Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Tendai Huchu reviews This September Sun


Tendai Huchu reviews This September Sun


‘On the 18th of April 1980, my grandfather burnt the British flag.’ So begins Bryony Rheam’s genre blending debut novel. Ellie, the main protagonist, is a young girl searching for identity in the self-absorbed, often neurotic postcolonial settler community in Zimbabwe. Her relationship with Evelyn, her grandmother whose cupboard has more skeletons than most, provides a back drop to a narrative that sweeps right from the Second World War through to the early 2000’s. Evelyn leaves her husband, Ellie’s grandfather, and strikes out on her own late in life, forming a new partnership with Miles, a man with his own difficult past, trying to eke a living on a small dust bowl outside of Bulawayo. Through Ellie’s observations we learn of the lives of the small closeted, white Zimbabwean society, dirty laundry is aired, nothing is spared, the illicit affairs, alcoholism, racism, misogyny, hopes, dreams and fears that linger long after the sun has set on the British Empire. Is there still a place for the white man in Africa and how to find a place on a changing continent is one of this novel’s central themes. Rheam masterfully crafts a novel that runs back and forth in time, using elements of the first person and epistolary to stitch a work that reads and feels more like a memoir than a conventional novel. This September Sun’s bold narrative successfully focuses on grand events, two wars, and the very small, minutiae of everyday life, four o’clock tea, cross generational relationships between grandmother and granddaughter in a changing world. Rheam’s Africa is not the Africa of the media - that is a continent reduced to nothing more than poverty and strife, it is a place where real people live with everyday worries and regular problems and the novel strikes an optimistic tone missing in most African Literature. 
Tendai Huchu is the author of The Hairdresser of Harare


This September Sun is available throughout Zimbabwe and in selected outlets in South Africa and Zambia. Please contact amaBooks if you have problems finding it.

It is also available in the United Kingdom through our partner Parthian Books, and as a Kindle ebook.

In North America, it can be obtained through the African Books Collective.

Spanish Book Club discussion of 'This September Sun'

Spanish Book Club discussion of 'This September Sun'


Beaven Tapureta reports for WIN Zimbabwe on the Spanish Book Club discussion of Bryony Rheam’s This September Sun

from http://win-zimbabwe.blogspot.com/2013/02/win-newsletter-issue-no-64.html


The discussion was led by writer Eresina Hwede


Full participation in any discussion of a work of creative writing is guaranteed by the participants' reading and understanding of the text for criticism. As this is possible where books are readily available for such purpose, it then calls for organizers of book clubs or discussions to device strategies that ensure the club members read the book before the day of the discussion.
At a discussion of the novel 'This September Sun' held on February 12 at the Spanish Embassy Book Club it was apparent that a few writers had read the novel and the rest were familiar with the novel through blurb and reviews.

However, the group discussion at the Embassy was thought-provoking as various questions were raised on story structure, characterization and themes, proving that a book is like a multi-faceted stone reflecting light in different shades. Different readers tend to have different views.
While the blurb describes the book as mainly about family secrets and history, writers at the discussion explored certain ‘overtones’ about the relationships of black and white characters in the novel.
Eresina Hwede, who led the discussion, said she was most struck by the loneliness of the characters, whom she said were but drifters, people who lack a sense of belonging and dissociate themselves from family. Each character that dies in the story, dies with regrets, she said.
On another note, she said comments made particularly about the black characters in the novel reflected no association of blacks and whites during the time the story happens.
“I wonder why few black characters that are in the novel appear briefly and they are portrayed as servants of white characters. Mr. Mpofu, who is not a servant but a lawyer, appears for a short moment towards the end of the story,” said Eresina.
Roger Stringer, a librarian and publishing consultant said as a white person, he saw the book from a completely different standpoint, arguing that the novel is not about blacks and white people's relationships but about a family. The novel is not a social story but a personal story about the relationship between a girl and her grandmother, he said.
"What strikes me in the story is the mystery, like a detective story, where one discovers what was unknown before," Roger added.
While Eresina and a few other writers maintained that although 'This September Sun' is known to be about family secrets, it exposes the political uncertainty of the historical period it covers. The burning of the Union Jack (soon after independence) which resulted in grandma sustaining a tea-pot-shaped scar which, the writers said, resembles the map of Zimbabwe, and various incidents in the story metaphorically carry political overtones.
However, Roger felt it would be unfair to pick out three pages out of a book of so many pages and give it such particular weight as the author only concentrated on family relationships.
Tinashe Mushakavanhu however saw Zimbabwean fiction in general as having little or no interaction at all between blacks and whites.
Beatrice Sithole, also present but had not read the book, said the fact that the book stirs such debate could explain why it is being studied at ‘A’ level as a literature set book in Zimbabwe. It having so many layers of meaning makes the novel worthwhile for critical study, she said.
 The discussion was also graced by renowned writer Virginia Phiri and other writers. 'This September Sun' was written by Bryony Rheam and published in 2009 by AmaBooks in Bulawayo. It won Best First Book Prize at the 2010 Zimbabwe Book Publishers Association Awards.

