As an avid supporter of local authors, today I am allowed my indulgent pie. I am a huge fan of Henrietta Rose-Innes, award-winning writer, lecturer and reviewer. Let’s welcome Henrietta to the table, offering the most gorgeous of pies!
1) Where is your favourite place to write?
I work at home, in my study in my house in Observatory, Cape Town, in the middle of a distressing blizzard of notes and manuscripts and bills. I close the curtain to shut out my rather noisy road. I occasionally take my laptop out for sushi.
2) Nineveh was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Lit awards, Short Story Poison won the Caine Prize in 2008 and Shark's Egg was shortlised for the MNET Lit Awards. How do you know when your story is GREAT?
I don’t think I’ve had that experience! Writing is never finished, but I can tell when I’m done with a story. It's when the anxiety of sending the thing off to a publisher / editor / competition seems less than the stress of continuing to write it.
3) How old were you when you first started writing? and what was it?
The first time I composed something entirely for myself, unprompted, was when I was about 11, while hitting a tennis ball repeatedly (and no doubt very annoyingly) against my parents’ garage door. It was a poem about seagulls contemplating a plane crash, which seemed very profound at the time.
4) What is the one book that 'changed' your life?
One of my first early-reader books was a collection of fairy-tales that included the story of the Hobyahs and Little Dog Turpie – who basically gets chopped up by his owners, the Little Old Man and the Little Old Woman. There were illustrations. That book taught me to read, but it also gave me images of a disarticulated pet that I will never get out of my head.
5) Do you have any favourite author's? who are they?
I always try to dodge this question - any list seems inadequate. I can tell you what I'm enjoying reading right now, though. I’ve just started Peter Stamm’s novel Seven Years. I’ve been hearing great things about this German author, and so far the book is coolly compelling. An excellent translation by Michael Hoffmann, too, which makes all the difference. On a completely different note, I, like so many others, am addicted to George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire and not quite sure what I’m going to do when I run out of books in the series. I’ve also had the privilege of reading Rachel Zadok’s new novel, out next year, in manuscript. It’s intense and haunting and wonderful.
There's an out-of-control swarm of insects hampering the completion of Nineveh, a luxury estate outside Cape Town. When Katya Grubbs, proprietor of Painless Pest Relocations, is called in, she discovers far more to exorcise than the mysterious infestation. Her own past returns to torment her in the form of her unruly father and the chaos he creates. With Nineveh crumbling around her, Katya is forced to question her own place in a rapidly changing world. This third novel by the award-winning Rose-Innes confirms her reputation as one of South Africa's most noteworthy literary voices.
A wife lies to her husband, seeking refuge from her dowdy life in the plush hotel that overlooks their home. A man ascends the glass-topped dome of a mall in search of a lost childhood memory. History comes to life for a young boy trapped in the city library. An elderly woman nurses a football star back to health …
In these evocative and exquisitely crafted short stories, Henrietta Rose-Innes gives us an extraordinary glimpse into a selection of ordinary lives. Diverse characters – a teenager learning to be a boyfriend, an ageing copywriter, a girl on the brink of womanhood – are animated in sparse, sparkling prose. The Cape Town they mostly inhabit is both a playground and an obstacle course, filled with menace and delight. Through this landscape, like the pigeons in the title story, they find new paths home – and are themselves transformed by the journey
The discovery of two small children hiding in a cave in the remote Cederberg mountains sets in motion this story of memory, loss, love and reclamation. Brought to live in the city, silent Flin remains an untamed spirit and longs always for the wilderness; while Jean is haunted into adulthood by the voice of his vanished brother. Twelve years later, Ivy catalogues a dusty archaeological collection: her beloved grandmother’s legacy. A trail of the lost artefacts leads Ivy back to the mountains, with their secrets, their hidden paintings and their unearthly light. And to Jean.
A dark coming-of-age story set in Cape Town, Shark's Egg tells the story of Anna's schoolgirl friendship with the magnetic, destructive Leah, and their ambiguous adult relationship. Alan, Anna's first lover, becomes the focus of a moral and sexual struggle between them as adults - played out against the menacing backdrop of the sea.
You can find Henrietta’s books at your nearest Exclusive Books...
You can find other Author's Pie segments here