Giving the imagination permission to fly

Rosamund Handler completed a master’s degree in creative writing at the University of Cape Town. Her first novel, Madlands, published by Penguin, tells the story of Carla Jensen, big-hearted, bright, beautiful — and bipolar. A rebel by nature, she battles to resist the relentless pull of the murky waters of her illness, while remaining sceptical of her diagnosis and suspicious of medication.

Describe yourself in a sentence.

The things that define me are my love of the wide open spaces of the beloved country, my feminism and my bleeding-heart support of the downtrodden.

Describe your book in a sentence.

A bipolar woman’s quest to plumb the mystery of her disorder, which takes her into the dark heart of her family.

Describe your ideal reader.

Anyone with an open, inquiring mind and a fascination with the human condition.

What was the originating idea for the book?

My lifelong resistance to the stereo-typing and stigmatisation of people who diverge from the straight and narrow.

Describe the process of writing and publishing.
How long did it take?

Doing my MA at UCT gave me the time and space — and the essential discipline of deadlines — to write a novel. The writing of Madlands took about 20 months, with interruptions. Research was ongoing and revision constant.

Which writers inspire you?

I hardly know where to start, or finish. Pat Barker: brilliant, courageous. TC Boyle: innovative, witty and clever. Jane Austen for romance, Charles Dickens for characterisation, WG Sebald, particularly for Austerlitz. Tom Wolfe for A Man in Full. Sarah Waters for Fingersmith — well researched, well crafted, clever story. PD James for elegant mysteries, Penelope Lively for Passing On. I love writers with a gift for language and a pure, captivating style that draws the reader in and doesn’t let go.

What is the purpose of fiction?

To give the imagination permission to fly, to broaden one’s view of the world, to take readers where they haven’t thought of going and, above all, to entertain.

Anything you’d like to add?

My second novel, Katy’s Kid, will be published by Penguin early next year.

Rosemund Handler

Rosemund Handler

Rosemund Handler has written four novels, all published by Penguin. Her third novel, Tsamma Season, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize, Africa region. Her short stories and poetry have been published in a variety of anthologies and journals. She is working on a fifth novel. Read more from Rosemund Handler

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