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Hamilton Wende interviews Ron Irwin on GBAS

Bea Reader: A huge welcome to another Sunday Morning Pajama Flash Festival. For the next hour, author, Hamilton Wende will be interviewing Ron Irwin, on his debut novel, Flat Water Tuesday, right here in this thread on The Good Book Appreciation Society Facebook page. Flat Water Tuesday is a wonderful debut, which is currently Target Stores Book Pick of the Month for May in USA.
Over to you Hamilton…

irwin - wende

Hamilton Wende Good to have you here Ron. Its a long way from our hometown of Buffalo NY

‪Ron Irwin Great to be here and yes, it is woderful that we each have this connection to Buffalo, NY, where I grew up and where you spent a good part of your childhood. Cape Town seems like a long way away in many ways. I try to get back twice a year or so.

‪Hamilton Wende So I guess the thing is you wrote this novel while you were living in South Africa but its about the US and set in the US was that hard for you going back to your old life there?

‪Ron Irwin I certainly believe that one gets more perspective on a place when they actually are away from it. My novel takes place in New York and at a boarding school in Connecticut. The main characeter works in South Africa. I have not really seen that part of Connecticut for decades, and the New York parts are based very loosely on places I have been. It is hard to write about what is ging on around one, at least in the context of fiction…long ago I tdecided to make up my own version of the boarding school I attended, and change reality as I saw fit. I still get email from alumni who say I captured it well. I always say to my students that “reality is a tyrant” need to bend it to the demands of fiction. I mean, hammer it. You, as a reporter and also a war novelsit, must struggle with the same things…your novels take place in Central Africa and Afghanistan. You must find yourself changing reality to suit the narrative….

‪Hamilton Wende Yes that’s true. I often use incidents that happened, but then have to change the sequence of events to suit the narrative demands – and then I have to make up things completely, so there is a combination of memory and imagination twirling around one another to create the DNA of the story. But I also find there are deep feelings of identity that illuminate the characters’ lives and for me, although i haven’t lived in Buffalo for years, it is still a part of me and my character Claire in The House of War is from Buffalo, so your book resonated with me on that level – the shared personal and fictional identities – I mean my uncle’s house where I stayed when I used to go to Buffalo more often is just a couple doors down from your parents on the same street! And now we share a South African identity too which informs our writing.

‪Ron Irwin South Africa is in a great place from a writer’s POV. Fifteen years ago there was no real contemporrary fiction coming out of here. I would give creative writing classes and feel terrible for the students, who really would have very little outlet for their work. NOW, my god, it’s like Paris in the 20s!!! Publishers are LOOKING for writers. I was at the Franschhoek Lit Festival last week and I was tripping over good writers. It has to do with the fact that local readers are open to reading about their country, changes in technology…and the fact that the modern SA writer doesn’t feel compelled to always address the injustices of the past. Some very important books have been written by some great writers about the dim history of SA, but, let’s face it, this blog is run by a woman who has shown the world that SA porn can sell big. And I mean that in a good way.

‪Hamilton Wende Yes South African fiction is really exploding with possibilities and it is a very exciting time to be working here. The grand narratives of apartheid and the struggle are receding into the past and more and more South Africans are finding ways to express their inner lives that are no longer constrained by the terrible injustice of the past. Your book is exactly one of those narratives – a story set in both the US and SA with the dual identity of both cultures underlying the narrative

‪Ron Irwin True. It is based partly on reality. It is, at heart, a love story. It’s really about how the tragic events that happen around a rowing race while the main character is in boarding school affect him…and his relationship…as an adult. I was at Hilton College a few weeks ago, and have found that many students have asked to make the novel a set work. I gave a talk to the teachers asking them to think about what kind of men we are creating when we put these young warriors on the rugby fields…and on the water. We always say that sports build character, and that’s true. But what KIND of character? Is having an unstoppable will to win and to endure pain a really great thing in a personal relationship? Does it help you build empathy? The main character’s personality is tested when his lover decides to dump him.

‪Ron Irwin I’m not sure we will ever get to the bottom of the relationships between men and women. Thank god. This is really where the novelists lives, because we all want a special person in our lives, we are all struggling to find our place, to find acceptance. I think that the best parts of my novel really were about how we try to find each other. So the next novel will explore that in greater depth.

‪Hamilton Wende Tell us about how your own experiences at school and specifically rowing at school influenced your writing of Flat Water Tuesday?

To continue reading the rest of this interview, join The Good Book Appreciation Society, by friending Bea Reader on Facebook.

The Good Book Appreciation Society is a book club with almost 2000 members, it’s situated in a secret corner of Facebook.

Hamilton Wende is an author and journalist, his latest novel is Only the Dead.


Ron Irwin’s novel Flat Water Tuesday is available in all good book shops and online here:


Join The Good Book Appreciation Society, and join us next sunday at 9am when Zukiswa Wanner will be interviewed by Fiona Snyckers, on her latest novel, London Cape Town Joburg.



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