Amanda Prowse: Life Imitating Art

Amanda Prowse: Life Imitating Art

“Amanda Prowse writes contemporary fiction.” This could, quite possibly, be the understatement of the century. Amanda, who started her professional writing career in 2011, has released no less than 11 full-length novels and 5 novellas in the five years since. Not only does she write books faster than most people take to read them, but she does it magnificently! Her books have made her a household name and a bestselling author.

Amanda’s author journey, however, was certainly not without heartache. Her debut novel, Poppy Day, was rejected by every publisher she submitted it to, but this bubbly blonde was nothing if not determined. Amanda had faith in the story she had written and so she opted to self-publish. Poppy Day went on to sell over 25,000 copies, earning itself bestseller status, and Amanda was soon approached by a literary agent. She signed a traditional publishing contract with Head of Zeus and her second release, the number one bestseller What Have I Done, went on to sell 250,000 copies in a few short months.

As well as her enormous talent, her dogged determination and her prolific output, Amanda also attributes her success to hard work, a whole lot of luck and a positive outlook. This Bristol mother of two doesn’t take life too seriously and has been known to suffer fits of giggles at the most inappropriate times. Melissa Delport was nothing short of ecstatic to interview this delightful, down-to-earth author:

Often, in the creative sphere, life imitates art. Your first novel, Poppy Day tells the story of an army wife whose unwavering love for her husband gives her the courage to rescue him from being held hostage in Afghanistan. You yourself are married to a soldier. How much of your own personal experience did you draw upon in writing this book?

I think in hindsight this book was me playing out my worst fears on paper. It was certainly a lot cheaper than therapy! In all seriousness, as an army wife, fear of that ‘knock on the door’ is very real and it certainly helped in creating a character who was believable. I wrote it while my husband was away on tour and so it wasn’t hard to imagine the gut-churning heartache of separation. I think that certainly made it easier to write. Thankfully my man continues to come home unscathed, and for that I am thankful each and every day.

All of your books in the No Greater Love series share a common theme in that the main characters are ordinary women, just like you and I, who find themselves in extraordinary situations for love. What inspired this theme, and what message do you want readers to take away from the series?

I am passionate about women supporting women and the themes of my novels echo this. I want to empower women through my stories by saying, you are strong! You are amazing! You are not alone! No matter how dark ahead the road might seem, how lonely, how tough, you don’t know what is around the next corner, so hang in there!

What were you doing before you started writing?

I was working in data analytics… Zzzzzzzzzzz. I cannot make this sound interesting, believe me I have tried (laughs).

Haha, I will take your word for it! Did you study anything or attain any qualification that assists you in your writing?

I have a degree in English Literature, but I think it’s my study of human nature while doing cleaning and waitressing jobs that taught me the most. You learn a lot about someone’s nature when you are on your hands and knees in front of them with a scrubbing brush!

So you studied literature, and you have admitted that you obsessively crafted short stories and scribbled notes for potential books for most of your life, yet it wasn’t until you were forty that you began to write full time. Why do you think it was only then that you started your career in earnest?

I think those lightning bolt moments of awakening happen to us all at different times and for very different reasons. Mine came when I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. It made me sit up and think, hang on a minute, this is my one life, what do I REALLY want to do? The answer was sit in my pyjamas and write stories and so I did! Cancer was the best and worst thing that has happened to me. It made me re-evaluate EVERYTHING and I now live a life without fear and that has been the greatest gift.

Take me through your writing process. Do you have a set time or place that you stick to, or are your hours erratic? What does your average work day consist of?

I wake early, in my opinion the very best part of the day, and start writing before I have showered or even had my first coffee. I like to empty out my head of all the words that have backed up overnight. Real life irritatingly interrupts my writing, so I stop to give interviews, travel, do a spot of TV or radio, and also to cook the supper, strip the beds etc. You get the idea! But my ideal is twelve hours in my pyjamas, with a never-ending pot of coffee. I like being left in peace to create. It occurs to me sometimes that I might not have spoken to a human (other than the ones in my head!) for a long time, so I then call up my mum or my best friend for a bit of a natter, but inevitably before that conversation is even finished, I am longing to get back to my keyboard. Yes… I am obsessed.