A Conversation with Bryony Rheam



from www.panorama.co.zw


After a heated discussion about Bryony Rheam’s This September Sun at the Spanish Embassy book club in Harare, Panorama Magazine decided to extend the conversation by talking to the author.
This September Sun has been published in Wales (Parthian Books) and Zimbabwe (amaBooks) to critical acclaim. It is currently chosen by the Zimbabwe Examination Council (ZIMSEC) as one of the “A” Level English Literature set texts. Bryony Rheam currently lives in Zambia with her family.
Firstly, what is This September Sun all about?
It is about a young girl growing up in Zimbabwe and her relationship with her grandmother.  The relationship changes over time, but Ellie only moves towards a fuller understanding of Evelyn after the latter’s death.

What amount of research went into the writing of this novel? For instance, I am curious to know what new things you learnt in the process that you were not aware of before you embarked on this project.

I did a fair amount of research into the era of the 1940s.  More than anything, I had to find out what the social norms were – what was acceptable and what was not.  What did people do for entertainment, that sort of thing.  One thing that always amazes me about the past is how efficient some aspects of life seemingly were. 
Now we think we are clever because we can email and send text messages, yet there was a system of doing things then that was in some ways far more efficient – probably because it didn’t depend on electricity or computers!  The post, for example, was highly efficient, sometimes delivering twice a day and many shops would deliver – you could order over the telephone.  Nowadays, with all our technology, we are more than often told “Sorry, I didn’t get your message”.

Your book reads more like a memoir than a work of narrative led fiction. In other words, first novels are often seen as thinly veiled autobiography. How much do your personal experiences come into your fiction?

This is quite a difficult question to answer.  None of the events in the novel are “true” in the sense that they did actually happen exactly as they do in the storyline.  However, there is a lot of myself in the book, in many of the feelings and emotions. 
There are black readers who feel hard done by the fact that black characters in your book are marginal types – maids and gardeners, etc. Are those who read racial connotations in these skewed relations wrong?

I’ll begin to address this question by posing a similar question to those readers:  Would the same be asked of a black writer who either didn’t include white characters or kept them as marginal characters – white farmers, district commissioners and the like?  If a non-white writer set a novel in the UK or the US and didn’t make mention of white characters, would this be seen as racist, or would we say something like: “Oh, well, this novel obviously concerns the main character, who is black and their immediate family who live in an area of the UK with a high non-white population.”

This September Sun does not have a huge cast of characters and the main story revolves around the relationship between a young girl and her grandmother.  It’s not a story about black and white.  Yes, there is the political backdrop of a Zimbabwe going through much change, but at the heart of the story is a very personal relationship.  Why should I need to include x amount of black characters?  That would be political correctness gone mad!

