I’m not quite sure how many days it’s been. Many. More than a year for sure. The country isn’t under strict lockdown anymore, but with so many falling ill and vaccines still a way away,… More
Last year I wrote a blog to end off a very difficult year. My father passed away in August and I left a good job to deal with it. It took me a long time to get back to a place where I felt happy and fulfilled, plus I had a new book coming out to look forward to. But as you know, 2020 happened and with it came an avalanche of disasters: a global pandemic, lockdown, cancelled book launches and tours, all culminating in the death of my mother, a year after my father.
It was a nightmare year. And yet somehow, I survived. You’re probably thinking that the year isn’t over yet, and it’s true that Cape Town is seeing a resurgence of COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions. We’ve learned to live cautiously – avoiding crowded places, ordering in our groceries, wearing a mask when we do venture outside, and always, always washing our hands. And of course, staying home as much as possible.
I’m not going to lie, being home has helped me tremendously. Life doesn’t feel like it’s racing ahead at lightning speed. It’s quiet and peaceful, and long days in front of the computer are interspersed with comforting coffee breaks in the garden. I have more time to read and write, without compromising a second of my work day. And without the daily joyless commute, I can get enough sleep and think and reflect. And clean the house.
This bubble of solitude did come at a price. I couldn’t go out and market my new book as I normally would have, and almost all launches and festivals were cancelled out of safety. Yet despite this, there were some sales, which I’m very grateful for. I’m also grateful for the time to grieve for my mother, which like the dreaded second wave, hasn’t hit properly yet.
Some good things that happened this year:
- Sea Star Summer made the Exclusive Books Homebru list
- The Outcast Hours anthology was nominated for a World Fantasy Award
- I made some new friends on Instagram
- The Harley Quinn movie came out
- I saw the cover of a secret project I’m sworn not to talk about
- I have another book coming out next year and a few short stories for kids
- The old family cat Hannibal came to live with us
- We started growing our own food
- I learned how to bake bread! See below.
It seemed like only a few weeks ago that I was laying out my resolutions and hopes for the coming year. I think it’s better to not do that yet, and let whatever is meant to happen do it’s thing. As I said, the year isn’t over it.
The future may look a little foggy right now, but there are some rays of light visible. I’m writing again, and loving it. And the garden is looking beautiful. But most importantly, I’ve learned to find joy where I can, and enjoy the moment. Pretty much like Hannibal does.
What’s keeping the smile on your face in these uncertain times?
It’s been an insane year, most of it spent under strict lockdown conditions. Local businesses took a huge knock with many small enterprises only managing to hold on.
The local book industry was one of the many sectors hit. If you look past the bigger publishing houses and chain bookstores you’ll see a wide network of independent bookshops, small publishers, authors, freelance designers, editors and proofreaders, and bright young people just starting out their career.
It’s a sector characterised by passionate, creative, and visionary people who devote their lives to promoting local literature and artists.
So now that restrictions have been lifted and everyone is readying for a safe and sunny festive season, please consider spending your spare Rands and cents (if you can) on helping the small businesses who keep the industry alive.
Here are a couple of ways you can help.
Support a Small Publisher
South Africa is pulsing with small presses doing exciting things. What makes these businesses even more special is that they are run by some truly amazing people who really care about growing South African talent.
Here are a few, off the top of my head. Let me know if I missed anyone.
Visit an Indie Bookstore
In every city across the country you’ll find an independent bookstore that not only puts local titles in pride of place, but are great places to just hang out and browse.
Pop me a message if you’d like to see your favourite bookshop listed.
Donate to a Great Initiative
The local book industry has its fair share of heroes doing amazing work.
Book Dash pulls together some of the country’s brightest creative talent to produce stunning illustrated children’s books. You can download every single book for free, but you can also purchase them at selected outlets. Donate to this incredible project here.
Short Story Day Africa is an organisation dedicated to promoting African fiction. Every year the project runs a short story competition that results in an award-winning anthology of stories by writers from across the continent. Many have gone on to achieve great acclaim. You can help SSDA continue their great work by donating here.
Buy a Book by a Local Author
For South African writers, it was a terrible year to release a book. For safety reasons all events, launches and tours were cancelled, and all promotion had to take place online. Getting the word out is crucial for sales, and providing a much-needed income to everyone involved.
