Q&A: Robson, author of Monday Evening, Thursday Afternoon

By Drum Digital
19 December 2013

A chat with author Jenny Robson, author of Monday Evening, Thursday Afternoon Tolerance and Friendship In this book, Monday Evening, Thursday Afternoon, we learn about two girls – Louise van Rensburg and Faheema Majiet – who meet in grade one and form a close friendship despite their very different family backgrounds. It is a story that shows that tolerance comes with setting aside your own preconceived ideas about someone and learning to understand the person by talking to and spending a lot of time with them.   The story is set in the fictional town of Gap Falls. With the uncanny perception children possess, Louise quickly becomes aware that her family is not totally happy with her friendship with Faheema.

Events far beyond the borders of their little town – the bombings on the London Underground and an insensitive cartoon portrayal of the prophet Mohammed – drives a wedge between them when both families put an end to their friendship.

Through Louise’s journal entries, we track how the two have to find a way to convince their families that their friendship is something precious and worth fighting for.

We asked author Jenny Robson to tell us more about her writing:   What inspires you to write young adult fiction? I grew believing that exciting, dramatic, thrilling, spine-tingling, world-shattering events only happened far away and only to young people very different from me.

So I want to write stories where amazing things happen right here in our own country and where all the characters are young people that our own teens can identify with, people they could live next door to or meet on the street.   What motivated you to write this story? When I was teaching in Orapa, Botswana, I had a colleague called Faheema Hassiem. She was a devout Muslim who found great comfort and joy in her faith. She was kind and open enough to discuss her Islamic beliefs with me. It was the time of 9/11 and of the underground bombings in London and also when  the Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed were published. Because of her gentle character, we were able to talk about these events in calm, rational ways. Without Faheema, this book would not have been written.

  What can be done to encourage youngsters to read more? Reading can be such fun. It can take you to wonderful places where no electronic gadget or TV show ever reach. Sadly, for many young people, their only reading happens at schooland it becomes part of their school “work”.  Most adults don’t value reading as a life-enhancing and life-altering activity, so why should their children?

I think it is up to us writers to provide stories that will wow teenagers. We must write in such a way that reading is not a drag and a tiring chore, but instead an exciting and mind-blowing and uplifting experience.

J. K. Rowling found a way and we have to find one too.

What does it take to write a book?

I am a teacher so my writing is done over weekends and in school holidays or during the early hours of the morning before I head to school. I am usually awake by 3 or 4 am.

This story initially took nine months. I wrote the entire story, start to finish, six times over. First by longhand and then typed into my PC. Each time I wrote it, the story and the characters changed and developed.

I re-wrote at least four times, from beginning to end and doubled the length of the story. It took a further ten months.

What encouragement can you offer to other aspiring authors?

If you want instant fame and lots of money, try another career option. Even after twenty years of writing, I still need to have a day-job.

But if, deep in your soul, you know you want to be a writer, don’t let anything or anyone stand in your way. And read! And read! And read some more. Everything you can lay your hands on. That way you will learn for yourself what power words can have.   Tafelberg

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