Another point to consider is that at the time that Evelyn is a young woman, she wouldn’t have had much contact with black people except as servants.  It amazes me that no one has picked up on the significance of Samson.  Yes, he may be a cook, but he is an important character in the novel.  Evelyn identifies with him on a personal level.
Mr Patel is another character whom she identifies with.  I think it would have been totally unrealistic of me to have created a friendship between Evelyn and a black character that did not take into account the time she was living in.

I strongly believe Zimbabwean literature is a literature of two halves: black and white. I find that there is a serious disconnect. Black writers write mainly about the black experience. White writers write mainly about the white experience. Can it ever be one or the lines are just blurred and as readers we cannot just see it?

I think that you naturally write about things that are of interest to you and to which you can relate.  I don’t think there should be any pressure for any writer to write to meet some need; writing should be a natural process.  I also think that the strength of a story should be in its ability to appeal to a reader regardless of “the experience” that created it. 
Many people love Charles Dickens although they have never been to England or lived in the Victorian age.  I’ve read about people from all walks of life who absolutely love Enid Blyton and yet one of the criticisms leveled at her is that her work is too parochial: 1930s white middle class.  Do children pick up on this?  No, probably not. 
Surely as readers we identify with a character, whatever their colour or background, otherwise our reading scope would be incredibly limited?
There is now a large output of “white-writing” from Zimbabwe. Could comment on how you situate yourself within it?  I’m thinking of Peter Godwin, Alexandra Fuller and others. 

I really don’t like this term “white writer”.  Why can’t I just be a writer?  I wrote a book and that book is quite different from Peter Godwin’s work as he is a journalist; Alexandra Fuller is too.  I don’t see my work as trying to fit in or be different.  

The question of who belongs to the Zimbabwean nation has been extremely politicised in the last decade or more.  Do you ever feel disqualified or are you made to feel disqualified from writing and representing the Zimbabwean nation because of your ethnic origins (that is the fact that you are white, not black)?

I think the fact that I am asked this question in just about every interview I do shows that the colour of my skin is still an issue – but probably only to academics and interviewers!  I think the average reader probably doesn’t give a toss as long as they have enjoyed what they have read.  I’m sure the colour of my skin does count against me sometimes and I tempted to write something under a pseudonym to see if I get the same questions asked to me if people thought I was black!


Is there any significance to the opening of the book – April 18 is a day that carries a lot of emotional history for most Zimbabweans. What change does it signal?

I suppose this is an example of the influence of the political and private on our lives.  April 18 may have been the day that Zimbabwe got its independence from Britain, but it is also Ellie’s birthday.  As a six-year-old, that is her main concern, yet she is aware of these other changes going on around her, although she does not fully understand their significance.

Your book has since been adopted as an “A” Level text in the Zimbabwean education system. What do you hope these young readers will learn from This September Sun?
I don’t necessarily want anyone to learn anything.  I’d like them to enjoy it.

Do you keep abreast with other Zimbabwean writing and what do you have in common with other Zimbabwean writers?

Ironically, it isn’t always that easy to get hold of African novels in Africa!  I read what comes my way, and I think there is a move to write about things other than war, famine, AIDS, etc. 

- By Tinashe Mushakavanhu.  © Panorama Magazine 2013.

This September Sun was positively reviewed in the April 29, 2013 issue of Publishers Weekly. The complete review is below and is available online via the link.



 


This September Sun
Bryony Rheam.  $14.95 (420p) ISBN 978-1-906998-53-0
Rheam's debut novel follows Ellie, a shy, bookish girl growing up in Zimbabwe while navigating personal and political drama. The novel opens on Ellie's sixth birthday, a momentous day in her life as it marks two events: Zimbabwe 's independence from Britain , and Ellie's grandmother, Evelyn, leaving her grandfather to live on her own. While Ellie's grandfather feared that independence meant "The end was near" for White settlers like themselves in Zimbabwe, Evelyn embraces the changes as a headstrong woman unafraid of her own freedom. Through her adolescence, Ellie grows closer to her grandmother who encourages her to continue her education in England . After Evelyn dies, Ellie returns to Zimbabwe and discovers a series of diaries her grandma kept that reveal an illicit affair she had carried on throughout her marriage. As she uncovers Evelyn's secrets in the diaries, Ellie is forced to reconsider her relationship with her family and also to reexamine how she lives her own life. The lengthy novel feels repetitive at times as we experience events firsthand from Ellie's perspective and then again as reflected upon in Evelyn's diaries. Still, it's the personal moments and conflicts that drive this narrative of family secrets and forgiveness.