I know this is a tough question, given how much work goes into a book, but do you have a personal favourite of your own books, and why?

I love Clover’s Child, a story of a mixed race relationship in 1960’s London. I adored the main character Dot and felt her loss very keenly. The book is also set in my grandparent’s house in Limehouse East London and my granddad worked in the docks, which is also featured, so I think I saw my family in every setting which is maybe why I love it so.

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

Write. Just do it. Whether it’s a paragraph, a list, a letter, a thought. Just get it down on paper, as practising is what hones your craft. Rejection is part of writing, but listen to the feedback, act on it and never, ever give up. You never know when your ‘YES’ will come, it might be tomorrow, or the day after that… If I can do it, anyone can.

What does 2017 hold in store for you?

More lovely stories, some real goodies in fact, more TV and radio, and perhaps the odd drama written for the screen…

Keeping us in suspense, I see! I won’t press you for more, but I will personally be following your every move! Before we wrap up, I have to ask: is there anything you can’t do?

Yes! I am the world’s worst cook and I really, really try! I sometimes spend hours buying for and then following a recipe, only for my family to prod the offending offering and reach for the phone, where the pizza man lurks on the other end in readiness.

Amanda currently resides in Bristol, the United Kingdom, with her husband and two sons, Josh and Ben. To find out more, please visit her website

Lauren Beukes: The Shining Girl

Lauren Beukes: The Shining Girl

Her work has been praised by Stephen King. George RR Martin dubs her a “major, major talent.” Leonardo Di Caprio’s production company sends her Christmas cards. South Africa’s hottest speculative-fiction writing export, Lauren Beukes, who is regularly seen sporting a Wonder Woman t-shirt, is a superhero in her own right.

Lauren is an award-winning, internationally best-selling novelist who also writes comics, screenplays, TV shows and journalism. Her books have been translated into 26 languages and have been optioned for film and TV. Her accolades include winning the Arthur C Clarke Award, the prestigious University of Johannesburg prize, the August Derleth Award for Best Horror, the Strand Critics Choice Award for Best Mystery Novel, the RT Thriller of the Year, the Kitschies Red Tentacle for best novel, the Exclusive Books’ Bookseller’s Choice Award and her work has also been included in best of the year round-ups by NPR, Amazon and the LA Times.

Lauren’s involvement in film and television work is legendary in its own right and includes directing Glitterboys & Ganglands, a documentary about Cape Town’s biggest female impersonation beauty pageant. The film won best LGBT film at the San Diego Black Film Festival.

Lauren was also the showrunner on South Africa’s first full length animated TV series, URBO: The Adventures of Pax Afrika which ran for 104 half hour episodes from 2006-2009 on SABC3. She’s also written for the Disney shows Mouk and Florrie’s Dragons and on the satirical political puppet show, ZANews and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s South African Story.

I had a look at your schedule for 2016 and I’m surprised you find even 5 minutes to spare! I know you’re preparing for the FanCon Cape Town Comic Con and the Franschoek Literary Festival this month, but you just returned from the Persian Gulf, where you attended the Art Dubai event. Last year your USA and Euro tours included eight different countries. How do you cope with all of it and still find time to get any writing done?

I steal time whenever I can, but you have to remember that for all the travel I do (and it is exhausting and demanding and I spend half my life jetlagged), I am in the incredibly lucky position that this IS my day job. I’m not trying to write at night while balancing another full time career as I was before The Shining Girls.

You have a young daughter. Does she travel with you and, if not, how do you both cope with the intensity of your manic schedule?

She stays with her dad. She’s seven and finds book launches incredibly boring. But she does get frustrated. Last year she said to me: “But why do you have to travel? Why can’t you have a normal job, like normal people?” And then she thought about it for a second and said, “Oh yeah, cos then you wouldn’t get to write Wonder Woman comics.”

Does she share your love for reading and writing? Do you encourage her or is it in the genes?

She came out loving stories. As a nine month old baby, we’d take her to story time at the Book Lounge and she’d sit on my lap right at the front, riveted to the rhythm of the words even if she had no clue what they meant. There’s a power in storytelling, particularly when it’s communal. But story time is sacred time in our house – if we get home late, we might skip TV or playtime, but we’ll never skip stories. She’s starting to read more on her own, but it’s still a very special time for the both of us, especially reading comics like Nimona by Noelle Stevens or The My Little Pony comics. She tells me off if I get the voices wrong.

