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The Good Book Appreciation Society

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

The Books Recommended Authors Recommend

What books do recommended authors recommend?

The Good Book Appreciation Society – a book club in a secret corner of Facebook – asked some of South Africa’s most recommendable authors (who all just happen to have new books out themselves) for their go-to recommendable title.

On the left is their own book, on the right, the book they happily recommend – we recommend both:

NTHIKENG MOHELE author of Rusty Bell recommends Life & Times of Michael K, JM Coetzee.

Rusty BellnullLife and Times of Michael K
HENRIETTA ROSE-INNES author of Green Lion recommends Portrait with Keys, Ivan Vladislavić.

Green LionnullPortrait with Keys
JOHN HUNT, author of The Space Between the Space Between, recommends The Narrow Road To The Deep North, Richard Flanagan.

The Space Between the Space BetweennullThe Narrow Road to the Deep North
DARREL BRISTOW-BOVEY, author of One Midlife Crisis and a Speedo, recommends Papillon, Henri Charriere.

One Midlife Crisis and a SpeedonullPapillon
PAIGE NICK, author of Pens Behaving Badly, recommends Sum, David Eagleman.

Pens Behaving BadlynullSum

CRAIG HIGGINSON, author of The Dream House, recommends Selected Poems, Pablo Neruda.

The Dream HousenullSelected Poems
MASANDE NTSHANGA, author of The Reactive, recommends Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison.

The ReactivenullInvisible Man
REBECCA DAVIS, author of Best White and Other Anxious Delusions recommends The Worst Date Ever, Jane Bussmann.

Best White and Other Anxious DelusionsnullThe Worst Date Ever
IAIN THOMAS, author of How To Be Happy, recommends Good Omens, Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett.

nullnullGood Omens
RICHARD POPLAK, author of Until Julius Comes, recommends London Orbital, Iain Sinclair.

Until Julius ComesnullLondon Orbital
KHAYA DLANGA, author of To Quote Myself, recommends What Would Machiavelli Do? The Ends Justify the Meanness, Stanley Bing.

To Quote MyselfnullWhat Would Machiavelli Do?
The best way to join The Good Book Appreciation Society is to add Bea Reader as friend on Facebook, or to email

Book details

Write a 10-word review, win a Kobo



‪Enid Lacob:‪ The Goldfinch by Donna Tart: I took a painting and had an awful life thereafter


‪Helen Moffett‪ : Animal Farm by George Orwell: watch SONA on Youtube for the movie version.


‪Gareth Pike‪: The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas: Like being stuck in a greenhouse with people you loathe.


‪Greg Burke‪: The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce: Forrest Gump in extreme slow motion.


‪Linda Whelan‪: Ulysses by James Joyce: If you made it to the end, you’re telling lies.


‪Nick Mulgrew‪: Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes et al: tried to cook these dishes, but lost the huile d’olive.


‪Lee Labuschagne‪: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy: Lots of pages – skip some. Lots of war. Some peace.


‪Zukiswa Wanner‪: Zoo City, by Lauren Beukes: Commit a crime, get a pet. Free.


‪Monique Bernic‪: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer: Girl who hates people loves boy who eats them.


‪Eusebius Mckaiser‪: The Only Black At The Dinner Party by Eric Miyeni: A coconut brags about abulungu tjommies; and then disses them!


‪Jonathan Jono: Amid‪ Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel: You’ve got to fight for your right to pour tea!


‪Wendy Vermeulen‪: The Life of Pi by Yann Martel: Zookeeper’s son shipwrecked with tiger or was it the cook?

    To win a KOBO sponsored by Books Live, join The Good Book Appreciation Society, a secret book club on Facebook and add your own 10 word review to the competition post.

    To join The Good Book Appreciation Society, simply friend Bea Reader on FB or email

    The review with the most ‘likes’ wins a Kobo.
    Winner announced 13th March 2015 at 4pm.
    *Must live in SA to win.

    kOBO win image

Carol Campbell interviews Jonny Steinberg on GBAS ccamp

Welcome to an excerpt of our final Sunday Morning Pajama Flash Festival for the year. For the next hour, author of Esther’s House, Carol Lesley Campbell, will be interviewing multi-award-winning author, Jonny Steinberg. Over to you Carol…

‪Carol Lesley Campbell‪ Morning Jonny, thanks so much for being here..where are you?

‪Jonny Steinberg‪ Hi Carol. Great to be here. It’s still pitch black here in Oxford!

‪Carol Lesley Campbell‪ Oh wow! you are 2 hours behind us right? we got you up this morning!! hahahaha

‪Jonny Steinberg‪ no problem! I’m an early riser. Been up a while already.