This September Sun is distributed in the USA by IPG, the Independent Publishers Group

Monday, May 6, 2013

Book Shy interviews Bryony Rheam

Meet ... Bryony Rheam
 
The 'Meet' Series will be a chance for me to interview anyone I would love to meet that is involved with African literature.

So I absolutely love Zimbabwean literature, and I really, really loved this novel when I read it a few months ago. So I am extremely happy to announce the next person in the series is Bryony Rheam author of This September Sun, published by amaBooks in Zimbabwe and Parthian in the UK. Enjoy!!!

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself (where you’re from, what you do, interests and hobbies, any fun details)
I was born in Kadoma in Zimbabwe and spent my early years moving around the country quite a bit. My dad was in mining and in 1982 we moved to a mine near Bulawayo. I went to school in Bulawayo until I left Zimbabwe in 1993, after completing my A levels. After that I spent some time travelling and working in the UK andthen went back to study there in 1994. When I finally finished university, I worked for a year in Singapore and then returned to Zimbabwe where I worked for the next seven years. My partner and I moved to Zambia in 2008, which is where I currently live.

I have two children who take up most of my time (in a good way!) but of course I enjoy getting some time to myself. I have always loved reading and my idea of a perfect day is to spend it absorbed in a book.

I love anything to do with the 1920s, 30s and 40s. I enjoy collecting old bits of furniture from this period and things like crockery and books. I was certainly born in the wrong age and often wish I could escape into the past, where I believe I live my parallel existence! For exercise, I do yoga which I thoroughly enjoy.

What was the first piece you ever wrote?
If by ‘ever’ you include my childhood, it was probably a story about fairies. I have always wanted to be an author so I used to write quite a bit as a child. When I was about eleven, I wrote a book of short stories about a mischievous dog called Merlin. My first published piece was a children’s story in The Chronicle – a Bulawayo based newspaper when I was about 13. It was about a Warthog named Winston. My first published story as an adult was ‘The Queue’ in Short Writings From Bulawayo in 2003.

What draws you to writing?
I really don’t think I can answer that question! I’ve always been a very shy person and found a way of expressing myself through my writing. People are often surprised that I am the author behind my work. When you are quiet, people often underestimate you.

What do you do when you are not writing?
I am an English teacher, for my sins. I’d love to be a full-time writer.


On Publishing, Being an Author, and African Literature

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
I must say I think I was quite lucky in this regard. I knew Jane Morris and Brian Jones of ‘amaBooks because they had published various short stories of mine. They were quite interested in reading the manuscript of This September Sun and thought it had potential. Finding the finance to publish the book was a consideration though and I am indebted to The Culture Fund of Zimbabwe and the Beit Trust for their assistance.

I have, however, not found it so easy to find a publisher outside of Zimbabwe. South African publishers, in particular, have shown little interest as they seem to want a particular story from Zimbabwe.

As an author, what’s the toughest criticism and best compliment you have received?
I think the worst criticism I have had so far of This September Sun is that it is ‘insular’, focusing on a white, middle class world, instead of mentioning politics in every two sentences. The best compliment came from a woman who came to see me after I had given a talk about the novel in which I had said it wasn’t a true story. She said that for her it would always be a true story and that’s the way she’d like to think of it. I’ve found numerous people very disappointed when they’ve found out it isn’t true!

As a white Zimbabwean author, are there any obstacles or challenges you particularly face in writing about Zimbabwe, or even Africa?
If you are white in Africa, it will always be assumed that you had a privileged upbringing, and because of that, somehow you have no right to write about it. If you write anything that isn’t to do with poverty, AIDS, corruption or racial issues then somehow it is ‘lacking’ and this can only be attributed to the fact that you are white and haven’t suffered enough!