The highlight of my SABF experience was speaking on this panel, hosted by Louis Greenberg, with Lauren and Fred Strydom!

In many ways you are considered to be a pioneer, paving the way for other South African speculative fiction writers. How did you start writing? And did you ever expect to become such an international sensation?

I wanted to be an author from the time I was five years old and I discovered that was a job you could have, that you could get paid money to make up stories. I don’t know how to say this without sounding horribly immodest, but I knew, deep in my gut, I knew that I was going to do this and I shaped my whole life, from five, towards that ambition.

Your advice to would-be authors is to follow a career in journalism. How do you think your years as a journalist equipped you to write books?

Well, my advice to writers is to write. Journalism is a great way to train on the job, to be forced to meet a deadline and a word count, to write in different styles, to find different ways into a story and it exposes you to the world. Journalism gave me a way to explore other perspectives, like a backstage pass into other people’s heads.

Let’s talk about Broken Monsters. The plot deals with a serial killer trying to remake the world in his image and quite honestly scared me half to death. Even Stephen King, considered by most to be the greatest horror writer of all time, hailed it “Scary as hell and hypnotic.” The book has been racking up great reviews from The New York Times to The Guardian and NPR and won best suspense novel in the ALA’s 2015 Reading List. What inspired this particular story?

Um. Truthfully? A failed comics pitch. I had the image of a female detective finding a body that was half human, half deer and started thinking about what that meant, who created it. As someone on Twitter ingeniously observed, “So you basically killed Mr Tumnus from Narnia?” Yep. It’s about creativity and thwarted ambition, about art and masculinity, how the Internet shapes who we are and being a teenage girl in this strange new world we live in.

The Shining Girls is arguably your most well-known title. It certainly isn’t short of awards – including the prestigious Strand Critics Choice Award and the University of Johannesburg Prize. The book has been optioned by Leonardo diCaprio’s production company, Appian Way to be turned into a movie. Can you share any information about the film?

It’s in development, which means they are working on a script, hunting down the right director, shopping it around to talent. It might take anywhere from 4-10 years to get made and, sorry to disappoint you, but 99% of books that get optioned to be turned into movies never make it to the big screen at all. It’s that whole having to raise $30 million thing.

Which of your books are you most proud of and why?

Zoo City is my favourite, Broken Monsters is my best.

Moving on to comics and graphic novels. How is the writing different, apart from the actual word count?

It’s much more collaborative, working with an artist and a colorist and the letterer who all help unfold the story and make it their own. On Survivors Club, I’m co-writing it with Dale Halvorsen (better known as Joey Hi-Fi, award-winning cover designer who does all my South African covers). I love the surprise of working with other minds, when they come up with things you wouldn’t possibly have on your own.

Your graphic novel with artist Inaki Miranda, Fairest: The Hidden Kingdom is a dark Tokyo twist on the legend of Rapunzel set in Bill Willingham’s Fables universe, and a New York Times bestseller. I adore the Fables world. How did you get invited to write in this magical universe?

I met Bill at the bar of a convention and he came along to a reading I was doing because he saw how nervous I was and felt sorry for me. But then he insisted on introducing me to his editor at Vertigo, Shelly Bond (now the head of the imprint) and set up the meeting. I’ve never felt like such a fraud in my life, even though I’ve always, always wanted to write comics, and hey, it’s turned out okay.

You recently began collaborating with Joey Hi-Fi, the alter ego of award-winning illustrator and designer, Dale Halvorsen, who designed the amazing artwork for your book covers. How does a typical “meeting” between the two of you go?

Dale describes our writing sessions on our limited run horror comic, Survivors’ Club as “creepy playtime”. We sit and talk through the plot and the character’s motivations and often act it out. (Those improv classes really came in handy). Most recently, we sat with Dale’s action figures and worked out the choreography of a very big and very complicated fight scene. It doesn’t really feel like work, even when it’s brain breaking. It’s very important to both of us that the story has a pay off, that we have the answers to all the mysteries, that the characters are acting in their interests or are consistent with who they are, and, this is the really hard part, that we subvert the horror tropes and take the reader somewhere unexpected.

