How does the great reception of your book by readers both locally and abroad make you feel?
The feedback I get is way beyond what I had expected of the book or myself. I am in a state of disbelief about it all. My intention was simple: to share the person I knew and my experiences and hopefully influence people to think about things differently, but the response tells me people take more from the book than just that. I am content with whatever interpretation or meaning they find in it.
To what extent do you think this book will keep the legacy of Nelson Mandela and what he stood for alive, and do you think it will be able to do it more successfully because it was written by someone who was so close to Mandela?
In the book I quote a lot from Madiba’s book Conversations with Myself. My book is not a definitive book about Nelson Mandela. I put my own interpretation of what I have experienced and it should be seen as only that. It’s a simple story of change, love and hope. I will never be so conceited to think it could contribute to Nelson Mandela’s legacy, but I do hope that people will learn from me, even if it’s from my mistakes.
In a live discussion at Politics and Prose in Washington you talked about a black man who thanked you for your book because he said it made him understand white people for the first time. You continued to discuss a comment about a white girl who thanked you for your book because it enabled her to deal with her parents’ racism. Are there any more stories and coments such as these from people who were touched by your book?
Yes, countless. I am overwhelmed by people commenting and communicating to me on all mediums saying what the book meant to them. Again, that was never my intention so I am incredibly proud to know that I have meant something to someone, whatever that is.
In interviews you talk a lot about the sense of humour you and Mandela shared. If he could read your book, what comment do you think he would make about it?
Having known him I know that he would have laughed a lot but I am also happy he never got to read the last part as it would have saddened him.
Were you met with some personal struggles while writing your book? If so what did you learn from them?
Yes. I was mindful to protect Madiba’s dignity and my and his confidentiality, and I had to be careful not to add things that could be considered a breach of confidentiality. The “legal read” was particularly hard and what people don’t know about writing a book is that a reputable publisher will not allow you to slander or defame people and therefore the legal read is the hardest part of writing a book. I am happy with what it turned out to be, though, and not being English I had to be extremely careful of how I expressed myself.