Beseringstyd is your first novel. What was your biggest struggle during the writing process?

The biggest struggle is the writing process itself, especially when you are just starting out. You then sit with a story and characters and, believe it or not, they do clash. It is like building a four-dimensional puzzle. When you attempt to fit the characters into the story, [or] vice versa, endless frustration ensues. After a while I realised that the characters drive the story, not the other way around. I allowed my characters to take over. Each of them then developed their own voice and story and I just wrote it down as it happened.

 

The novel’s protagonist is a rugby player. As a TuksRugby player yourself, did you implement a lot of your knowledge about the sport into the novel?

In writing the book, I did apply a lot of my knowledge as a student rugby player in sketching the UP environment on and off the field. I played my best rugby for five years at Tuks in the Residence League. In essence, rugby is a social sport and when I came here from Potchefstroom, I did not know anybody. Postgraduate studies ensued and I started playing rugby because I enjoy the sport and to make friends. Toward the end of my doctoral studies I was faced with a conflict regarding availability of time and I had to stop playing. Although Beseringstyd is classified as a bildungsroman (coming of age novel), it is also classified as young adult fiction and a sport novel. It is not a book about rugby, because I wrote it so that anybody can read it, rugby is just the milieu and a metaphor for life. Nobody wants to read about rugby: men want to play it or watch it, [while] others ignore it, [so] I stayed clear from a pure rugby-themed book [and opted] for a more character-driven book.

 

What was your inspiration for writing the book?

An avid reader breeds an avid writer. Once you read enough books, you realise that you also want to write one. Then it becomes a goal. I am very much goal-orientated and once it was there on my list, I had to tick it off. Then you sit with a book and [you] need to get it published. Regarding the story itself, our team faced a similar crisis that the team faced in Stellenbosch during the start of the novel. One moment life in all its glory and the next a silent abyss. Necessarily the question begs an answer: what now?

 

You partook in the University of Stellenbosch’s Woordfees in March. What was the experience like?

I was invited to speak at the Woordfees to discuss Beseringstyd with Izak de Vries (author, publisher and editor). My wife and I enjoy visiting the Cape Winelands and it is always an experience visiting Stellenbosch. Firstly, after working with fellow writers and people in the literary world via email, Facebook and telephone, it was good to meet everybody in person. Prior to my discussion I was taken to the De Kat Lounge and then it was show time. Secondly, it was great speaking to a mixed audience of young and old, male and female, and the reception was great. The audience interacted and asked questions going beyond the story of Beseringstyd into the underlying themes thereof. For an author, it is sometimes important to elaborate on aspects and I really enjoyed getting feedback from my readers on what they thought and felt while reading.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Develop your characters first, then write the story. It is good to have a broad overview of your story line, but do allow your characters to write the story for you. Do not edit at first. Write your story. It is not going to be perfect. Rather enjoy the journey. Write from beginning to end and edit later. Go for a writing course after that. I attended a three-day workshop with renowned writer Jeanette Ferreira. Thereafter I attended the UP CreativeWritingWinterSchool where I won best student in prose. Any aspiring author should fearlessly follow their characters into the darkness. Let them lead. Do not give up. You need to believe in your writing and your story. That said, be original. Think outside the box and take pleasure in it.

 

Image: BooksLive.co.za

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