You are a fierce supporter of local talent. You advocate many South African (and African) fiction writers in your talks, and you urge readers to support local writers, particularly in the speculative fiction genres. You also run ‘The Spark’ on your website,, whereby you invite SA authors to blog about their own books and the inspiration behind them. What prompted this initiative and what message do you ultimately hope to convey to readers out there?

That SA fiction is not just heavy politics or apartheid stories or farm murders (although it might include some of those things) – that the talent here is up there with the international bestsellers clogging our shelves front-of-store.

You are fairly pro traditional publishing. What are your feelings about independent or self-publishing?

I would not want to do it myself. I like having a boss who sets a deadline and pays me an advance before the book ever hits the shelves, so I have the financial freedom and space to write, who manages the editing and copy editing and production and layout and commissioning a cover artist based on careful market research and does the distribution and marketing and publicity because that means I have more time to write. If those are things you’re happy to do yourself, power to you. I suck at that stuff and I’d rather leave it to the professionals who pay me.

The one and only time we ever met you were wearing a pair of Doc Marten knee-high boots, fishnet stockings and a Wonder Woman t-shirt. What influences your style and what is your favourite personal item of clothing?

Interesting, surprising things, same as the influences on my writing. My favourite item is my 18 hole Docs that I bought in Camden in 1996 for 70 pounds, which was the most I’d ever spent on anything in my life up until that point. They’ve taken a beating and I recently had them re-soled, but they’re still good.

You don’t sound at all South African, which probably makes it easier for your international audience to connect with (and understand!) you. Your accent is hard to place, but my first thought was American. Have you always had the accent, or has it developed over time and through the course of your travels?

I am really, really, really, for real-life, South African. I was born here, grew up here, live here now. I did live in the USA for two years but Americans don’t think I sound American. My accent is more of a mid-Atlantic mongrel melange of English variations. Ashraf Jamal recently described me as an “international bastard”. That shoe fits and I’m wearing it.

What can we expect next from you?

We’re wrapping up the final issue of Survivors’ Club, which will be collected in a trade paperback (aka graphic novel) in September from Vertigo.

I have a book of short stories and essays, Slipping coming out in October from Tachyon Press.

And a new novel, Motherland, out 2017 from Penguin in the UK and Mulholland Books in the USA.

Lauren currently resides in Cape Town, South Africa. For more information, please visit her website at


Felicia: Living her Dream

Felicia: Living her Dream

Felicia Mabuza-Suttle needs little introduction. From businesswoman to talk show host, Felicia is an international award-winning entrepreneur, an inspirational speaker, an author, and a philanthropist. She is the President and co-owner of Leadership Success International, LLC, an organization that specializes in executive leadership training and business communications. Mabuza-Suttle is one of the founding members and shareholders of Pamodzi Investment Holdings. The South African Broadcast Corporation (SABC) also named her among the “100 Great South Africans.”

Born and raised in Sophiatown, Johannesburg, Felicia’s dream was to unchain herself from the shackles of apartheid that held back most black people in South Africa. She opted to leave South Africa – venturing to the U.S in search of an education and success.

“I knew the most powerful weapon against apartheid was to leave South Africa, travel abroad, and get an education. I knew I would see the end of the brutality of apartheid in my lifetime and that freedom would come. I set out to prepare myself for that future.”

And so it came to be that Felicia settled abroad, earning herself a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism, followed by an MA in Mass Communication. Felicia built a life for herself in the land of hope and glory, until with one single plea, the great Nelson Mandela brought her home. It was 1991, and Mandela made a clarion call, challenging all South Africans living abroad to return home to help build a new democracy. Despite her successful career in the States, Felicia answered his call and left America.

Felicia didn’t, however, integrate quietly back into South African Society. She exploded onto the scene, using television as her platform for change. The Felicia Show was not only the first audience talk show in the country, but it was also the first South African talk show hosted by a black woman. Aptly referred to as “The Show that gets South Africans talking”, The Felicia Show focused on lifestyle topics and various philanthropic efforts. At a time when South Africa was transitioning from an apartheid government into democracy, the people had found a voice in Felicia. Her show enabled black and white South Africans to come together and debate issues they could not discuss during the apartheid era.