‪Bea Reader‪ (Oops! Didn’t realise. Sorry Jonny Steinberg)

‪Carol Lesley Campbell‪ Jonny, you travelled the world for this book…going to places that were dangerous..tell us a bit about that?

‪Jonny Steinberg‪ Mainly East Africa. Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa. Some of these places were familiar, but I saw them for the first time through the eyes of the Somali diaspora which made them completely different. Amazing borrowing somebody else’s eyes to see what you thought was familiar.

‪Carol Lesley Campbell‪ There couldn’t have been any creature did you live on the road? these are parts of the globe where famine and drought are part of life…how did you deal with meals and water?

‪Jonny Steinberg‪ actually, I travelled in middle class comfort! B&Bs. Fairly comfortable homes. There was no hard‬ living involved. Sorry to disappoint!

Carol Lesley Campbell‪ hahaha! I was wondering how I would have coped…it seemed to unfamiliar‬. This is a work that strips away everything…

family, friends, stuff…on a personal level how did you feel when it was all over?‬

‪Jonny Steinberg‪ So many feelings. Hard to summarise. I guess as I was anxious, above all, to know whether I’d told the story well. This is something one cannot judge for oneself. One loses perspective. So I waited with some apprehension to see if people would read the book, if they’d be absorbed by it, moved by it. Once I started getting positive feedback, I could sit back and start feeling other things!‬

‪Carol Lesley Campbell‪ Yes, I can understand that….how do feel about humanity after this? Are we more good than bad?

‪Jonny Steinberg‪ We’re both. Really. We are equally prone to good and to evil. And we will keep committing both for as long as we’re around.

‪Carol Lesley Campbell‪ Asad…he was a complicated man…gosh…

that someone could still get up int he morning after what he went through is testament to the human spirit
. How is he now?

‪Jonny Steinberg‪ He is complicated. I guess we all are. I spent a lot of time with him. Spend a lot of time with anyone and they will look complicated!

I haven’t seen him in over a year now. And we’re not very good on the phone. I need to spend time with him to discover how he’s doing. But on the face of it, he seems to be doing well. I don’t want to say too much and give away the end of the book!



‪Carol Lesley Campbell‪ hahahaha…this is tricky…because I have to know about Foosiya?

‪Jonny Steinberg‪ For the benefit of others: Foosiya is Asad’s first wife. They parted under the saddest circumstances. Asad did not allow me to look for Foosiya and the children. So I did not. He himself will only look for them if he is successful in the US. He does not know how he’d reunite with his kids as a poor man. So I will have to wait, probably many years, to find out about Foosiya. It will be worth the wait. It is wonderful to watch stores evolve over years.

Carol Lesley Campbell‪ oh wow…the heartbreak was breathtaking…but really that is Somalia isn’t it… so many families cleaved in half
. With Sadicya (Asad’s second wife) it’s like he is pulling away from being a Somali…‬

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 over 2700 members, it’s situated in a secret corner of Facebook.

JONNY STEINBERG is the author of several books about everyday life in the wake of South Africa’s transition to democracy, including Three Letter Plague (Sizwe’s Test in the US), as well as Midlands and The Number, both of which won South Africa’s‬
‪premier nonfiction literary award, the Sunday Times Alan Paton Prize. Steinberg was also a recipient of the inaugural Windham Campbell Prizes for Literature, awarded by Yale University. He teaches African Studies and Criminology at Oxford University. His latest book, A MAN OF GOOD HOPE, chronicles the journeys of a young Somali across the African continent and is available here

And marvellous, intuitive interviewer, Carol Campbell, is the author of the acclaimed novels My Children Have Faces (also published in Afrikaans as Karretjiemense), and Esther’s House (‘n Huis vir Ester). She has been a journalist for 23 years and lives in Durban where she is the night news editor of The Mercury. You can click through to her books here.

We’ll be back with more live interviews next year. Have a great bookie break everyone, and be sure to let us know what your summer reads are. Also a million thanks for your support this year. This group continues to grow from strength to strength and we couldn’t do it without every single book lover on the page.‬

How to win a Kobo

win a kobo - arctic.001

Click on image to enlarge

Charlie Human interviews Lauren Beukes

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Welcome to Cocktail Hour on The Good Book Appreciation Society. We have a special treat this evening. For the next hour, author Charlie Human will be grilling Lauren Beukes on her international smash hit, the newly launched Broken Monsters. Lauren will be posting under the Ann Author account. Charlie will open up for questions at about 8:15. Over to you Charlie…

‪Charlie Human Welcome Lorraine Beukes, author of Zoolander and The Shining, and here to talk to us today about her latest novel, Monsters Inc. Lorraine are you there?

Lauren Beukes I am here, Mr Human. or should I call you Mr Inhuman?