Here is a small selection of some local titles published this year that I’m looking forward to reading (including a sneaky plug of my own book. Shhh.)
Again, this is not an exhaustive list. You can also visit your local bookstore for their favourite recommendations.
A Family Affair – Sue Nyathi
An engrossing look at a family with their fair share of secrets.
Paradise in Gaza – Niq Mhlongo
A city man returns to his village for what he hopes is a short visit… until his son disappears.
Critical but Stable – Angela Makholwa
An elite club full of rich, glitzy couples – all with their own secrets and motives.
The Fall – Jen Thorpe
A diverse cast of characters, high stakes, an alternative Cape Town and the very future at stake.
The Gospel According to Wanda B. Lazarus – Lynn Joffe
What if … the Wandering Jew … was a woman? This book comes recommended by Stephen Fry!
Mermaid Fillet – Mia Arderne
Magical realism meets crime noir in this colorfully re-imagined Cape Town. I can’t wait to read this one.
Charlotte – Helen Moffett (I LOVED this one. Read my review here.)
A look at what happened to Charlotte Lucas after she married Mr. Collins.
Death and the After Parties – Joanne Hichens
A memoir about grief and friendship, by one of South Africa’s most loved crime writers.
Brandejaer – Joha van Dyke
A young surfer with secrets, a girl who wants to unravel them.
Wêreld van wolwe 1 – Fanie Viljoen
Book one in a new fantasy series set in a small town where werewolves are real.
Sea Star Summer – Sally Partridge
A holiday love story set in one of South Africa’s most beautiful beach destinations.
If you’re still reading, thanks for your time. I hope you’ll consider a local gift this year. You’re sure to end up on Santa’s Nice List if you do, and even if you’ve outgrown the jolly old man, you’re definitely putting a smile on someone’s face.
I am beyond thrilled to announce that my seventh novel, The Girl Who Chased Otters, is going to be published by Modjaji Books in 2021.
The book was originally published in Germany by CBJ, an imprint of Random House in 2016. The book is still available on Amazon if you want to read it in German.
Here’s a little more about what to expect.
One thing that’s become apparent to me on social media is that lockdown has affected us all differently, especially our sleeping and reading habits. I’ve been home for more than half a year now and I’ve only just started enjoying reading books again. In the first few months, all I wanted to do was watch Netflix and read graphic novels. I must have read hundreds of them (my poor credit card will vouch for that.) I think it was the nagging anxiety caused by the spreading virus – I didn’t want my attention drawn away for too long.
I have finally found my reading groove again, which I’m sure my new friends on Instagram were partly responsible for.
So here is a roundup of some of my lockdown reads so far.
Sea Star Summer has been out in the world for five months. It had a bit of a delayed start due to the pandemic. Books weren’t able to leave the warehouse before lockdown, and review copies were locked away in an office while everyone worked from home. But we got them out in the end, and books soon made their way to readers.
Here is a roundup of all the reviews and press coverage I could find so far.
So this morning I found out that The Outcast Hours, edited by Mahvesh Murad & Jared Shurin, is up for a World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology.
The brilliant collection was published by Solaris last year and features stories by authors from across the globe, including myself and fellow South Africans S.L. Grey, Lauren Beukes, Dale Halvorsen, and Sam Beckbessinger.
It’s giveaway time!
I had to wait for my giveaway copies and bookmarks to be rescued from a locked office, but they’ve finally arrived!
I am giving away a copy of my brand new book, Sea Star Summer. If you love romance, roadtrips, the beach, and dreamy South African coastal towns, then this might be your next read.
I woke up this morning to some amazing news. My new book, Sea Star Summer, has made the Exclusive Books HomeBru list!
It’s winter and it’s cold and there’s a pandemic raging. If you, like me, would rather stay inside and nest underneath a fort of fluffy blankets, it helps to be entertained.
I have been stocking up on ebooks and more recently, placing orders for the paperbacks I just have to own. (I just finished My Dark Vanessa and wow – just wow). I also have a book that just came out, but it feels wrong to promote it without mentioning the other amazing local YA titles available to read. Besides, who buys just one book?
So here is a list of South African YA fiction that you can read right this very minute and a few you should definitely pre-order.
My new book, Sea Star Summer, which was published in April, had to go into lockdown with the rest of us. The good news is that copies are finally making their way to stores and orders are being shipped.