7 August 2009
For me, the realisation that I was a novelist first crept in to my mind at the Franschhoek Literary Festival.
Helen had run off to see a panel, it might have been Vikas Swarup, and I was waiting patiently in the Green Room for her return. My eyes widened at the entrance of Max du Preez and I immediately set upon him, plying him with questions. To my utter horror, he asked me about my own vocation, and I timidly told him about my first book, and the forthcoming publication of my second novel, Fuse. He then asked my age, and to my great astonishment, he was impressed.
Half an hour later I was seated at a table with Max, Zubeida Jaffer and Finuela Dowling eating blueberry pancakes. The Festival was filled with moments like these: listening to Helen recite her poetry, trudging through the wet streets on our way back to the guesthouse, sipping French champagne with Sindiwe Magona and Lebo Mashile… I didn’t get to speak on any of the panels but I took solace in the fact that I belonged in this field with these giants. This was a lifelong dream come true for me.
At the Cape Town Book Fair I ran into Max Du Preez again and gleefully showed him the cover of Fuse. He remembered me and I skipped away, feeling slightly light-headed. The NB stand was filled with advanced copies of my book, and there were posters advertising it everywhere. This added a sense of excitement to the small launch I had at the Dalro Forum. I spotted a few familiar faces in the crowd – Helen, Sarah, Karen. Everyone I’ve met has been so wonderful since I published The Goblet Club in 2007. I always enjoy the Cape Town Book Fair, even before I was able to participate as a writer. It’s almost as if I’m part of some secret club. I remember smiling at Zubeida as she was walking down an aisle and thinking to myself, “I wonder how many of the South African writers do the visitors actually recognise when they walk past them in the aisles?”
Finally, there was the official launch of Fuse, and as usual I was terrified to say the least. Would anyone come? Will readers like the book? I was thoroughly taken aback by the turnout. The Book Lounge was filled with friends, family, writers, strangers, publishers, old school teachers, people I met on Twitter… it took me ages to get around to everyone and I apologise if I didn’t. It was crazy. Derick, who I shared a launch with in 2007, was simply amazing. He was the perfect musician, his voice acting like a magnet to bring the crowds inside. After his stellar performance, Hunter Kennedy from Fokofpolisiekar and I chatted about the novel, about the state of the media in South Africa and about why kids are driven to crime. Hunter really identified with the character of Kenny, and I feel so fortunate that my book has had such an affect on those who have read it. The feedback I have received so far has been so favourable and I’m so grateful for that.
Hopefully the road will continue in this vein and since I’m still writing I hope the road will be a long one