An Interview with Jayne Bauling: Author & Poet
Sylvia: Hi Jayne, it is such a pleasure to interview you. Please give our readers a brief introduction of yourself and a little about your book.
Jayne: I’m a fiction writer and poet living in South Africa. I fell in love with the written word at an early age and began pursuing my dream of becoming a writer as soon as I finished school. I’m now the author of nineteen novels and have recently moved into fiction for Young Adults. Exploring new writing directions has been exhilarating if a little scary at times. Happily, I have been encouraged by some really positive recognition of my work.
My last two YA novels, E Eights and Stepping Solo, have won the 2009 Macmillan Writer’s Prize for Africa and the 2011 Maskew Miller Longman literature award respectively. A short story for youth won the MML silver medal in 2009, while another, This Ubuntu Thing, was shortlisted for the inaugural Golden Baobab prize. Another novel was a Sanlam Prize for Youth Literature finalist. I still write for adults as well, and contribute fiction and poetry to the Breaking the Silence anthologies published annually by People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA), a South African NGO, as well as having stories featured in a number of other anthologies.
My poetry has appeared in several literary journals, and I have been lucky enough to win two poetry prizes. Last year my first attempt at flash fiction, a story called Settling, won the first African Writing flash fiction contest.
Sylvia: What inspired you to write your first book?
Jayne: Humanity in all its strengths and weaknesses has always been my primary inspiration, along with my country’s sad history, challenging and exciting present, and its great physical beauty. I’m always eager to share whatever moves or fascinates me.
Jayne: One message would be that none of us exists in isolation; we realize our full potential through our interaction with others.
Sylvia: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Jayne: Don’t delay! I’m a great believer in getting started. I may have the most tenuous of plot ideas in my head, and it will stay that way unless I start writing. The moment I get started, my original idea begins to acquire substance, my characters develop and things start happening generally. Write about whatever most engages your passion and curiosity.
Sylvia: What marketing techniques have you used to sell your books and which ones have been most successful?
Jayne: Marketing techniques – very well-publicized launches and wide use of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others have been most effective. In South Africa it is very much the role of the writers and the bookstores to market a book, rather than the publishers setting up events, although there are a few exceptional publishers.
Sylvia: What projects are you currently working on?
Jayne: My publisher’s editor and I have just put the final touches to my next Young Adult novel, although we’re still discussing a title. I will start a new novel once I have done some research, but as a break, I’m writing a few short stories – adult and YA – and if I can find time, I’d like to get back to my sadly neglected poetry!
Sylvia: Why should we buy your book?
Jayne: I’d like people to buy Stepping Solo because while it gives an insight into such harsh South African realities as abuse, and our many child-headed households as the result of HIV/AIDS, it is also about taking control of our lives, refusing to be victims. While the setting and specifics are South African, the challenges to the human spirit are universal. I hope readers will recognize that it is ultimately a hopeful novel.
Sylvia: Wow, I’ve heard many sad stories about abuse in South African realities such as child-headed households as the result of HIV/AIDS. What programs does your government have in place to help its citizens?
Jayne: There are government grants for some child-headed households, but the problem is huge. Although the roll-out of ARVs for people living with HIV/AIDS had a troubled start, the programme is now in place and seems to be having some effect, but there is still a lot of stigma attached to AIDS and this needs to be overcome so that people stop being afraid to go and get tested. There is an ongoing “Know your status” programme that uses the media, and especially radio as this has the widest reach.
Sylvia: In South Africa, are you either rich or poor and no middle class?
Jayne: There is a middle class, and an emerging middle class among the previously disadvantaged, but it’s the vast gulf between the poorest of the poor and the conspicuously wealthy that is most troubling.
Sylvia: How do you handle seeing people suffering? I am sure you want to help everyone but the suffering is just so massive.
Jayne: Sylvia, it is hard, sometimes I feel so angry or helpless, but I strongly believe we’re meant to use whatever abilities or talents we’ve been granted to make a difference. Writing is something I can do, so I try to use my ability to make others aware of areas of need/suffering in the hope that they in their turn can use their knowledge/resources to make a difference.
I’d just like to add that even with the difficult legacy of SA’s pre-democracy past to overcome, this is a hugely exciting country to live in, rich in goodwill and entrepreneurial spirit. I love it!
Sylvia: Is there a special place you prefer when you write?
Jayne: I often write first drafts outdoors on my porch as we’re blessed with a great climate. That’s the creative part. The second draft is always written in my writing room; this is fairly bare so as to eliminate distraction, but immediately above my desk is a poster of a little girl reading a book and surrounded by great piles of more books, with some typically African animals – lion, elephant, giraffe and so on – in the background. The caption below says Reading Time in Africa.
Sylvia: What is your POWER WORD? Why this word?
Jayne: Ubuntu is a word that encapsulates our interconnectedness, the ancient African belief that we are each of us responsible to and for everyone else. “I am because we are and because we are, you are.” The individual and the community have a symbiotic relationship. Your pain and joy are mine and mine are yours; we validate each other.
Sylvia: Jayne, where can my readers learn more about you?
Jayne: Thank you again for your interest, Sylvia. My contact is below.
To purchase: http://www.kalahari.com/books/Stepping-Solo/632/43225622.aspx