‪Charlie Human So I thought this was an appropriate quote from Broken Monsters to start off with. Are you ready to dance, monkey?

Lauren Beukes Always. Can we do a robot apocalypse dance-off?

‪Charlie Human Let’s hope that quote goes as far as Zoo City’s “Fashion is only different skins for different flavours of you.”

Lauren Beukes Where did you find that quote or did you make it yourself?
 Stalking Pinterest again? I’m still bummed about the fashion flavours quote.

‪Charlie Human I found it on a little thing I like to call THE INTERNET

Lauren Beukes Ah yes, I am familiar with The Internet. It is one of my favourite things.
 For research.
 Not procrastination

‪Charlie Human With any luck Facebook will use the Broken Monsters quote as part of their official marketing

Actually I think the full quote is better: “Shakespeare would have it wrong these days. It’s not the world that’s the stage – it’s social media, where you’re trying to put on a show. The rest of your life is rehearsals, prepping in the wings to be fabulous online.”

Lauren Beukes That would be awesome marketing. God, if I could leverage Facebook

‪Charlie Human OK, so give us the blurb for Broken Monsters the way you see it. What does this story mean to you?

Lauren Beukes Oh you bastard.Ann Author That’s a horrible one. It’s a book about being seen. Or not. About how we’re all broken inside (a little) and it’s how you live with it. And that even the monsters don’t work – they’re broken, non-functioning, they don’t exist, because the only monsters are us and our monstrous ambitions and desires and failings.

Holy existential crisis on a Sunday night, Batman.

‪Charlie Human You’ve talked a bit in the past about the internet as a kind of collective unconscious for the planet, a database of desire. This connects to dreams in Broken Monsters, particularly The American Dream. Why was this something you wanted to explore?


Lauren Beukes Oh, but it’s also a book about strange hybrid bodies turning up in Detroit, the detective trying to solve the case, her daughter getting into catfishing online, a journalist trying to break a big story (and save his career), a man on the street trying to hold his family together and a rather tortured artist.

‪Charlie Human So, you’re pretty weird and messed up. Sorry, that was more a comment than a question.

Lauren Beukes Yeah, there’s a great quote in the movie Paprika, which I only know from the image I found on Tumblr. But yeah, the collective unconscious, desire, fear, loathing, different guises of the self.

How we express ourselves online. I collected a lot of images of obfuscated faces on my tumblr.


And yeah, pretty weird and messed up would cover it.

‪Charlie Human Your publishers did this cool personality test that analyses your tweets to see what kind of serial killer you are: ‪ So, what kind of serial killer are you?

Lauren Beukes Psychopath!
 Quelle surprise.
But not a Broken Monster. I don’t think I’m antisocial enough. Although Joey Hifi, the SA cover designer did tell me “It’s interesting you wrote a book about someone possessed by a creative urge that takes them to dark places”

‪Charlie Human Yeah I was interested in the fact that they used those Dark Triad character traits as a way of analysing tweets.

Lauren Beukes It was very cool that HarperCollins put the test together. It’s actually devised by Jonno Haim. Intertextual.

There’s a Dark Triad? Is that you, me and Sarah Lotz?

‪Charlie Human Yes! So the three Dark Triad traits are narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. You’re psychopathy….

Sarah kinda has to be Machiavellianism, right?

Lauren Beukes Which would make you Narcissim

‪Charlie Human *looks in mirror* Yes, Narcissim suits me fine, just fine

Lauren Beukes watch it, I’ll turn this Interview around and start asking you about Kill Baxter (Your new book, out at the beginning of the month in the UK. I saw your agent in London. He says hi)

‪Charlie Human People taxidermy with meat glue is quite extreme, even for a psychopath. Where the hell did that come from?

Lauren Beukes Hahaha. As someone pointed out to me on Twitter: “So, you basically killed Mr Tumnus”. (from Narnia)
 Which is a very insightful reading actually.

I read about meatglue on the Internet, it proved irresistible.
 But I interviewed leading transglutinimase expert and chef Wiley Dufresne about the intricacies of meat glue.
 And how to use it. I did take some artistic license.
 Because in reality, there’s not enough MEAT to use meat glue if you sever someone at the waist.
 So don’t try this at home.

Although if you come to the Detroit launch of Broken Monsters on 19 September, Mickey Alice Kwapis, the taxidermist I interviewed for the novel, is planning to do a taxidermy workshop. No meatglue though.

‪Charlie Human You heard it here first: Sticking a corpse together with meatglue is not a practical way to display your victims

Lauren Beukes She really did describe taxidermy like “peeling a really gross orange” and the kangaroo story in the novel really happened to her.

‪Charlie Human That was pretty gross. Why can’t you write about something more wholesome like zombie strip clubs?

