By Darren Gilbert

What do you love about writing?

I have been a reader and a writer all my life. It began with my open-mouthed adoration of Roald Dahl in the crib, evolved into my first poem at six-years-old – Twinkle, Twinkle Little Dragon – which matured into a hand-written book at 10.

I love that within minutes I can be anyone, anywhere. I can be part of a hacktivist plot to take down dirty corporates in a grubby 2021 Johannesburg. In the same book, I can be a creative assassin, a no-qualm journo, [or] a paranoid schizophrenic who shares her tin of chickpeas with her dog.

Writing, so sedate-looking from the outside, is one of the most exciting careers I can imagine.

What is your take on the local writing scene?

We’ve got some incredibly talented writers in South Africa [and] I’m proud to be in their company. Most of the writers I have met have been wonderfully supportive, especially Paige Nick; Fiona Snyckers; Helen Moffett; Hamilton Wende; Michael Sears and Melissa Delport.

In the future, I hope to do the same for younger writers trying to get a foothold in the industry. The walls are high and it can get very cold when you’re standing on the outside.

You also own and run Pulp Books. Can you tell us about Pulp and how it came about?

Pulp is different to other online bookstores because we will find any book for you, be it a bestseller or out of print. What our customers appreciate is that you’re not ordering from some behemoth robot in the ether, but from a real flesh-and-blood human who is there for you pretty much 24/7.

Some customers call me their personal bookdealer, others, their bibliotherapist.

Your latest book is Why You Were Taken. Can you tell us a little bit about it? Why should it be in our Christmas stockings this year?

It’s a strange, violent, pre-dystopian Johannesburg, 2021. The city is shimmering with a bright tension. The citizens of South Africa are beset by serious water scarcity and a fertility crisis. Like the national psyche, the litter-strewn streets are breaking up under the pressure of constant neglect and crime. Kirsten is a roaming, restless synaesthete: a photographer with bad habits and a fertility problem. A strange, muttering woman with dog hair on her jersey approaches Kirsten with a warning, and is found dead shortly afterwards. The warning leads Kirsten to the Doomsday Vault and a hit list of seven people – and Kirsten’s barcode is on it.

A reader’s recent review described it as “sexy, smart, and sci-fi.” – if that doesn’t belong in your Christmas stocking, then I feel sorry for your stocking.

What was the inspiration behind the story?

Usually there isn’t an ‘a-ha’ moment for me, a lightbulb of an idea. It’s more like layers of disconnected thoughts falling like snow over time.

You hear on the radio that there is going to be a water crisis in 10 years’ time. You wonder what the world will be like then. You struggle with personal issues: infertility. Your doctor tells you it is getting more and more common.

You have a nightmare about a child finding out that her parents are really her abductors. Slowly, the story takes shape in your head. More details come as you write: scenes surprise you, characters reveal themselves.

What is next for you? Is there a new book in the pipeline?

I have a lot of exciting projects lined up. My short story collection, Sticky Fingers, which is currently airing on SAFM, will be published as a paperback in 2016. Also due for release is my humorous memoir about my wrestling match with infertility, called The Underachieving Ovary.

The radio adaptation of my novel Why You Were Taken will be broadcast next year, too.

My new novel, a work in progress, is slated for publication in 2017. It’s called Grey Magic and it’s about an eccentric modern-day witch, accused of murder, who must explore her past lives in order to keep her freedom - and find her way back to magic.

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