It's a new month, and so arrives a new pie out of the oven. The wafting, silky smell of baking pastry, dolloped with cream on a stark white plate, drizzled lightly with dark chocolate sauce. Oh, goodness, now I have myself salavating at the thought. Welcome to this month's Author's Pie! Rahla Xenopoulos is a Capetonian writer, mother of triplets, and board member of the Say-Yes charity.
1) In the process of writing your first book A Memoir of Love and Madness, what was the one lesson you took away from it?
I learned that for me, writing is about telling the truth; in my heart, on the page and in the story. You can't bullshit a reader; if you try the book become's superficial. So, writing my memoir wasn't always very comfortable but it was a journey in authenticity.
2) Bubbles is a book that unravels the past, what did you enjoy most about writing it?
I loved exactly that, journeying into the past; the clothes, music and post war Joburg. I loved the eerie feeling that I had a dead person inhabiting my brain, vividly guiding aspects of my story. And, I enjoyed the obsessive research it took to find and tell the truth!
3) What is the one quirk you have when writing?
I usually like to write in my pyjamas with fresh flowers on my desk. But I always light a candle on my desk when I start writing.
4) A mother of triplets, how do you find the time to write? What is your secret?
There's a sign on my door that reads, "Please do not open unless house is on fire or children are in trouble or house is on fire." oddly, that door is always open! It's supposed to be that while the shorts are at school in the morning I write in solitude for three hours. Then shower, go to yoga, come home, return emails & catch another hour or so before they return. In reality, I wake up, reluctantly. Talk on the phone. Wonder about the house in my pyjamas. Fail to answer my emails. Write the possibility of a paragraph. Play with the shorts. At bed time I shower and take off my pyjamas.
5) Are you working on something new?
I'm working on a novel. It's about a gang of best friends. They haven't seen one another since their last big blow out which was at Glastonbury 2002. They've all grown up, built new homes and families around the world when, one of them, Jude survives a terrible suicide attempt and the other's decide that the only way he'll survive is if the gang step in and bring him back to life. So they arrange a reunion on a luxury game farm in Africa. Eleven years have passed, they're different people, but they're depended on their love for one-another to keep Jude alive. The question is, is love enough?
In 1992, Rahla Xenopoulos was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Despite the devastating diagnosis, she sought education on her affliction. Although she found an abundance of literature on various mental illnesses, none of it seemed applicable to her. This situation inspired her to write a book chronicling her ongoing efforts to come to terms with a disease that is, in effect, a life sentence. The book recounts her upbringing in an eccentric, loving Jewish family, her struggle with bulimia, anorexia and self-mutilation, her attempts at suicide, finding true love and, finally, the ‘crazy, utterly unpredictable experience of giving birth to triplets’. This is neither a self-help book nor a medical guide. Reading this book will not cure anyone; bipolar disorder is a chronic illness. But it did help Rahla – as it will countless others – ‘to understand the rhythm in the cacophony of this condition’.
On a winter’s morning in 1949, in an empty field north of the city of Johannesburg, the lifeless body of a beautiful young girl was found by a passer by. She was identified as Bubbles Schroeder, 18, and she appeared to have been strangled. This is her story. Born in the poorer part of the small town of Lichtenburg, Bubbles grows up with a bitter mother who takes in laundry to make ends meet and a dull-witted aunt. She has never known her father. Bubbles dreams of a better life for herself and she constructs an alluring fantasy world, a world of furs and jewels and Chanel No 5, where handsome men whirl her around a dance floor and send her roses. At 16 she moves to Vereeniging to work in a coal agency and is befriended by the sophisticated Winifred Walker. Winnie teaches Bubbles some social graces, giving her a veneer of sophistication, and, most importantly, she introduces her to erotic love.