Lauren Beukes I know, I know. I’m not depraved enough to go there, I think. Not like YOU.

‪Charlie Human So next actual question: Your dialogue has always been annoyingly good but it’s really, really great in Broken Monsters. Give us a little dialogue tutorial. How do you get the voices right?

To read the rest of this interview join The Good Book Appreciation society by friending Bea Reader on Facebook, or emailing

Massive, huge, obscene thanks to ‪Charlie Human‬ for running this mad, wild, dark, funny interview. Hopefully he’s keeping count of all the Bonus Points Lauren won. Charlie’s latest novel, Apocalypse Now Now, has been very highly acclaimed, and you can check it out here.


And of course major thanks to Lauren for adding the GBAS as a stop on her world tour. Broken Monsters has had high praise from around the world, including huge support from Steven King. Click here to pick up your own copy:

Broken Monsters

Fiona Snyckers interviews 

‪Melissa Baumann Siebert

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Welcome to another Sunday Morning Pajama Flash Festival. For the next hour, Fiona Snyckers will be chatting to Melissa Siebert about her debut novel. If you have any questions for either author, Fiona will open up to the floor at 9:45. We hope you enjoy the show. Over to you Fiona.

‪Fiona Snyckers Morning ‪Melissa and morning everyone. Melissa, I will start with a brief summary of the novel (no spoilers) to introduce everyone to it and then lead off with my first question…

‪Melissa Baumann Siebert sounds great!

‪Fiona Snyckers Okay, Garden of Dreams is about the abduction in India of a teenage boy, Eli de Villiers. Eli is half South African and half American. He is abducted into the sex trade in Delhi, although it’s not certain if that is the ultimate intention of those who have kidnapped him. We follow him on an epic journey across India as he variously escapes and is recaptured. In a way, the setting is one of the main characters of the novel. I’m interested to know where your familiarity with India comes from. You take us confidently from the brothels of Delhi to the mountains of Katmandu. Tell us a bit about the research that went into the creation of this novel.

Melissa Baumann Siebert I did a lot of research for the book, both on the ground, online, reading humanitarian reports re child trafficking and so on. India is an obsession of mine, and I spent several months there in the mid-eighties, but knew I had to go back, so I did for just over a month, and then on to Nepal in 2011 — novel research. I spent time trawling GB Road, Delhi’s red-light district, interviewing pimps and prostitutes and in Nepal interviews counter-traffickers, as the book deals with trafficking of kids from Nepal into India, probably the world’s biggest hotspot for child trafficking. I also watched videos on Youtube — testimonies and doccies on child trafficking. And when in India and Nepal, took tons of notes and photos to help me later conjure it all on the page…

Fiona Snyckers Yes, I could see that your research was immensely thorough. I’d like to unpack the character of Margo – Eli’s mother. She is taking him on a trip through India to visit his father Anton who lives in Katmandu. Then one day she decides to return to South Africa for a journalistic assignment, leaving only a note for Eli. Unsurprisingly, the strangers she leaves him with don’t lead him safely to his father and he ends up getting kidnapped. You imply in the book that Margo suffered from Post Natal Depression, one that she might not fully have recovered from. Is that a factor in determining the decisions she makes?

Melissa Baumann Siebert Absolutely. Margo, at one point a relatively successful journalist, suffers from recurring depression, and at the start of the book, on holiday with Eli in the magical town of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, India, Margo is already starting to fall apart, succumb to another bout of depression. Depression recurs in her life, and though she loves her son at the point where the novel begins she also wants to offload him in a way — onto Anton, her estranged husband, who has been absent in their son’s life. In a way it is a classic rite-of-passage, a boy being handed over to his father at the age of 13. But of course not all goes according to plan.

Fiona Snyckers Margo is also torn by the classic working-mother dilemma. Her career is very important to her and she is good at what she does. And there is no doubt that her family responsibilities are slowing her down. In fact, when she returns to SA she finds that the job has been given away to someone else – a younger, single woman who has no family commitments. Do you see this struggle of the working mother as something that can be resolved any time soon? Will it always be with us?

‪Melissa Baumann Siebert Not sure I can answer that one! As you probably guessed, the character of Margo is LOOSELY based on me (and Anton and Eli are based on my husband and son, respectively, again loosely)…I am not as deranged, thank heavens, as she is…not yet anyway! But I have basically raised our son Rafe (model for Eli, now 17) on my own since 2002…and had to give up a lot of my career to do so. I really wanted to have a child and it took me seven operations/treatments to get Rafe — and this is reflected in the book. But also reflected are the tensions and dilemmas, what one has to sacrifice to have a child, particularly if one is raising him/her pretty much single-handedly.

