There are many things I love about the diverse country that I live in. The diversity of cultures, people and outlooks on life intrigue me no end, as a creative. I love to people watch simply to see how people interact, the flow of daily interaction. As a benefit of living in a diverse culture we are exposed to learning a second language as part of our school curriculum too. For me it was Afrikaans, as my maternal grandmother was Afrikaans and it was kind of a given that that’s what I would do. So I would read Afrikaans along with English as a child. As an adult though life got in the way and reading was one of the first casualties in the business of everyday life with a young child.
Now that my son is an adult and I have more time I have embraced reading like a long lost lover come back to me. Being able to call authors friend is an added blessing as I am exposed to their writing and I love to support local talent. And make no mistake about it, talent abounds not only in my circle of friends and acquaintances but through this beautiful South Africa I call home.
I’d love to introduce you to the talented and utterly delightful Malene Breytenbach who has graciously agreed to answer my questions. This South African native shares my love of romance and entertains us with her Afrikaans novels. She also has one novel in English. Here she gives us insight into her writing life.
1. When did you first start writing?
I studied Hons Journalism in 1989 and subsequently wrote articles for newspapers and stories for magazines, but my first romance was published in 2005.
2. What’s the story behind your latest book?
My latest published book is Vlug na Santorini about a girl who flees to the fabulous Greek island of Santorini to get away from an abusive boyfriend, then she meets a Greek billionaire, the love of her life.
3. What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
It is a triumph to actually see the fruit of one’s pen in print, but it is also a creative act that gives one great satisfaction and a sense of achievement, despite being hard work.
4. What are you working on next?
I will be starting a new medical romance in the new year. I have already worked out some characters and done some research.
5. Who are your favourite authors?
Philippa Gregory, Margaret Atwood, Ingrid Winterbach, Peter Godwin, Alexandra Fuller, Jane Austen, Peter Scott, Leo Tolstoy, etc, etc, So many really. I read a lot.
6. What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Having a purpose, to get to my computer and write. It requires 50% discipline and 50% inspiration. A story would mostly be brewing in my head and I have to write it.
7. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Read a lot, watch a lot of YouTube that includes history, films, biography. Socialise. I don’t sew, knit or bake.
8. What is your writing process?
I usually start by nine in the morning, write until lunchtime, with a break or two in between that usually includes going to the kitchen, putting on the kettle or opening the fridge. I break for lunch any length of time, no longer than an hour and work again for 2 or so hours. I stop as soon as I think I’m becoming stale or I’m tired. I seldom write over weekends, although I can’t stop myself sometimes.
9. What do you read for pleasure?
Anything. I’m an avid reader.
10. Describe your desk.
L-shaped. On one side dictionary/dictionaries, stationery, notebooks, phone, printer, on the other side computer, mouse with pad, big screen, water carafe and glass, D-link router. Plus various other items that make it look cluttered.
11. Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I can’t think of one specific story. All the Enid Blyton books were wonderful. I think I read the whole lot.
12. Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up first in Zimbabwe, then Rhodesia, went to English schools and only read English books. Then we emigrated to South Africa (Pretoria) where I went to an Afrikaans school and started reading Afrikaans books as well. We were encouraged to read and so I did. I was always good at writing essays. Reading a lot does teach one to write, I think. (My Zimbabwe background caused me to write a novel about the country (Yesterday is a Lost Country) and two short stories about Zim in anthologies.)
13. What are your five favourite books, and why?
- · War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. I love history and that Russian scene was fabulous.
- · Mukiwaby Peter Godwin, the story of his childhood in Rhodesia, to which I can relate.
- · Out of Africa by Karen Blixen. A wonderful story about her life and loves in Kenya.
- · Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Feisty heroine and the delicious Mr Darcy.
- · Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Another feisty heroine, Scarlett O’Hara, and her life and loves in the American Civil War. History and romance, the best.
14. Where do you draw inspiration from?
Sometimes one reads something, news, history, another writer’s work and snap! You get an idea. Or the ideas percolate in the subconscious and voila! One day it pops out when you are lying in the bed or bath. Where did it come from? I’m usually amazed myself.
15. What is your perfect day like?
Going to a beautiful place and having a wonderful lunch with beloved, intelligent company. I could say a day when the ideas flow so well that you just rush to write it all down, but I would be lying. That’s only about 50% perfect.
Thank you Malene for sharing with us. It’s lovely to get to know you better.