Author's notes

Michael Worsnip’s debut novel Remittance Man (University of KwaZulu-Natal Press) chronicles the apartheid anguish of Bertie King, who comes to the realisation that his family considers him too dark in complexion for comfort.

Describe yourself in a sentence.

Dorothy from The Golden Girls—but male.

Describe your book in a sentence.

The ideal reader of my book is someone who is prepared to be challenged to look again at their own identity.

What was the originating idea for the book?

The discovery that my familial roots are not what they pretended to be. And that the choices that they were forced to make were terrible.

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

Writing the book took a long time.
Years in fact. It took a long time for me to get a clear structure and formulate credible characters. The book is sometimes based on historical events, but it is pure fiction. It is meant to demonstrate the character and personality of the main protagonist, who was a real person, without resorting to biography.

Publishing it was relatively easy, in that University of KwaZulu-Natal Press was the first publisher I sent the manuscript to.

Name some writers who have inspired you and tell us briefly why or how.

Marlene van Niekerk—I think the greatest South African author, alive or dead. She writes by dredging the depths of the soul. Wally Lamb—he knows how to get inside his character’s skin and take the reader with him. Barbara Kingsolver—she took me on an unforgettable journey.

What are you reading at the moment?

Carry me Down by MJ Hyland.

Do you write by hand, or use a typewriter or computer?

Computer—thankfully.

What is the purpose of fiction?

To tell the truth.

How do you see the future of South African literature?

Developing a maturity, where a unique character is starting to emerge.

Is there anything you wish to add?

A good friend said to me a long time ago “write what you know”. I think that was good advice.

Reading matters

Shaun Johnson has been awarded the 2007 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for best book Africa region for his novel The Native Commisioner.

Johnson wins the £1 000 prize and his book is now entered into the final stage of the competition where an international judging panel will meet in Jamaica to decide the overall winners of the 21st Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.

The announcement of the overall best book and best first book will take place on May 27. A total of £10 000 will be awarded to the author of the overall best book and £5 000 to the author of the best first book.

The annual prize aims to reward the best Commonwealth fiction written in English and take it to a wider audience.

The 13th BTA/Anglo Platinum short story competition is officially open for entries.

The preceding 12 competitions have drawn more than 12 000 stories from throughout Southern Africa, making this one of the most-entered writing events of its kind in the world. Furthermore, the annual prize money—totalling R65 000 with a R25 000 first prize—is generous and compares well with overseas competitions in the genre.

Entrants are asked to write “a gripping and original story” of 4 500 to 5 000 words. The competition is unique in that it focuses on content over form, understanding that many entrants will be writing in their second or third language. Story quality and creativity are the key criteria and entrants are not penalised for imperfect grammar and spelling.

This is the eighth year that Anglo Platinum is sponsoring this competition. A piece of platinum jewellery from its Djadji range is on offer in a special prize category.—Mail & Guardian reporter

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