And also, I’d like to add…how incredibly life-changing having a child is, in ways one never anticipates, and how much more vulnerable it makes you…

‪Fiona Snyckers I wondered about it when I saw the gorgeous, golden-haired creature that is your son on your Facebook page. He looks exactly as you describe Eli! Still on the subject of parenting, Eli’s dad Anton abdicates parental responsibility to become a mediator in war-torn Katmandu. It is hard to criticise him because he is doing something very important – helping to return child soldiers to their villages. It is also hard to criticise Margo because she is trying to keep her career alive. But ultimately in parenting SOMEONE has to step up to the plate. And Eli is unfortunate in that both his parents are reluctant to do this.

To read the rest of this interview join The Good Book Appreciation Society by friending Bea Reader on Facebook, or by emailing

To check out Melissa’s book, click here.

And to connect with Fiona, click here.

Gareth Crocker Interviews Casey B Dolan

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Welcome to an excerpt of Cocktail Hour at The Good Book Appreciation Society where Gareth Crocker grilled Casey B Dolan on her fictional debut, When the Bough Breaks. Gareth will open up to the floor for any questions at about 8:15. Over to you Gareth…

‪Casey B Dolan ‪Gareth Crocker yoohooo…over here!!!!

‪Gareth Crocker Yes, yes. I’m right here. You’re so pushy, Dolan

‪Casey B Dolan correct

‪Gareth Crocker So Casey, firstly, I assume you look lovely this evening? You were looking particularly ravishing this afternoon when I was staring at you through your kitchen window. You probably didn’t see me given that I was wearing my trusty lamp post disguise?

‪Casey B Dolan Was that you that the dog took a whizz on?

‪Casey B Dolan And I am in my pink PJ’s with a hot water bottle awaiting your barrage of interesting rhetoric

‪Gareth Crocker So, for those who may have been living in a cave for the past decade or so, a quick recap: model, radio personality, voice over artist, TV star, film star, supermom, animal activist and humanitarian. On the surface, and for those who might not have read your autobiography, An Appetite for Peas, it seems as if one success has naturally led to another. But that’s not quite true, is it? It seems to me that you’ve had to fight very hard to get where you are today. Yes?

‪Casey B Dolan Well, yes…I am not sure fight is quite the word, I have kept my head above water and kept swimming

‪Gareth Crocker Having read your magnificent (and I mean that) autobiography, An Appetite for Peas, I think I’m right. You’re the sort of person who really goes after what you want. Your tenacity is a key part of your make-up, yes?

‪Casey B Dolan I think any career in the creative arts takes a lot of perseverance to be able to make any headway and then a rather thick hide to take the plethora of whippings dolled out on a far too regular basis. Yes. Tenacious is definitely apt. Along with a few other choice words that are not as flattering hehehe

Gareth Crocker Please, Casey, let’s keep this conversation professional. All this talk about whipping is getting me a little hot under the collar. But seriously, you’re clearly a tremendously focused person. Which is great, given that the book world is known for dishing out its fair share of beat downs. Did I mention that my first novel was rejected like 500 times?

‪Casey B Dolan Really??! Was that Finding Jack??? But it was met with critical acclaim…wow…

‪Gareth Crocker …and enough about me. So, Casey, in your writing you have an extraordinary gift for dialogue. Some of the best, I’ve ever read. If your dialogue had a fight with my dialogue it would pull its hair, punch it in the stomach and send it home to cry. Where does this ability come from?

Casey B Dolan I think the aspect of my writing that may be slightly unique is perhaps dialogue only because I have waded through 20 years of zipping up characters getting in their heads enough to convincingly portray them. i don’t necessarily just write a scene I see in my head, I actually “play” the role of the character I am writing…it comes a lot easier to me than writing extensive narrative and imagery. So I suppose at some point I may stretch myself but for now I so love writing scenes where the dialogue really portrays everything I haven’t described (does that make sense?)

Gareth Crocker Yes, of course it makes sense. It now also explains why, Mondays to Fridays, you run around your bedroom gesticulating as though your hair is on fire. Always wondered about that. Anyway, I digress. Tell me a little about your process. Do you plot your novels up front? Or do you simply kick off with an interesting premise and allow the story to take its natural course?

To read the rest of this interview, and more, join The Good Book Appreciation Society, by friending Bea Reader on Facebook, or email

Helen Moffett interviews Jassy Mackenzie

Welcome to another Sunday Morning Pajama Flash Festival. For the next hour, Helen Moffett will be chatting to Jassy Mackenzie about writing erotica, publishing internationally and her latest projects. If you have any questions for Jassy, Helen will open up to the floor at about 10:15. Over to you Helen…

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‪Helen Moffett without further ado… Jassy, you had a solid rep as a writer of hard-boiled thrillers, often quite terrifying. Tell us why you made the, er, switch to erotica.

