Your short story ‘Rhino’ for the AusLit charity anthology Humanity: A Short Story Collection deals with justice and injustice. What makes this such as interesting topic for fiction?
Rhino poaching is a big issue in Africa today, as it has been for a long time. I think that fiction should have a grounding in fact. The plight of Africa’s rhinos and its wildlife in general brings into focus many issues regarding justice and injustice. Wildlife is a key to Africa’s economic sustainability. As they say in Africa, no wildlife, no jobs… no jobs, no money.
Worldreader.org has the long-term goal of ensuring ebooks are available to all people. For the benefit of readers who have not been to Africa, what practical benefits would you expect from widespread literacy, english fluency and access to the world’s books from childhood in Africa?
Education is the key to prosperity, good government and sustainability. Africa, as a continent, is in need of all three.
Do you find the skills and approach you use for novel writing and short story writing are much the same, or significantly different (beyond the obvious difference in length)?
Short stories are harder to write. In a novel you have the luxury of time and space to develop a story and characters. Short story writing increases the pressure, but also focuses you as a write.
You are a fan of Stephen King’s writing on the craft of fiction and of the clarity of Ken Follet’s fiction writing. Who else’s work would you recommend to others as helpful as tools for fiction writers to develop their craft?
Bernard Cornwell for historical fiction; American Don Winslow for experimentation with dialogue; Nelson Demille for character development and the judicious use of humour; fellow Aussie Peter Watt for research and setting; and Aussie David Rollins for action.
You start each story with a situation and then write, letting the story develop as you write, so you don’t know what’s coming next. What is the key to setting up a situation well in the opening of a story to grab and maintain a reader’s interest?
If you, as the writer, know what’s going to happen at the end of your story then your intro will always be predictable. Start with a situation and a premise and just let the rest flow from there. If you get to the end and you think the story’s rubbish, then go back to the start and tweak it.
What is the key to keeping the initial story situation unresolved and interesting for the length of a novel?
Not knowing what the end is going to be. If you’re still guessing when it comes to writing the last 10 or 20 pages, then so (hopefully) will the reader.
No. I would be way to embarrassed to hear someone reading my books, so I’ve never listened to a word of any of them (but I hope other people do).
Which books are you most looking forward to reading in 2011?
Anything new by Don Winslow, Nelson Demille, Ken Follett, Peter Watt and David Rollins.
What point are you at with your current projects, and can you reveal any details of what people can expect in them?
Halfway through novel number 9, which is set in South Africa and Rwanda. My eighth novel , African Dawn is due out in Australia in August. It’s set in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) from 1959 to the present day and deals with the war of independence, the farm invasions, and the plight of rhinos in Zimbabwe.
The Australian Literature Review