I also think that a certain type of writing is expected from white writers. It used to be the ‘anti-apartheid’novel, usually featuring a white character who gets drawn to a ‘black world’and realises how insular their life has been. At the moment it’s the ‘African memoir’ – my days growing up in Africa and how it made me the person I am. They’re perfectly acceptable; I enjoy reading them myself. The key, however, is that the writer does not live here anymore.
I don’t know why, but the Western publishing world doesn’t seem to like white writers who still live in Africa or who consider it their home.

I am a great lover of African literature, could you suggest a book, new or old, that people should read?
'Things Fall Apart' by Chinua Achebe. I remember when I first read this and when I put it down, I was completely in awe of this writer who had captured a specific turning point in history so well. He revealed how insidious the process of colonisation was and how, for it to work, it must also bring benefits.


On This September Sun

How would you describe your debut novel This September Sun?
I’m not quite sure! It’s not quite a romance or a mystery. Drama?

What inspired you to write This September Sun?


I did my Masters in Postcolonial Writing, a course which I enjoyed very much, but one that also frustrated me. I read a lot of what is termed ‘colonial’ writing – Out of Africa and A Passage to India – and lots of postcolonial stuff, but I never saw ‘myself’ in any of it. White characters were often polarised into ‘good’ (the idealist) or ‘bad’ (the racist/colonial administrator). No one was ‘real’. I began to think about writing a novel and I had already got a few bits and pieces that I had written before I did my Masters. However, I did NOT write the novel to prove a point or anything along those lines. The most important thing to me is a story, not a message!



This September Sun felt so real. I related so much with Ellie’s character, and even Evelyn seemed like she was a real character. Did personal experiences or people you may know inspire the characters in your novel?
I did my Masters in Postcolonial Writing, a course which I enjoyed very much, but one that also frustrated me. I read a lot of what is termed ‘colonial’ writing – Out of Africa and A Passage to India – and lots of postcolonial stuff, but I never saw ‘myself’ in any of it. White characters were often polarised into ‘good’ (the idealist) or ‘bad’ (the racist/colonial administrator). No one was ‘real’. I began to think about writing a novel and I had already got a few bits and pieces that I had written before I did my Masters. However, I did NOT write the novel to prove a point or anything along those lines. The most important thing to me is a story, not a message!





This September Sun also has a very strong historical element, and it gives a great sense of what life in Rhodesia in the 1940s and 50s would have been like. What was it like researching it?
I really enjoyed it! Basically, most people love having someone to talk to, especially about the past. I spoke to a number of elderly people, who were always very willing to chat. Doing that gave me more of a feel for the past than just researching facts. I think most of us have a conventional idea of a time such as the 1940s, and would be quite surprised to hear some of the stories of what went on. Affairs, especially during the War, were very common and many men came home to find that they had children they couldn’t possibly have fathered, but they generally seemed to accept it.

Writing about the past is difficult though. You have to make sure you get all your facts correct, including minor details such as expressions people used that they might not do now and vice versa.

What was your favourite chapter (or part) to write and why?
I really enjoyed writing about Ellie’s time in London, probably because it was so real to me.


On Being a Booklover (Questions I’ve always wanted to ask authors)

What are you reading right now?
Agatha Christie’s autobiography. I’m quite a fan of hers.
Is there any particular author (living or dead) or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult - and why?
I love The Great Gatsby. I love the way it is narrated. I like books where the story is told by one of the characters. I also like Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, again because of the narrative technique and because it is so beautifully written.

Which, novel or character in a novel do you wish you had written?
The Great Gatsby.

Have you ever judged a book by its cover (i.e. bought a book based on its looks)? Which?
I can’t really think of a particular occasion. I tend to know something about the author or the novel before buying it.
Hard copy or e-book? Bookstore or Amazon?
I’m old-fashioned and can quite honestly say that I have never read an e-book. I have used Amazon, but I’d much prefer to be able to walk into a bookstore.

