve been deep into two writing projects: short fiction, and a new novel. The short story collection is ready to send out. The book’s called Like A Stranger and has given me repeated bursts of experimental freedom to move between a reassuring realism and the discomforts of the bizarre. The short stories have also offered a fine home for working at the level of language which so appeals to me. As for the novel: that’s the big project; it’s in a first completed draft and I’m allowing it to leaven a little. It’s provisionally called More Than Most because I want a phrase that gives a subtle nod to both story and narrative structure. (Though maybe I should just screw literary finesse and call the new manuscript Sex in the Suburbs. That should do it.)

Where did the idea for the book come from?
Ideas are elusive things. Where they originate is so uncertain, and then what about how they develop, finding unexpected forms of coherence. You see a person. You read an article. You vaguely recall a viscous dreamscape. A friend tells you a story about a family shocked into a new sense of identity. In the novel I’ve drawn together a range of imagined lives suggested by various places and contexts. The familiar middle class locus of the ‘family home’, peopled with a couple who have grown distant from themselves, battling with their young adult children, is renovated into new form through encounters with people from other parts of the city: an old man from a derelict house near the local shopping centre; edgy youngsters from the skatepark on North Beach; foreigners who live in the decaying Albert Park area of Durban. These elements are threaded into a story about ‘relative family’ that variously reveals and conceals connection.

What genre does your book fall under?
For better or for worse, I write literary fiction. That’s my metier. I favour contemporary reworkings of social and psychological realism, since they allow me to explore links between intriguing contextual surface and interior depth, giving rise to embodied characters whose lives are implicated in historical geographies. At the same time, though, this does not preclude innovative torsions in narrative treatment, so expect some surprises.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
So glad that someone’s already thinking of investing in the movie version; the script of the unfinished novel. Now that’s a big idea. Let’s see. How to cast the major roles? I’d try the intriguingly unusual Tilda Swinton as Mrs Holmes (Juliette Binoche is too simpery), Robert Downey Jnr as Mr (suitably dissolute yet charming), Hanna Mangan Lawrence as the daughter determining her independence, Ezra Miller as the rebellious son, and Omar Sy (a bit younger than he is) as the foreign stranger who finds himself among them.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
As a woman knows, there’s good reason that eff is for family.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
For both the story collection and the novel, I’ll go with my current publisher, Kwela, who helped Small Moving Parts to do so well in 2010. See if they bite. If not: I’ll have to start looking!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
In the usual fits and starts (life being what it is) the novel took a year to mock up, and I’m still not completely confident about the shape. That’s why I’m sitting on it a while, giving it the time it needs to develop.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Tough one; can’t answer. It’s easier to point to writers I admire, although even there the question of influence is tangential: Marilynne Robinson, Lori Moore, George Saunders, Marlene van Niekerk, Ivan Vladislavić.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Women. Men. Love. And the city that is struggling to emerge from Durban, the paradoxically abundant, decaying coastal metropolis that has been my hometown for as long as I care to remember. (Sometimes, frankly, the timespan of such memory is simply too long, and I long to break free. Perhaps that’s my really big next thing…?)

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
As if Durban weren’t enough! All the stories that wash up among the harbour debris. An entire worldweight of containers. More Than Most is about men and women making a go of things, finding ways to arrive at unlikely happiness.

» read article