Over the course of her years in television, Felicia has interviewed such luminaries as Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Britain’s former first lady, Cherie Blair. Celebrity personality interviewees include Larry King, Danny Glover and Diana Ross.

Your first novel, Dare to Dream, a best-seller and publisher’s choice, was a memoir of your earlier life. Live Your Dream is a continuation of that memoir, but what inspired you to write this story?

Many young people ask me to mentor them. Being so far away, I decided to write a book aimed at inspiring the young and mature with strategies to help people to realize their dreams. I thought mapping out my journey, sharing stories of courage, determination and persistence would be beneficial. How I got close to people I admired, and learned about their stories, would be helpful. I wanted to share the many quotes that have served as my roadmap to success and now, to significance. Success is about self-empowerment and significance is about empowering others.

What message do you hope readers will take from this book?

There are three important messages to take away from this book:

  • No one and nothing should stop you from realizing your dream. You were born to make an impact.
  • It’s not where you come from that matters, but where you are going. Don’t let your past hold you back. Let it propel you to greater heights. As a product of apartheid, I refused to allow apartheid to determine my future.
  • You are never too old to give birth to your dreams. Never give up on your dream. We were also born for a purpose. Make it happen.

How have you changed or grown since the first book, Dare to Dream, and has this impacted your writing?

Dare to Dream was literally a book about my life, my wishes and dreams. Many called them “dreams of grandeur” but I knew that if given the opportunity, I could make those dreams come true. My dreams were realistic and doable. All it needed to make my dreams comes true, was education and exposure. I ventured to get that and all was possible. As Mandela says, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Dare to Dream was a story of possibilities, determination and persistence.

You married Earl Suttle in 1976, but after your return to South Africa you spent many years apart, with you living here in Johannesburg, and Earl in Atlanta, Georgia. What was that like and how did you manage to focus on your family with all that was going on in your life at the time?

It was difficult. There were many lonely nights and tears when the television bright lights went off. But I was focused on what I determined was a ‘calling’ and a mission. I was answering Mandela’s call to South Africans living abroad to come back home to serve their country. My family understood I was passionate about making a difference in my country. I knew with the talk show, bringing black and white, young and mature together in communication, we could create understanding for a better South Africa. I was a transatlantic mother and wife. Sometimes I would do homework at times long distance with my children, sharing their victories in tennis tournaments and beauty pageants over the phone.  Wish there was Skype then and social media. I would teach my husband to cook for the girls long distance. It was tough but we survived the twelve and a half years!

How has being a mom molded or influenced the decisions you have made in your life?

Motherhood is extremely rewarding but still comes with a lot of guilt. As the eldest sister, I find myself being mother to my sisters as well. When I visit South Africa, I usually travel with three suitcases, two full of clothes for my sisters, brother, their children. I love children, so my friends’ kids always have something from me. They call me “Mother Felicia”, after Mother Teresa, because I genuinely deeply care. I feel blessed and grateful.

You are now living back in the States, in Orlando. What prompted your decision to return to America?

Husband (laughs). On a serious note, family. I live in Miami and Atlanta. I love the sea, thus Miami and I have my office and home in Atlanta. I also have a home in Cape Town.

I returned to America because my family was there. But now, both my daughters are gone – Lindiwe lives in Cape Town and Berlin, and Zani lives in Copenhagen and Miami. It’s lonely to be in an empty nest. I hardly go upstairs to the girls’ rooms. They are exactly how they left them when they left for college.

Do you miss home, and would you ever consider settling back in South Africa permanently?

Yes, I miss South Africa. As I always say, my body is in America, but my heart is in South Africa. South Africa gives me a sense of purpose. America makes me chase profits (money). I prefer purpose over profit now. I do plan to do more in South Africa in 2016.  My passion is to inspire young people to realize their potential. I do have a home in Cape Town and am one of the founding members of Pamodzi Group.

Your business acumen and achievements are inspiring. You have founded several business ventures. I know that you studied journalism and mass communications, both of which have served you well, but to what do you owe your entrepreneurial success?