Final Question – I promise
What’s next after This September Sun?
I’ve started writing another novel, but at the moment I have put it on hold in order to finish some short stories which have been bothering me! I need to get them down and finished so that I can carry on with other things.

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions. I really appreciate it. 
Meet ... Bryony Rheam
 
The 'Meet' Series will be a chance for me to interview anyone I would love to meet that is involved with African literature.

So I absolutely love Zimbabwean literature, and I really, really loved this novel when I read it a few months ago. So I am extremely happy to announce the next person in the series is Bryony Rheam author of This September Sun, published by amaBooks in Zimbabwe and Parthian in the UK. Enjoy!!!

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself (where you’re from, what you do, interests and hobbies, any fun details)
I was born in Kadoma in Zimbabwe and spent my early years moving around the country quite a bit. My dad was in mining and in 1982 we moved to a mine near Bulawayo. I went to school in Bulawayo until I left Zimbabwe in 1993, after completing my A levels. After that I spent some time travelling and working in the UK andthen went back to study there in 1994. When I finally finished university, I worked for a year in Singapore and then returned to Zimbabwe where I worked for the next seven years. My partner and I moved to Zambia in 2008, which is where I currently live.

I have two children who take up most of my time (in a good way!) but of course I enjoy getting some time to myself. I have always loved reading and my idea of a perfect day is to spend it absorbed in a book.

I love anything to do with the 1920s, 30s and 40s. I enjoy collecting old bits of furniture from this period and things like crockery and books. I was certainly born in the wrong age and often wish I could escape into the past, where I believe I live my parallel existence! For exercise, I do yoga which I thoroughly enjoy.

What was the first piece you ever wrote?
If by ‘ever’ you include my childhood, it was probably a story about fairies. I have always wanted to be an author so I used to write quite a bit as a child. When I was about eleven, I wrote a book of short stories about a mischievous dog called Merlin. My first published piece was a children’s story in The Chronicle – a Bulawayo based newspaper when I was about 13. It was about a Warthog named Winston. My first published story as an adult was ‘The Queue’ in Short Writings From Bulawayo in 2003.

What draws you to writing?
I really don’t think I can answer that question! I’ve always been a very shy person and found a way of expressing myself through my writing. People are often surprised that I am the author behind my work. When you are quiet, people often underestimate you.

What do you do when you are not writing?
I am an English teacher, for my sins. I’d love to be a full-time writer.


On Publishing, Being an Author, and African Literature

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
I must say I think I was quite lucky in this regard. I knew Jane Morris and Brian Jones of ‘amaBooks because they had published various short stories of mine. They were quite interested in reading the manuscript of This September Sun and thought it had potential. Finding the finance to publish the book was a consideration though and I am indebted to The Culture Fund of Zimbabwe and the Beit Trust for their assistance.

I have, however, not found it so easy to find a publisher outside of Zimbabwe. South African publishers, in particular, have shown little interest as they seem to want a particular story from Zimbabwe.

As an author, what’s the toughest criticism and best compliment you have received?
I think the worst criticism I have had so far of This September Sun is that it is ‘insular’, focusing on a white, middle class world, instead of mentioning politics in every two sentences. The best compliment came from a woman who came to see me after I had given a talk about the novel in which I had said it wasn’t a true story. She said that for her it would always be a true story and that’s the way she’d like to think of it. I’ve found numerous people very disappointed when they’ve found out it isn’t true!

As a white Zimbabwean author, are there any obstacles or challenges you particularly face in writing about Zimbabwe, or even Africa?
If you are white in Africa, it will always be assumed that you had a privileged upbringing, and because of that, somehow you have no right to write about it. If you write anything that isn’t to do with poverty, AIDS, corruption or racial issues then somehow it is ‘lacking’ and this can only be attributed to the fact that you are white and haven’t suffered enough!

