Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Bianca Marais Author Interview


Photo Content from Bianca Marais

Bianca Marais is the author of the beloved Hum If You Don't Know the Words and If You Want to Make God Laugh. She holds a certificate in creative writing from the University of Toronto's School of Continuing Studies, where she now teaches creative writing. Before turning to writing, she started a corporate training company and volunteered with Cotlands, where she assisted care workers in Soweto ​with providing aid for HIV/AIDS orphans.

She runs the Eunice Ngogodo Own Voices Initiative to empower young black women in Africa
to write and publish their own stories. Originally from South Africa, she now resides in Toronto with her husband.

        
  


Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I had a reader who loved my first novel, ‘Hum If You Don’t Know the Words’ and who was then diagnosed with cancer. When it looked like she wasn’t going to be able to conquer it, she reached out and asked if there was any chance she could read ‘If You Want to Make God Laugh’ months ahead of publication. I got her an advance copy and it was the last book she read before she passed away. I was told it meant a lot to her and I can tell you, it meant the world to me.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
It helps us live so many lives that we could never live, have experiences we’d normally never have and it connects us to one another. It both takes us away from every day life and anchors us in it. For me, it’s an essential as food and water.

What were your inspirations for the character development?
I spent a lot of time in South African squatter camps in the 2000s and met so many women there. Zodwa was a composite of those resourceful and resilient young women. Ruth was very loosely based on an ex-stripper in South Africa who was famous in the 1970s, but the rest of her was taken from people I’ve personally known. And Delilah was inspired by all the women I know who have survived sexual assault.

Do you believe a book cover plays an important role in the selling process?
Absolutely! I know that I’m very drawn to book covers and will often judge a book based on the cover. LOL. This is why writers don’t get to choose their book covers because the experts in sales and marketing at the publisher know the demographic they’re targeting and what will appeal to them. I’ve been very lucky that I loved both of my book covers!

In your new book; IF YOU WANT TO MAKE GOD LAUGH, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
The book takes place against the backdrop of South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as headed up by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and the onset of the AIDs pandemic.

Three women, Zodwa, Ruth and Delilah, are each at a personal crossroads. In a squatter camp on the outskirts of Johannesburg, seventeen-year-old Zodwa lives in desperate poverty, under the shadowy threat of a civil war and a growing AIDS epidemic. Eight months pregnant, Zodwa carefully guards secrets that jeopardize her life.

Across the country, wealthy socialite Ruth appears to have everything her heart desires, but it's what she can't have that leads to her breakdown. Meanwhile, in Zaire, a disgraced former nun, Delilah, grapples with a past that refuses to stay buried. When these personal crises send both middle-aged women back to their rural hometown to lick their wounds, the discovery of an abandoned newborn baby upends everything, challenging their lifelong beliefs about race, motherhood, and the power of the past.

Are there authors that you’re excited to engage/work with?
I unfortunately don’t get to work with other authors in terms of writing a book together but I love engaging with authors on social media and at events, etc. Writing is such a solitary endeavor that it’s always great to meet other people who spend their lives making stuff up!

What part of Zodwa, Ruth and Delilah did you enjoy writing the most?
With Zodwa, it was walking a mile in the shoes of someone who is so very different from myself: a young, black woman who is impoverished and hasn’t had many opportunities. I believe that as writers and readers, we gain so much more empathy by exploring worlds so different from our own. Seeing the world though Zodwa’s eyes was a deeply humbling experience.

With Ruth, I loved her irreverence. She’s a very flawed person but she lives out loud without any apologies for who she is. I wish I could be like that.

With Delilah, it was seeing her development as a character and seeing her come into her own that I most enjoyed. She’s such a damaged person and seeing her find her way back to herself and reclaim her life was extremely satisfying.

What book would you recommend for others to read?
If they’d like to learn more about this time in South Africa’s history, I’d recommend Jim Wooten’s ‘We Are all the Same’ which is a wonderful book about Nkosi Johnson, who was the face of South Africa’s struggle against the AIDs pandemic.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I’d personally love to meet Professor Minerva McGonagall from Harry Potter so that’s who I’d choose. I think she’d be able to talk sense into every single one of my characters though I think she’d have the most fun with Ruth.

If you could leave your readers with one legacy, what would you want it to be?
We really are all the same. No matter our race, background, culture, sexual orientation or religion, we can always find commonality in our shared humanity. If we can set aside our prejudice or preconceived ideas about one another, and try to understand rather than change one another, the world would be a much better place for it.

What event in your life would make a good movie?
Probably my time spend in Soweto volunteering there. Not because of me or my life but because I came into contact with amazing, strong, resilient and astounding women over that time. Their stories would make a good movie.

What’s the most ridiculous fact you know?
Tarantulas keep tiny pet frogs. I’m not lying. Look it up!