I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. I wanted to create jobs and opportunities for others. My production company, FMS Productions, commissioned the show to SABC and later eTV. I wanted to one day own a restaurant like my grandfather, who was the first black man to own a restaurant in downtown Johannesburg. That inspired me to start the first dine and dance upmarket restaurant, Back O’ the Moon at Gold Reef, City Casino. I am an image fanatic. I started my own eyewear line, that is sold in South Africa and other countries on the African continent. Thanks to Ndaba Ntsele, Chairman and CEO of Pamodzi Group for getting me involved in a company that has empowered a number of people. Pamodzi was one of the pioneers in black economic empowerment – started in 1996.

Who have been your greatest mentors in life – the people who have inspired you to keep going, and to push through the trials and tribulations which stood in your way?

I believe my number one mentor is definitely my husband, Dr. Earl Suttle. He gave me a head-start and paid for my first year at university. Today we are partners in marriage and business. As I always say, “Alongside every strong and successful woman, is a supportive and self-actualized man.”

Philanthropist George Soros has also played a key role in my life. He paid for my entire undergraduate and graduate studies. I will always be indebted to him.Thanks to my partners at Pamodzi, Ndaba Ntsele, who brought me into the company. Businessman Solly Krok helped me make my business dream to own a restaurant a reality. Irwin Schaffer helped me start Felicia eyewear.

There were also women I looked up to as role models: My grandmother who was one of the women who started the Zezele YWCA in Johannesburg. My mother, Olga Williams, who demonstrated love to us all. Marina Maponya, one of the leading businesswomen, Wendy Luhabe, a friend and supportive businesswoman, Barbara Walters, who shaped the careers of many women in the media.


Live Your Dream is published by Victory International Publishers, Atlanta, Georgia and is available (CNA, Exclusive Books and all leading bookshops) as well as on (, Barnes & Noble, Apple iStores, Kobo, and Loot)

Felicia can be contacted through her publicist: Helen Holyoake of Helco Productions –

Gareth Crocker: best-selling author, international filmmaker … and yet he can’t keep his swimming pool blue.

Gareth Crocker: best-selling author, international filmmaker … and yet he can’t keep his swimming pool blue.

Gareth Crocker – best-selling author, international filmmaker … and yet he can’t keep his swimming pool blue…

When I first started researching Gareth Crocker for this interview, it struck me that I might need a little extra space to encompass everything this man has achieved. To that end, I offer my sincere apologies to all who were rudely snubbed in favour of my fifteen minutes of fame in interviewing the legend that is Gareth Crocker.

Let’s start at the very beginning… Gareth’s career took off in 2008 when his debut novel, Leaving Jack was published in London. After selling out in the UK, it was later published in New York and renamed, Finding Jack, where it went on to achieve international acclaim. That same day, it snowed in Johannesburg for the first time in 20 years. Gareth Crocker takes no responsibility for that fact. Despite the blizzard, Finding Jack went on to sell over a million copies. It was translated into several languages and featured in nine volumes of Reader’s Digest Select Editions. It was recorded into an audio book and film rights were sold on no fewer than three occasions. Following this international success, Gareth was then offered a four-book deal by Penguin Random House. Finding Jack was followed by Journey from Darkness (2012), Never Let Go (2013), King (2014), and The Last Road Trip (2015).

Gareth’s latest novel, Ka-boom!  is his first foray into writing non-fiction. Set for release this month, Ka-boom! is a comedy-based “communal” biography, based on Gareth’s own experiences. It’s a story for men and boys about never coming of age, and for the women who want to know why. That’s pretty much all of us… women, that is.

South Africa is also waiting for the highly anticipated ‘Jongo’ – Africa’s first super-hero television series, written and co-directed by none other than Mr Crocker himself.

Let’s start with the man behind it all. Who is Gareth Crocker when he’s not writing books, making movies or generally over-achieving in every sphere of his professional life?

Oh you are far too kind. I’m nothing special. I have a list of failures as long as a giraffe’s neck. I’m just a regular bloke whose swimming pool has been green for the past 11 years. Sell a best-selling book? Sure. Make a superhero TV show? Pfff … no problemo muchacho. Get my pool blue? Forget it. So what do I do when I’m not writing or filming? I’m spending time with my wife and two beautiful daughters, playing football … and tossing a witch’s brew of chemicals into my pool.