I also think that a certain type of writing is expected from white writers. It used to be the ‘anti-apartheid’novel, usually featuring a white character who gets drawn to a ‘black world’and realises how insular their life has been. At the moment it’s the ‘African memoir’ – my days growing up in Africa and how it made me the person I am. They’re perfectly acceptable; I enjoy reading them myself. The key, however, is that the writer does not live here anymore.
I don’t know why, but the Western publishing world doesn’t seem to like white writers who still live in Africa or who consider it their home.

I am a great lover of African literature, could you suggest a book, new or old, that people should read?
'Things Fall Apart' by Chinua Achebe. I remember when I first read this and when I put it down, I was completely in awe of this writer who had captured a specific turning point in history so well. He revealed how insidious the process of colonisation was and how, for it to work, it must also bring benefits.


On This September Sun

How would you describe your debut novel This September Sun?
I’m not quite sure! It’s not quite a romance or a mystery. Drama?

What inspired you to write This September Sun?


I did my Masters in Postcolonial Writing, a course which I enjoyed very much, but one that also frustrated me. I read a lot of what is termed ‘colonial’ writing – Out of Africa and A Passage to India – and lots of postcolonial stuff, but I never saw ‘myself’ in any of it. White characters were often polarised into ‘good’ (the idealist) or ‘bad’ (the racist/colonial administrator). No one was ‘real’. I began to think about writing a novel and I had already got a few bits and pieces that I had written before I did my Masters. However, I did NOT write the novel to prove a point or anything along those lines. The most important thing to me is a story, not a message!



This September Sun felt so real. I related so much with Ellie’s character, and even Evelyn seemed like she was a real character. Did personal experiences or people you may know inspire the characters in your novel?
I did my Masters in Postcolonial Writing, a course which I enjoyed very much, but one that also frustrated me. I read a lot of what is termed ‘colonial’ writing – Out of Africa and A Passage to India – and lots of postcolonial stuff, but I never saw ‘myself’ in any of it. White characters were often polarised into ‘good’ (the idealist) or ‘bad’ (the racist/colonial administrator). No one was ‘real’. I began to think about writing a novel and I had already got a few bits and pieces that I had written before I did my Masters. However, I did NOT write the novel to prove a point or anything along those lines. The most important thing to me is a story, not a message!





This September Sun also has a very strong historical element, and it gives a great sense of what life in Rhodesia in the 1940s and 50s would have been like. What was it like researching it?
I really enjoyed it! Basically, most people love having someone to talk to, especially about the past. I spoke to a number of elderly people, who were always very willing to chat. Doing that gave me more of a feel for the past than just researching facts. I think most of us have a conventional idea of a time such as the 1940s, and would be quite surprised to hear some of the stories of what went on. Affairs, especially during the War, were very common and many men came home to find that they had children they couldn’t possibly have fathered, but they generally seemed to accept it.

Writing about the past is difficult though. You have to make sure you get all your facts correct, including minor details such as expressions people used that they might not do now and vice versa.

What was your favourite chapter (or part) to write and why?
I really enjoyed writing about Ellie’s time in London, probably because it was so real to me.


On Being a Booklover (Questions I’ve always wanted to ask authors)

What are you reading right now?
Agatha Christie’s autobiography. I’m quite a fan of hers.
Is there any particular author (living or dead) or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult - and why?
I love The Great Gatsby. I love the way it is narrated. I like books where the story is told by one of the characters. I also like Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, again because of the narrative technique and because it is so beautifully written.

Which, novel or character in a novel do you wish you had written?
The Great Gatsby.

Have you ever judged a book by its cover (i.e. bought a book based on its looks)? Which?
I can’t really think of a particular occasion. I tend to know something about the author or the novel before buying it.
Hard copy or e-book? Bookstore or Amazon?
I’m old-fashioned and can quite honestly say that I have never read an e-book. I have used Amazon, but I’d much prefer to be able to walk into a bookstore.

Final Question – I promise
What’s next after This September Sun?
I’ve started writing another novel, but at the moment I have put it on hold in order to finish some short stories which have been bothering me! I need to get them down and finished so that I can carry on with other things.

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions. I really appreciate it.