A move out of the comfort zone

2014-11-06 00:00

The Mark is very different from your other books, which have a comic slant. It’s darker and has some serious undertones. Why the shift?

The Mark was a move out of my comfort zone. It’s a dystopian novel, set in a future that has been devastated by a nuclear and technological catastrophe.

It is a harsh place, bearing the consequences of crimes selfishly inflicted on the world by our leaders today.

As I thought about it all, I couldn’t find much to laugh about.

My previous books were all set in real-time South Africa, and reflected the society in which young people live.

There are some striking similarities to apartheid in the social system in place in The Mark. Was this deliberate? If so, what aspects of apartheid did you aim to pick up on specifically? Is this a warning that if we don’t sort out prejudices and class rifts now, they could come back to bite us in the future?

I think divided societies and brutal security systems are common today in many countries, and were around long before apartheid.

While I may have drawn on my experiences of apartheid, I think that as we go forwards, as the disparities in wealth increase, and as we continue to mess up our environment, we are unlikely to be free of this.

It can only get worse.

Explain and expand on the concepts of the talking, prophetic, blind birds and massive, bolshie flies. They were a particularly creepy aspect of the mystique in Slum City.

I have always wondered what sort of creatures would survive an apocalypse. For me, they would be the most disgusting: the fleas, the lice, the cockroaches, the flies and rats.

And, of course, after the meltdown, they would be bigger and nastier. But I love birds, especially the Sacred Ibis (hadeda), which looks almost prehistoric.

I wanted one bird to survive, one which would be able to create hope.

The end seems almost

deliberately left hanging to allow the novel to be picked up again in a second instalment. Have you started writing it yet?

Aha! Readers must not forget to read the epilogue. It does spell out some certainty. But I have thought about writing a sequel and have some ideas about where I would take Juliet Seven, the main character.

The readers will decide if I actually write it.

Your main character, Juliet Seven, is very solitary and independent. As well as strong and caring. Who is your muse?

My characters are usually cobbled together from bits and pieces of people I meet.

Juliet Seven is, however, a bit of a mishmash of my two daughters, who are incredible, independent thinkers with integrity and empathy.

Is dystopia a genre you enjoy reading yourself? If so, why and what’s your favourite dystopian novel?

I don’t usually read dystopian novels, although I have read The Hunger Games and ­Divergent.

When I started writing The Mark, I discussed the genre a lot with my older daughter, Emily, and she gave me some excellent insights since she is an avid reader of the dystopian genre.

I do, however, love dystopian movies.

I Am Legend is my favourite.

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