Rumour has it that you were a professional footballer for a time? True?

Very, very briefly. I turned out a couple times for a few pro clubs, but was never quite good enough to crack it full-time. I discovered I had the heart of Ronaldo, but the feet of Gareth Crocker. However, I now turn out for the mighty Rhodes Old Boys football club. Our league’s a mish-mash of accountants, journalists, authors, marketers, CEOs and dentists. Although some sides clearly seem to have a superior recruitment strategy to us. One team in particular boasts two former Springboks who have both won the World Cup. Not that this affords them any special favours. They get kicked to pieces just like the rest of us. Quite recently I fulfilled a lifelong ambition by scoring a bicycle kick. It only took me 30 years to get it right.

There’s another rumour that you once ran 100 kilometres?

True. South African readers will know at once what race this is: the mighty Comrades Marathon. It’s normally ‘only’ 90 kilometres, but my wife added another 10 kilometres on top of that when she contrived to forget where she parked our rental car and I had to walk around a cricket stadium for two hours on bleeding feet. Damn that Devil woman.

You started your writing career as a journalist, but left to join a top PR and publishing firm, before becoming a spokesperson for a major company. What brought you back to writing?

I never stopped writing. This is what my daily schedule used to look like:

  • Wake up at 04h30.
  • Go for a wobble around the suburbs.
  • Get the rats to school.
  • Drive to day job. Talk to media about how fantastic my employer is.
  • Come home. Spend three hours goofing around with rats.
  • At 10pm, settle down to begin writing.
  • Cry a lot. Delete what you wrote the previous night.
  • Go to bed at around 02h00. Or don’t go to bed at all.

Fortunately these days I’m now able to divide my time between filming and writing. Which, I know, is a wonderful privilege.

Finding Jack was your breakout novel. Was it the first book you ever wrote?

Hell no. I wrote three horror novels: Malevolence, In the Eyes of a Child and The Midnight Hour. I can’t begin to tell you how appalling they were. Basically, I just vomited up every b-grade horror film I had ever seen and cobbled them into three novels. I found one of the old manuscripts the other day and could barely make it through a single page. Death by clichés!

Your publishing story is legendary – fuel for the fire of aspiring South African authors who follow your success and dream of international acclaim. How did your international publishing deal come about?

Well, I may fall short in many departments, but the one thing I’m pretty good at is to keep going when most people would turn away. Those first three books must have been rejected by more than 500 publishers and agents. Each time I received a rejection note, I would take on board the criticism and try to improve. Eventually – and I’m talking years here – the rejection notes became less scathing. And then, by the time I had written Leaving Jack I decided that I should climb on a plane and try to physically connect with a British agent. After walking London flat and dropping off my manuscript with dozens of agents, I was met with a glorious stroke of good fortune. I dropped my manuscript into one particular agent’s ‘manuscript bin’ which she kept on the patio outside her office (with strict instructions for writers not to knock on the door!). She was out at the time, but when she returned from a meeting later that day she discovered that she had lost her keys and had no choice but to wait for a locksmith. And while she waited, she dipped her hand into the manuscript bin and fished out Leaving Jack. She called me that night and the following day we met and she became my agent. The funny thing is that it would normally have taken her about 3 months just to get to my book (top agents can receive a thousand manuscripts a month). My first international publishing deal was signed a year later.

Your book, Never Let Go, is currently doing the rounds in Hollywood. Is it true that Morgan Freeman read the script? Any possibility of a movie in the near future?

Um … I’m not supposed to say anything, but … yes. He’s considering potential involvement in the film. I’m a massive fan of his. There’s a fair chance that Never Let Go will hit the big screen. But don’t believe a thing until you see it playing in a cinema. Hollyweird is a fickle, fickle place.

They say that life imitates art, but I think in our creative field the reverse is often true. Do you draw on your own personal experiences as material for your fictional works?

Oh absolutely. Particularly when it comes to the dark art of creating characters.

Let’s talk about the new book, Kaboom!. Why the shift towards non-fiction?