If you had to go back in time and change one thing, if you HAD to, even if you had “no regrets” what would it be?
I’m the person who has thousands of regrets. Things I said, things I shouldn’t have said, things I should have done, things I wish I hadn’t done. It’s probably just as well that I can’t go back because, with everything I’d change, I’d probably change the entire course of my own life and everyone else’s that I know.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Visit South Africa. It’s a beautiful country filled with wonderful people. It will change you.

TENS RANDOM THINGS ABOUT ME
  • 1. I was once bitten by a giraffe.
  • 2. I adopted a serial killer’s cat.
  • 3. Coffee goes with peanut butter but tea goes with jam
  • 4. I’m such a huge Harry Potter fan that I’ve named four pets in honor of it: Muggle, Dobby, Wombat and Mrs. Norris.
  • 5. I’d rather do just about anything than go clothes shopping (book shopping is entirely different!)
  • 6. I once almost accidentally ran over Archbishop Desmond Tutu with my car. Probably the scariest moment of my life.
  • 7. I run the Eunice Ngogodo Own Voices Initiative in South Africa to empower black women to tell their own stories. The initiative is named after my childhood caregiver.
  • 8. I’ve jumped out of planes, off of cliffs and white water rafted twice on the Zambezi
  • 9. I suffer from claustrophobia
  • 10. I belonged to a quiz team called ‘You Can’t Make Sh*t Up, Stephen’. My husband is the Stephen in question.
From the author of the beloved Hum if You Don't Know the Wordscomes a rich, unforgettable story of three unique women in post-Apartheid South Africa who are brought together in their darkest time, and discover the ways that love can transcend the strictest of boundaries.

In a squatter camp on the outskirts of Johannesburg, seventeen-year-old Zodwa lives in desperate poverty, under the shadowy threat of a civil war and a growing AIDS epidemic. Eight months pregnant, Zodwa carefully guards secrets that jeopardize her life.

Across the country, wealthy socialite Ruth appears to have everything her heart desires, but it's what she can't have that leads to her breakdown. Meanwhile, in Zaire, a disgraced former nun, Delilah, grapples with a past that refuses to stay buried. When these personal crises send both middle-aged women back to their rural hometown to lick their wounds, the discovery of an abandoned newborn baby upends everything, challenging their lifelong beliefs about race, motherhood, and the power of the past.

As the mystery surrounding the infant grows, the complicated lives of Zodwa, Ruth, and Delilah become inextricably linked. What follows is a mesmerizing look at family and identity that asks: How far will the human heart go to protect itself and the ones it loves?

Praise for BIANCA MARAIS

“Set against the backdrop of the Mandela presidency, the Afrikaner Resistance Movement, and the burgeoning AIDS epidemic, the story offers a look into the staggering emotional cost of secrecy, broken family bonds, racism, and sexual violence. Marais once again showcases her talent for pulling beauty from the pain of South African history with a strong story and wonderfully imperfect characters.” —Publishers Weekly

"A moving portrait of the choices women can make--and the ones we can't. Beautifully crafted and powerfully drawn, this book had me in tears." —Jill Santopolo, bestselling author of The Light We Lost and More Than Words

"A story of three remarkable women at crossroads in their own lives against the backdrop of South Africa at the moment of stunning transformation that will keep you reading late into the night. Marais deftly completes a writer's hat trick, leaving you gutted, smiling through tears and soaring with hope." —Steven Rowley, bestselling author of Lily and the Octopus and The Editor

“You will absolutely love this book. You will. Why? Because Bianca Marais’s heart is immense and full of love. With unsparing insight into the human condition, she unspools a tale that is at once heartbreaking as it is merciful, validating our frailty while eulogizing our endless capacity for generosity and love. We all need the deep refuge of Bianca Marais’s exceptional voice.” —Robin Oliveira, author of My Name is Mary Sutter and I Always Loved You

“Radiant…A stirring ode to a country’s painful maturation.” —O, The Oprah Magazine on HUM IF YOU DON’T KNOW THE WORDS

“Richly drawn…[The characters’] journeys and eventual love poignantly demonstrate that nothing is simply black or white.” —USA Today on HUM IF YOU DON’T KNOW THE WORDS

“With its vivid, emotional scene-setting, alternating narration and tense plotting, this novel is a thoughtful, compelling page-turner.” —Good Housekeeping on HUM IF YOU DON’T KNOW THE WORDS

You can purchase If You Want to Make God Laugh at the following Retailers:
        

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you BIANCA MARAIS for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of If You Want to Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais.

*JBN is not responsible for Lost or Damaged Books in your Nerdy Mail Box*
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4 comments:

  1. "If you could live anywhere in the world for a year, where would it be?" Paris, in my own hotel particulier!

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  2. I'd live in a small town on the east coast somewhere. I don't need to live in another country and I've always wanted to live in one of those small towns. But, no hurricanes or tornadoes please.

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  3. I would live in Ireland for a year.

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  4. Tropical island with all the perks.

    ReplyDelete