Friday, October 5, 2012

Author's Pie: Diane Awerbuck


Summer is upon us (in Johannesburg, at least) and so today's pie has a light, fluffy crust and pungent, ruby red strawberry filling.  So sit back, grab a piece of the pie and let's meet Diane Awerbuck.  Award-winning author, whose book Gardening at Night,  was awarded the Commonwealth Best First Book Award (Africa and the Caribbean) and was shortlisted for the International Dublin IMPAC Award.  She is a teacher of Narrative and Aesthetics, History, and English.

Thank you Diane for joining us on Author's Pie!

1. Your novel and short stories all carry echoes of growth. Do you grow with your character as you write the story? 
Characters can surprise their writers, I think. You start out with a glimpse of what someone looks like, or what they say - and then, if you're me, things take a screaming turn for the macabre and the characters find themselves stuck at the top of a fence or taken hostage in a library. They grow in the sense that they find out something about themselves they didn't know before. This is the essence of character development in writing - life, condensed. (Although, bear in mind that one of the rules on "Seinfeld" was: No learning; no hugging.)

2. Do you have any characters you hate to write?

No. Writing is just about the only place in your life you have control over what happens, and to whom. The only time I hate them is when their dialogue sounds klunky, posturing or plain unbelievable - the only really unforgivable sin.

3. What (fiction/non fiction/young adult) do you read in your spare time?

I review books, so reading has become quite fraught for me. For pure pleasure I read Ian McEwan, Stephen King, Bill Bryson's non-fiction. There's some good stuff coming out of South Africa, too. Thando Mgqolozana's Hear Me Alone is bloody brilliant. Finuala Dowling's Home-making for theDown-at-Heart is as near perfect as a novel gets. And I am DYING to read Lauren Beukes's new one, The Shining Girls, although I know I'll have terrible envy all the way through.

4. Who is your favourite character of all time?

I'm pretty fickle as a reader. When I was little I thought Scarlett O'Hara was the be-all and end-all. Anyone with a sword got my vote. I still like young characters like Neil Gaiman's protagonists, or Ray Bradbury's boys in Something Wicked This Way Comes: the sort of person who would never really exist.

5. Are you working on any new novels/short stories?

I've just finished Home Remedies, a novel out in September. I'd been looking for a place where Satanists, retirees, frogs, Saartjie Baartman and Mommy-mommy jokes could happily co-exist. Who knew it would be Fish Hoek??
Diane's Books
Joanna Renfield's life at The Fish Hoek Valley Museum of Natural History gets complicated when DNA testing links the museum's only claim to fame - a twelve thousand-year-old skeleton nicknamed Fish Hoek Man - with Saartjie Baartman. The media goes wild, the museum has a makeover, and Joanna gets a new Struggle veteran boss. She is here to teach Joanna a lesson - only it's not the one either expects.

Violence and tragedy lurk in this seaside town, and when Joanna's world is shaken to its core, it is up to her to find her own brand of muti. But how much of history is chance? And when does revenge become insanity?

Slipping down a rabbit hole at a costume party like Alice, feeling zero gravity like a spaceman kissing a fellow alien, or drawing blood in the library ... These short stories portray a reality that is often brutal, and probethe notion of personal responsibility? when should you intervene? Here is the lost history of the Observatory Library Lady; a swimming lesson for some Kimberley wedding guests; the secret tunnel beneath Beach Road in Sea Point. Part myth, part memoir, Cabin Fever details other people's dreams and terrors, and how they merge with ours.

Gardening at Night follows the unfolding of a young girl's life through a childhood filled with silences, through adolescence and young womanhood. It is about how much people are the total of their longings, how high drama can also be low comedy. It probes how much of the old century a girl should take with her into the new one, and examines the merging of families in the Eighties and their emerging into the florescence of the Nineties and beyond. It is especially the story of a girl's escape from a ghost town. The South African mining town of Kimberley was created over a hundred years ago when men with buckets scraped out the insides of the earth like a thousand black dentists. Now it is a place where the only tales are those of leaving.


See more Author's Pie Segments here

Till next time! Happy Pie Eating!



Jade O, South Africa said...

I was taught by Diane Awerbuck, a true inspiration. Now I build libraries for under- privileged children all over South Africa. Jade Orgill

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