‪Jassy Mackenzie I’ve always been intrigued and amused by the idea of BDSM – in fact, I wrote a short story on the topic which was one of the first short stories I ever wrote. When 50 Shades started becoming such a talking point, I thought it would be a good time to try my hand at the genre again – I wanted to do something different, and erotica is such fun.

Helen Moffett It IS, isn’t it? You were brave to tackle BDSM — we battled a bit with that (well, I certainly did). To recap for readers, yr 1st 2 erotica titles, Folly and Switch, star Emma Caine. I found her a very appealing heroine – an exhausted broke sad 40-something housewife, rather different from the 20-something wide-eyed gal looking for adventure.

The premise is that desperate to pay the bills after her husband’s accident leaves him essentially a vegetable with hideous medical costs, Emma converts the cottage on her grounds into a sex dungeon where powerful men pay her wodges of cash to beat and humiliate them.

What I LOVED about the dungeon scenes is that you have clearly done yr homework and you don’t mock the “scene” — but many of the encounters Emma has with her clients are cryingly funny…

‪Jassy Mackenzie Exactly. I realised quite early on when I started writing Folly that there was no way this could be a serious book. How on earth do you make the picture of a CEO crawling round on the floor with a pair of frilly panties and a ball gag, sound serious? It was an impossible task.

‪Helen Moffett Yes! This is what we found writing the Girl books too. Sex is so many things, but it’s also funny. I think you did an amazing job of balancing HOT sex scenes with the dungeon merriment.

*draws Jassy closer* Now then girlfriend. How did you manage to write all those sex scenes? Spill your trade secrets. I’m taking notes

‪Jassy Mackenzie From reading the first Girl book, I can appreciate that you had the same challenges, and handled them with aplomb! The most difficult part was getting a balance between the more amusing scenes, and the serious red-hot love scenes where of course no snigger can pass the reader’s lips.

Hmmm…. well, I also want to hear this from you! The most difficult part of writing the sex scenes for me, which I think you’ll sympathise with, is that there are just not enough words in the English language to describe erotic activities without becoming repetitive.
 I mean… if you start using “thrust” more than twice in a paragraph, your editor starts getting all passive-aggressive!

‪Helen Moffett AHAHAHAAA!!! I confess I read yr sex scenes with great collegial interest: “OOH, there’s a word we can use… hmm, so that’s how she gets around the tricky words ‘crotch’ and ‘groin’… etc”. As everyone knows, I used to wish for a sex thesaurus…

And tell us about the editing, if you like! Some of the straight-faced mails between our US editor and us were hysterical (“the fabric of her bra can’t rub against her nipple, it means the bra is too big…”)

‪Jassy Mackenzie There needs to be one (sex thesaurus), and when one is published, I will invest in several signed copies of it. I also got a great piece of advice on writing sex scenes from an interview with Sylvia Day of the “Bared to You” series fame. She said that every sex scene has to move the characters forward, and give the reader more insight into them from one angle or another. They can’t just be gratuitous. I found that very helpful.

‪Jassy Mackenzie Love the fabric of the bra comment!

My South African editor gets very, very angry with me if I use the same word multiple times. By the end of the manuscript, she’s seething and WRITING IN CAPITALS and highlighting the offending word in BRIGHT RED!

(and accusing me of driving her to drink!)

‪Helen Moffett That is hysterical, Jassy. We called them word echoes, and mostly dealt with them ourselves (they drove ME to drink, I was forever mailing the others begging them to find a word, any other word, and then we would, and it would IMMEDIATELY pop up three times in the next para!). Re moving characters forward, I think in yr Folly novels, you manage that incredibly well in ALL your scenes. I got the feeling that yr sense of plot, as a thriller writer, really made yr erotica gallop along, things were always HAPPENING. We were lucky because we had Sarah (also a thriller/horror writer) constantly kicking our plots along, Paige giving the human touch, and me nagging everyone about finding a synonym for “gasp”.

‪Helen Moffett It was SUCH fun writing as a threesome — did you share your erotic writing process with anyone? Did you have cheerleaders, beta readers, and so on?

‪Jassy Mackenzie A helpful tip that I got from my American editor was to make the non-erotic activities in the book more sensual, so that the heroine doesn’t just cut up an avocado, but cups it in her hand and softly slices through its rounded form…!

‪ As far as beta-readers go, my beta-reader is Dion and he, luckily, enjoys reading my erotic romances. In fact, I think he prefers them to my thrillers. I also email the books to my sister Sophie in the UK. She is a writer as well – she writes chick-lit – so it’s reciprocal.
 (for all those who don’t know, Dion is my amazing partner.)

