#MTW Interview with Gavin Mills

Interviewed by TBBManiac Sian

Gavin Mills is a crazy; larger than life author who has written an amazing novel that is really enjoyable to both local and international readers. Gavin Mills was born in Springs in 1957. He was schooled at St Brendan’s Christian Brother’s College in Springs and went on to study Chemical Engineering at Wits University. He then did two years military service becoming a 2nd lieutenant and serving as transport officer for 52 Battalion out of Ogongo in Namibia in the late ‘70s. Coming out of the army, he went into computers as a programmer and later a systems analyst before giving up corporate to become a professional dancer, performing first in SA and later in London, Paris, Spain and Portugal. On returning to South Africa, he became involved in voter education leading up to the 1994 elections, then got into advertising and marketing. Today he runs two successful companies, one in event management, the second in ergonomic furniture design & manufacture. He has written and produced extensively for marketing and communication projects but only recently turned his attention to fiction. Dup Departs is his second novel.

Having been the reviewer who read Dup Departs for #MTW I must say that it is really exciting to interview. Even more exciting because we have actually met in person and this is not the first time that I have read one of your books – I have also read Seeds of Reason. Another exciting part for me is that fact that MTW is an internationally organised event and you are a South African Author and as a South African myself I love it when the South African authors get promoted through events like this.

So down to the questions because I know that is what my followers are looking for. Firstly I want to ask a really important one – How did you get involved in Mystery Thriller Week? Did you hear about it from a friend? And To follow on from that why did you decide to participate?

Hi Sian. Thanks for the opportunity! I recently made contact with Vicki Goodwin through Andrew Christie, the curator of Books and Everything, a reader/writer social media portal in South Africa. I had sent Dup to Vicki to review and she subsequently approached me and asked if I would like to be part of MTW. Obviously I jumped at the opportunity and am as excited as all hell! Both Dup and my first book, Seed of Reason will be available for the festival.

In what capacity are you participating in MTW? Are you here solely as an author? Are you doing in Q&A Sessions? Any reviews for other authors?

Obviously my main focus is as an author, but there are so many good books being presented, how could one not leap at the opportunity of becoming a read-glutton and give back with a number of reviews in the process. I have looked at one really good international true crime novel but have been focusing more on reviews of South African authors. There are so many good writers in SA – and our history both past and present lends itself to spectacular storytelling. …We live in really interesting times

Let’s take a look at your book. Firstly; for someone who comes from South Africa it was really easy for me to relate to the setting of your book. I know the places that the characters are interacting at and I know the setting or rather the environment that they are dealing with. Do you feel that the way you have conveyed this information that an international audience can relate as easily as your local audience? Have you had any feedback from international readers in this regard?

Interesting question and yes I do think that the way I have portrayed both environments and characters would make them accessible to international readers. Most people internationally – at least those that take the time to read – know of South Africa and know of Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. My descriptions of scenes do not require that the reader has a face to face knowledge of the locations. They are used more to portray the kind of space – seedy, elegant, lavish, decrepit, etc, the same way when we read great international authors, we can get a really good feel for New York, Chicago, Paris, Rome, etc. Furthermore, I think the context around my location provides an insight into various facets of South African life, society and mind-set, especially the seedier sides.

With regard to feedback from international audiences, yes: I have had quite a good response, and none of my readers have questioned, criticised or been out of kilt – at least not with this facet of the book. My language? Hmmm. Seems that is another topic altogether – Lol!

Now setting aside; your characters are truly South African or in some cases adapted to the South African lifestyle on both sides – legal and illegal. How hard was it to write about foreigners that were now in South Africa? Did you have research done to maintain that they had the correct kind of cultural and historical back ground?

The two main ‘foreigners’ in the book are the diabolical Ivan originally from Poland and Genghis Kahn, a movie producer form Nigeria.

To be quite honest, Ivan was loosely based on a pretty bad guy currently incarcerated in South Africa. I did not set out to create a carbon copy of this individual, but from following the news related to his infractions, developed my own version of his personality. Furthermore, in my dancing days, I did on occasion choreograph for strippers and one or two less than savoury strip clubs run by Eastern block owners. I got to know a few of these guys and understood what drove them. A little research into Poland and the spread of organised crime from behind what was once the Iron Curtain was pretty simple and like to believe I managed to create a plausible really REALLY bad guy.

With regard to Genghis, I have dealings with a quite a few Nigerians in my communications company, and I have found most of them to be interesting, dynamic people. Not all Nigerians are criminals and druglords and with Genghis I set out to challenge the paradigm. Genghis is so cool, so dignified and elegant. I loved writing him and would love to meet him – although as I said, through by communications relationships, I have met one or two individuals who have come close.

How hard was it to write Dup Departs compared to your other project The Seeds of Reason which was completely different! Was it easier? Was the writing process the same?

Dup was significantly easier to write than Seed. Seed took me 7 years, Dup took me 6 months! I have had a really interesting life, met really interesting people from all walks of life, and have travelled quite a bit so I find it easy to write fast moving action. Seed of Reason was written as comment on life and living in a modern world seeming to be spiralling out of control. It questions values, ethics, law and justice, right and wrong, love and hate. It took a lot of love and crafting to project perspectives and provide deeper insights. But writing Dup was a helluva lot more fun! Both books are on MTW.

What was the greatest challenge you faced while you were busy writing Dup Departs?

One of my key objectives when writing Dup was to make it a runaway train from cover to cover. This meant not ever letting the story slow down, become laboured or allow engagement to wain. …And in constructing the story, I had to keep on reminding myself to move away from the obvious or the anticipated with each turn of plot or flow. That was such fun! Even when writing I would type faster and faster, empathising with my good guys and getting really pissed off with my bad guys. I had to almost physically resist the urge to call the cops and report these looney-tunes clogging my pages, resolving to keep a-holes like those in my book far away from my kids at all times at all costs!

Why did you pick this genre when you wanted to write?

I know it’s a cliché, but the genre chose me! I have always lived a fast life. I love speed, fast cars, fast woman, living a life on the edge in a state of perpetual motion. When I got down to Dup, it wasn’t about writing a crime thriller. It was about relating the movie that passed through my head. I simply described the pictures and Dup was the end product. But it also made me realise that I’m pretty good at this genre and it’s very entertaining to write. What am I writing moving forward? Well a little sneak insight: My next book will be Dup Arrives which will be the prequel to Dup Departs. If you don’t have safety belts yet, you still have time to get, because that little book is going to rock. …And did I mention that in his youth, Dup might have been a serial killer?

Your book follows an excellent development of his characters both sides: in becoming better people and for some in becoming worse people. Was the theme of redemption something you had in mind from the start or did it develop as you wrote?

I ‘spose I’m pretty much a happily ever after kind of guy. I do not hate losers, I just do not understand them. I believe everyone can pick themselves up and get their shit together. All it takes is enough belief in oneself, and the discipline to get up and do what must be done. Life is about redemption. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. We all have regrets and dark sides. What separates the winners from the losers is that the winners pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start all over again. Been there done that in my life more times than I can remember, and as they say, every day in simple ways it’s making me better and better. And that is what I try convey in my writing.

TBBManiacSian would like to thank Gavin Mills – both for the opportunity to read his book and for being willing to answer our questions. Have you read a book by Gavin Mills? We want to hear what you thought in the comments section below.

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