Thursday, July 25, 2013
TZ: First of all, describe your book.
NM: Game for Anything is my first book, and it covers the first ten years of my life adjusting to life in the bush, first in Botswana, then later in the Kruger National Park, South Africa. It is a positive, happy book--because that is how I feel about nature. It also contains a fair amount of humor and a few sad moments because life and nature are like that.
TZ: What inspired you to write the book?
NM; I was inspired by Kobie Kruger, Game Ranger's wife and author of Mahlangeni and All Things Wild and Wonderful. She was a neighbor of mine at one stage in the Kruger Park, and also judged a short story competition that I had entered. She encouraged me to write a book, and when I suggested that I might not have a story in me, she laughed and told me that all I needed to do was keep a diary and the book would write itself. She was right, and I was too busy living to take the time to write it all down, and it took another ten years before I finally got around to doing it.
TZ: Im intrigued by what you were doing before you went to Africa and what made you decide to go. Your synopsis on Amazon mentions a bet. Really?
NM: I have always lived in Africa, but in towns; my dad was a banker. After two years of studying in Durban, I dropped out and took a job at a hotel which was originally the film set of the movie Shaka Zulu. It was around that time that an old friend took a bet with me that I would leave that job and go and work with him in Botswana within three months. I laughed it off, but lost. I did end up joining him in Botswana, with no telephone contact with my family--cellphones hadn't reached South Africa yet. Ultimately I think my parents were a lot braver than me. It was for me a life changing experience, and I have never looked back.
TZ: What was the hardest part of adjusting to such a radical cultural change? Did you ever consider giving up?
NM; It was a pretty radical lifestyle change, and yes, even though I am a born and bred South African, a fairly big cultural change. I think some of the first things I missed--other than my family, of course-- included not being able to get my hands on books, newspapers or magazines and having no radio or television. I'll admit to wishing for a trip to the hairdresser once in a while, and it really felt odd to go from perpetually wearing high heeled shoes to flatties--I can't explain why it was such a profound change, but to this day I feel like I'm dressing up as someone else. Probably one of the most difficult adjustments involved understanding the very different relationships involved in a patriarchal society and women in the rural African areas clearly still have great obstacles to overcome--that is, if they want to overcome them--that's often the surprising part. I am still learning every day, and have another book planned about exactly that. I can't tell you how often I have applied my way of thinking to situations only to be stunned by how inappropriate some western solutions are to African problems. Giving up was never an option. I feel in love with the bush immediately and would have done almost anything to stay.
TZ: How did you meet your husband? Did he have any input into the book?
NM: I met my husband at, of all places, a golf club in northern KwaZulu Natal, at the time I was staying with my parents and desperately trying to get a work permit to return to Botswana, after having had to flee the country because of my illegal status there. It's quite funny really to think that I was so happy to meet a man who shared my passion for the bush. Usually it's the other way around--with men living in the bush hoping to find a woman who is "convertible." He had a lot of input into the book--in that I was married to him for seven of the ten years that I wrote about, and he prodded and nagged me into finally sitting down. He is my soulmate.
TZ: What's your favorite part of the book?
NM: That's a good question, because it's akin to asking me what my favorite part of my life has been. Can I saw all of it? I think I enjoy the fact that despite not trying to be funny, people keep telling me how much they laughed when they read the book, because it means that they also see and enjoy the humor in everyday situations.
TZ: What has been the response to the book?
NM; The response has been great. When I first started out, I did a short print run of 500, then a second one of 1000 and it's been selling steadily as an ebook as well. I've had some fabulous publicity which has really helped, and it's been really satisfying. People are so genuinely interested that they have gone to the effort of looking me up on Facebook or email and writing to me. It is great that people I've never met are so enthusiastic about it. I think though that there is a strong link between people who are passionate about nature, and Africa in particular. Despite being self-published, Game for Anything has been accepted by a distributor and at the major bookstores in South Africa. The marketing and distribution company, Blue Weaver, even took it to the London Book Fair.
TZ: Tell about your writing background.
NM; I've always loved writing, mostly short articles, press releases and academic essays, and achieved best at it at school, college and university. I love reading, too. I think it comes from my mother, who is very articulate and creative--now there's someone who should write a book. I have been encouraged often by teachers and professors. My university English professor told me in a note when she retired that every professor has one student that comes along and makes their career worthwhile, and I was hers. This was high praise indeed, and really encouraged me to take it more seriously.
TZ: Any advice for writers, particularly memoir writers?
NM: Probably the most important thing I learned was to show not tell. I think I was inclined initially to over-explain things instead of leaving my reader to use his or her own imagination. I was so worried that the reader might not get it, but people are intelligent and need to have the freedom to draw their own conclusions. It took some discipline (and courage) to rein this in, and allow people to judge for themselves. I wish I'd known it right from the start. I had to go back and do a lot of editing. Now that I'm halfway through my second book, I feel that it comes naturally and I won't have to do so much editing this time.
TZ: What's your next writing project?
NM; I am busy with the sequel to Game for Anything, and am having such fun writing it.
TZ: Where is your book available?
NM: It is available on Amazon.com, both as a paperback and an ebook, as well as Amazon in Europe. In South Africa it's available through most of the major bookstores as well as through Kalahari.net.