‪Helen Moffett Great, so you have a family business going there… and kudos to Dion! And yr US editor sounds ace! That’s actually EXCELLENT advice she gets — I got similar advice from a writing friend — to include lots of delicious sensual non-sexual activities: which is why we have what the three of us call “food porn”, “scenery porn”, “shopping porn” etc. I LOVE writing that stuff, esp the food… I LOVED the food in all yr erotica books…

‪Jassy Mackenzie But I envy you writing as a threesome. I think that must have created a lot of synergy and helped to avoid those days when a plot glitch feels like an unclimbable mountain.

Food, cooking and eating are such sensory activities and they seem to go really well with erotic romances. Every heroine in my books will have to have a healthy appetite – no picking at salads and diet shakes.

‪Helen Moffett Writing as a threesome was such such such fun. Someone else always has yr back. It can be cumbersome (we have to OK all decisions and the mails go back and forth), but I LOVED it. But I’m SO GLAD you mentioned the diet thing — I can NEVER believe heroines who claim they’ve lost their appetites, but who are then sexually ravenous.

‪Jassy Mackenzie And I love the phrases “scenery porn” and “shopping porn” – I’m thinking softly rolling hills and jutting rocky outcrops…

To read the rest of this titilating interview, join The Good Book Appreciation Society by emailing or by friending Bea Reader on Facebook.

Enormous throbbing thanks to both Helen and Jassy for joining us this morning, to chat all things erotic.
Both these authors have so many books available, it’s hard to know which to link to, but let’s start here.
Jassy is the author of a series of crime thrillers, as well as Folly and Switch, and Breathless which is due out in September. Click here to take a closer look at her titles:

And Helen Moffett is not only the editor of books like Lauren Beukes’ Shining Girls and Broken Monsters, and Sarah Lotz’ ground breaking, The Three. But she’s also an author in her own right of both poetry (Strange Fruit is available here) and erotica (As Helena S. Paige).
You can check out those titles here:

Amanda Coetzee interviews Mike Nicol

Good morning and welcome to another Sunday Morning Pajama Flash Festival. This morning Amanda Coetzee will be chatting to prolific local and internationally published crime author, Mike Nicol. If you have any questions, Amanda will open up to the floor at about 9:45. Over to you Amanda… — with Amanda Coetzee and Mike Nicol.

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‪Amanda Coetzee Thanks Bea Reader for the warm welcome. Morning early risers and of course, Mike. Would you sum up ‘Of Cops and Robbers’ for anyone who may not have read it yet?

‪Mike Nicol Can’t we start with an easy question. Like what’s my favourite colour?

‪Amanda Coetzee Stop misbehaving. Let me sum it up for you but don’t moan if I get critical points wrong…

‪Mike Nicol I’m much better at correcting the mistakes of others. Gives me a sense of superiority.

‪Amanda Coetzee There speaks the creative writing teacher. Ok. It’s based on historical crime (sort of) that impacts on the present in a violently but entertaining read.

‪Mike Nicol And it features a stunning beautiful duo – the surfer boy (who is modeled on me, of course) and his amazing girlfriend who predictably won’t move in with him as she has a gambling habit and a nice flat in the city and she’s a lawyer. What more could you ask for?

‪Amanda Coetzee Err, who is the beautiful girl modelled on? Your long suffering wife? Where did the detail for the gambling addiction come from?

‪Mike Nicol Oh, that’s all made up the gambling part. The beautiful girl part? Well that would be to reveal secrets. Have to add in something about my setting right now. I’m in Langebaan in a cafe looking out on a street. The lagoon is down the road but I can see it if I stand on a chair.

‪Amanda Coetzee A comment on its distance not your height of course. Have you ever had a ‘baby-shit yellow Ford Granada’ in the interests of researching an unforgettable phrase?

‪Amanda Coetzee A serious question for anyone still listening. Why the decision to base the plot, loosely, around historical events?

‪Mike Nicol No. But my father owned one in the 1970s. Or at least he had the Granada part. The yellow part came because g-daughter Kate had just been born and so there was a lot of that colour stuff around.

I suppose because history has always been present – no clever word play there of course – in my fiction. But apart from that I have long been fascinated by the hit squads that the apartheid forces let go on the country. I wanted to reference their doings and then a sense of poetic justice as they came to confront their actions in the new country.

Amanda Coetzee Do you feel a sense of responsibility as a social commentator as a crime writer based in South Africa or is this poetic justice a personal response?

‪Mike Nicol No. But my father owned one in the 1970s. Or at least he had the Granada part. The yellow part came because g-daughter Kate had just been born and so there was a lot of that colour stuff around.

I suppose because history has always been present – no clever word play there of course – in my fiction. But apart from that I have long been fascinated by the hit squads that the apartheid forces let go on the country. I wanted to reference their doings and then a sense of poetic justice as they came to confront their actions in the new country.

