July 8 2009
Some snippets from my interview with Hunter Kennedy from the launch of Fuse last night.
The original name for the novel was going to be Kaboom, after the Marilyn Manson song of the same name. I wanted a direct reference to the controversial singer but at the last minute decided to change it. I still managed to sneak a reference to him in the book, but you’ll have to read it to find it.
The shortlist of titles for the new name was Fuse, Toy Soldiers, When We Were Angels and Brother’s Keeper. In the end, Fuse won.
The character Kendall was originally going to be called William, but I decided to use the name in another book instead.
Fuse almost wasn’t my second novel. I wrote something entirely different, but after the Morne Harmse incident, the book literally wrote itself.
Many of the characters are named after people I know. Baumgarten, Agliotti, Hawkins – these are surnames of people I know personally. You can say its my way of getting friends to read my books. Sneaky.
The scene with the gun and the boomslang was tricky. I wanted to find a way to maintain the innonence of the character involved, but at the same time make it exciting and gritty. Considering the reactions I have been getting I think it worked.
Creating believable characters isn’t really that hard. For me, the characters are the easy part because they exist from the beginning, and my job is to simply shape the novel around them.
Let me use Kendall as an example. I was renting a small cottage in Harfield Village when he popped into my mind, fully formed. Anything might have incited his arrival, a black-clad youth walking down the road, a sad kid sitting at the train station dreading going to school, a couple of goth kids in Long Street pretending the rest of the world didn’t exist – it could have been one of them, it could have been all of them. It could have been someone I knew long ago who moved away and fell out of touch.
I was walking home from the train station when the character was born. He wasn’t Kendall then, but a nameless teenager with black painted nails, and worn clothes, long unruly hair and a hidden smile that only came out on the rarest of occasions. I had to write a book about him.
The book began as a diary. His name was William, and he was bitterly unhappy at school and at home, looking for a way out. Music was his only consolation. I toyed with the idea of him finding happiness as a musician in the end. But something didn’t sit right. The book didn’t flow. The pace was wrong, the whole story was wrong. I stopped writing and forgot about it for a while. My notebook gathered dust.
When Morne Harmse committed the unthinkable in Krugersdorp, I remembered my story but didn’t put pen to paper until the media began their campaign of ignorance. Then I started writing again with a vengeance.
I changed from first person to third. I changed William’s name to Kendall, giving him a family and a brother whose personality was as different to his own as a dog’s is to a polar bear. I also added a third character, Craig, to act as a catalyst. You know when a story is right and when it isn’t. Only when I added Justin and Craig to the story was the character of Kendall able to shine. Then they all came alive.
As for dialogue, I don’t spend my days following teenagers around with a notebook, writing down everything they say. I just imagine the conversations Kendall and Justin would have on their way home from school. It’s natural, like playing pretend as a child. You just do it.
Writing is easy if you love it. Its fun if its not a chore. If you think of your characters as people then that’s how they will come across on paper.
It works for me.