Did you actually interview a ‘blessed’ girl or did you draw inspiration from what you’ve picked up around you?
It was actually a combination of both. There’s one or two people who are around me who I combined their personalities to form Bontle. It's people you know that you’re concerned for because you see the life they lead and you know it doesn’t end well. I also went to the ‘blessed’ sites and interviewed some of the girls and people would share stories.
Did you write the book to raise awareness of the trend?
What escalated the concern for me was this trend wasn’t going away, instead young women see it as a lifestyle choice and option to the finer things in life. I just think women are so much more than that we have so much more to offer than our beauty and body, and I know it’s a choice. But because of the country we live in, with high domestic violence and abuse, it was concerning. I feel it erodes our moral compass; I just feel a lot of things we shouldn’t accept. So that’s how the idea of the book came about.
How was the writing process like?
I might come across as preachy now but when I wrote I made sure to put my opinions and prejudges aside and just be the character, and hence even empathy can be felt in the book. Bontle had a choice and chose to get into the lifestyle. I wanted the reader to make their own judgment call. I put myself in her shoes and it was exciting and amazing to write, it was the quickest I’ve ever written – it took me six months to finish.
Do you have to be ‘in the zone’?
I can’t write in an office. I write at home when the kids are sleeping. With this book, in particular, I started writing in December 2016 so I would write in coffee shops or restaurants.
What’s different about this book?
Firstly it was the first one I wrote in the first person. I had tried it before – I have a crime fiction that I wanted to write from the crooked cop’s perspective. When the idea for this book came I had to decide how to start and knew it had to be in the first person. The story just came to me because my lead was female and so it was just easier for me to write as her. I love her humour, her spiciness and she’s just silly.
How do you feel about the way The Blessed Girl has been received?
Everyone says they couldn’t put it down! I’ve never had a book that’s so well received. I was taking a risk on the subject matter and the way I wrote Bontle. I thought some people would be put off, but I haven’t had any backlash. It’s phenomenal! People just love it and I’ve had three different companies approach me to turn into a movie or series, so it’s been great.
Images: Nicolise Harding