‪Amanda Coetzee Do you feel a sense of responsibility as a social commentator as a crime writer based in South Africa or is this poetic justice a personal response?

‪Mike Nicol Ah the question that lies at the root of so much… I guess because I grew up at a certain time and started writing in the 1970s when everything you wrote was political, writers couldn’t help but by social commentators. As a crime writer – well, as any writer really – I think one has to carry on the tradition of commenting on the country. Especially as we have a lot to comment on right now. Also the poetic justice is probably also a personal response, but mostly that novel is about telling a story and mixing some fact into the fiction.

Amanda Coetzee Talking about the mix of fact and fiction, your character Jacob Mkezi of the crocodile shoes is a complex man who clearly sees himself as beyond the petty rules of society. Sadly so many of our politicians do – was your choice to include his relationship with a white woman and a liking for young male prostitutes as part of this character trait?…

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Liesl Jobson interviews Alex Smith

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Morning and welcome to another Sunday morning Pajama Flash Festival on The Good Book Appreciation Society. Today Liesl Jobson is interviewing Alex Smith on her highly anticipated new novel, Devilskein & Dearlove.Over to you Liesl…

‪Liesl Jobson What a delight to be here, talking to an author I greatly admire. Despite finishing Devilskein & Dearlove at three this morning, I am wide awake with this fantastic and fabulous narrative. In the fullest sense of both those words it is a fable of the fantasy genre and it is buzzing wildly in my head. It’s a book you simply can’t quit until the last remarkable page. Doors open into doors, ever darker worlds open up, a cast of quirky and fully realised characters have their say, and, most courageously, the heroine gazes upon impossible and unimaginable faces of evil without flinching.

The feisty Erin Dearlove is just 13. She’s instantly recognisable as the archetypal prickly adolescent. Anyone who is intimately involved with teens might have seen her sort! She is short to the point of rudeness, intolerant of others, and smart as a whip. Her curiosity and willingness to suspend belief means that an improbable encounter with a demon is teased into reality.

Erin is, significantly, a survivor. She defends herself from the anguish of her new life by re-imagining the hideous attack that left her orphaned. Her vibrant imagination is aided by her rare command of the English language. And her refusal to go to school, which leads to a hilarious encounter with a school psychologist! Erin is brighter than most of the adults she interacts with and has a way of projecting herself into and onto the world so that nobody knows what she most cares about. I’m curious about the liberties that writing YA fiction affords you. How did the voice of Erin come to you?

‪Alex Smith Thank you Liesl, for that – you put it so beautifully even so early on a Sunday morning. First the names came – Devilskein and Dearlove. I knew they’d be opposites in some way and like the ‘D’ they share, they’d be similar too. I have teenagers in my family, nieces and nephews and I think Erin Dearlove’s voice grew out of their collective vulnerability, their wisdom, their many moments of grumpiness and at times their uncanny abilities to be hurtful (which shows how much insight they have into the souls of adults… in fact, sometimes I’m not sure there is such a distinction between adults and young adults (teenagers), apart from the legal things … maybe my head is blurry from late dinner party last night, but even my two-year-old son has an extraordinary understanding of how to get his way in the world. I think adults think they are wiser than they are and adults underestimate the wisdom of children and young adults.

‪Liesl Jobson I’m with you all the way, Alex, which is why I’m never entirely convinced that the designation “YA” is necessarily apt. The crossover between childhood and adulthood is a liminal space that I’m not sure we ever properly exit. Your narrative also touches on issues that affect adults and children alike. The experience of evil, the way we make sense of it, the possibilities of enduring through trauma.

‪Alex Smith In terms of liberties, I think YA (although I’m not such a fan of categories, though they’re essential for marketing I know) allows a particular kind of fantastical, not fantasty, but it makes space for being playing with fantastical possibilities. So instead of YA I like to think of my genre as Fantastical Real.

‪Liesl Jobson Snap!

‪Alex Smith Haha, yes, I agree completely. The issue of evil was a hard one to grapple with.

‪Alex Smith You know in some philosophies there’s the idea that there is no real evil and since I’m an atheist, in some ways I go along with that, But then things you see in the news…sheesh, they make evil seem very real.

‪Liesl Jobson Recently, at Lauren Beukes’s launch of Broken Monsters, she said, “We’re all broken… we’re all monsters.” That resonated. Your Erin Dearlove has a sense of her own power, for good and for craziness. She walks such a fine line. Grappling with evil is our daily reality in South Africa. Actually, it’s a global reality. Not peculiarly homegrown. I’m interesting in the way you allow the reader to wonder if she is telling the truth, when she clearly isn’t. It’s paradoxical.

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