Firstly – and just to be clear – I’ll be returning to fiction shortly, but I wanted to have a go at non-fiction for a couple reasons. One, I love writing comedic essays and columns. And two, I wanted to write a book that is just pure fun for men and boys (and women!) and that will appeal to both readers and non-readers alike. I’ve always felt that we need to have more ‘simple’ books in the market. Basic and straight-forward storytelling that appeals to people who either don’t read books at all or maybe only manage to get through one or two books a year. In other words, the sort of guy who’ll read a car or fitness magazine but baulk at a book. So many people try to read books, but give up because the material is too slow, boring or complex. We could grow our reader base substantially if we offered books that are simple to absorb. It’s something James Patterson realised to his advantage years ago.

Which of your books is your personal favourite, and why?

Oh go away.

Ha ha! Okay, moving swiftly forward! Let’s talk about film-making. From what I’ve read, Jongo isn’t your first ‘rodeo’. You’ve made a film before… can you tell us about it?

Several years ago, I made a horror film with a few friends. It was called Taken and told the story of a young couple who are abducted in their sleep and thrust into a basement and series of underground tunnels. It was terrific fun. My two partners and I financed the film and did virtually everything ourselves. I wrote the script, co-produced and co-directed the film. If you’re unlucky enough, you can still catch it on television these days. The film has a remarkably realistic feel to it, but that’s probably because we actually abducted two people in their sleep and thrust them into a basement and series of underground tunnels. There is an outside chance it’s not the worst film ever made. Though I wouldn’t bet on it.

Not that I would ever bet against you, but I have to ask. After making one movie, what possessed you to take on such an ambitious project as Jongo?

It’s a great question. But in truth, we haven’t only made one film. I’ve been working with an existing production company for years and we’ve produced a number of projects together. Having said that, putting a show like Jongo together is massively ambitious. Time will tell if we fall on our faces, but for now things are looking good. We’ve sold the show to primetime television in South Africa and should have it running throughout Africa and abroad by the middle of 2016. We hope viewers are going to love it as much as we do. It’s a gruelling writing, shooting and editing schedule but we’re giving it everything we’ve got and are spending millions on the production. In terms of our company’s resources, we’re pretty much ‘all in’. If this fails, I’m coming to live in your garden, MD. I have a tent.

Jongo is Africa’s first Superhero television show. Personally, I’m super excited about it, given that I’m a huge fan of superhero shows. Arrow and The Flash are two of my favourites! What sets Jongo apart?

A few things. One, it’s an African superhero show set largely in South Africa. So you’re going to see the likes of Joburg the way you’ve never seen it before. Also – and unlike so many South African productions – Jongo is not a patronising show for its local audience and will hopefully inspire young people to lead better lives. Our cameras and filming equipment is world-class and we shoot on a number of spectacular locations. We also want to the show to promote Africa – and to not kick it in its teeth (which so many shows do). Also, while it’s certainly a superhero show, Jongo is largely a comedy-drama at heart and will have something in it for everyone in the family. We’ve unearthed some real stars.

When can we expect it to hit our screens here in SA?

Between April and August, 2016 on etv. It will also appear on some of the DStv pay channels. But our priority was on creating a show that would be freely accessible to viewers across the continent.

Your professional achievements are nothing short of incredible. What is your greatest personal achievement?

My daughters. We had to fight like hell to get both of them. Our eldest is adopted and our youngest only came into our lives because my wife’s a mad ninja warrior who refused to let several miscarriages get the best of her. Family is everything. As you well know!

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Be born to a parent who owns a publishing conglomerate. Failing that, try and find out from neutral sources (not your family and friends) if you have any talent. If you do, push like hell and don’t give up. Persistence is everything in this game. Also, stay humble and be willing to learn from others who know better than you. There is no ‘finish line’ in this game. Write. Sacrifice. Never give up. Stay humble. Try not to cry too much. Develop alligator skin.

I have to ask… is there anything you CAN’T do?

Er … I’m pretty terrible at just about everything. Pools, DIY, accounting, I got an H for maths in Matric, etc, etc, etc.

Gareth currently resides in Johannesburg, South Africa, with his wife and two daughters. You can find more information about Gareth and his books at, or look him up on Facebook or Twitter.