Book Launch – Sarah Key

Written by TBBManiacSian

It’s hard to describe Sarah because she is such a character herself and I knew from the start that this was not going to be like any other book launch. As always Skoobs Theatre of Books was magically transformed into a magical place where nothing and no one existed except the people attending Sarah’s book launch. To me it was a great success with amazing participation with the top area packed with many fans and family of what I consider a great author.

Luckily for me however I got there early and was able to sit down for a few moments with Sarah before everyone started to arrive. I took the opportunity to ask her a few questions that I didn’t think I would get a chance to ask her during the event.

Q: How does it feel to be a South African authoress who has gained so much support over the last year? Because I have seen you at all these events; people are always talking about your book to me. I feel kind of like a celebrity because I know you.

A: Well it’s amazing. I wrote for six years without anybody reading any of my books so it is actually so exciting and thrilling. You know I failed on the stage; I always saw myself as this sort of person who would be out there – I’m naturally out going so to have readers and have people to engage with and responding to your work is just absolute incredible.

Q: One of the popular questions I get asked all the time about authors is how do you balance it? I mean you’re a mother. You are a wife. If I’m not mistaken you were a teacher. How do you balance everything and still write not one book; not two books but four books? Are we on four books now?

A: Yes; I just finished my fourth book. You know it’s just when you are passionate about something you find time to do it. You (Sian) find time to read all those books and review them – how do you do it when you have a full time job? You know you become good at multi-tasking, writing also is your own space; it’s your space of creativity; it’s your space of escapism and it actually… it’s one of the things that I think grounds me. Life can be so mundane that to go and create and I’m doggedly determined – it’s just all I want to do at the moment so for me once I set my mind on something I am going to complete the task. And I have a very supportive spouse; my children are getting big now they are eleven and thirteen so they are doing their own thing – so I actually want to start writing much quicker than what I did before.

Q: Now we are hosting your event tonight at Skoobs; Theatre of Books. How did you go about getting booked here for an event? Just general information you know because we never ask people that. We come to these events and never ask people well how did you get in touch with Skoobs?

A: Well I am going to tell that story tonight but Andrew (from Books & Everything) tracked me down in cyber space on the 22nd September and just changed my world. He brought me to Deborah in November and all I wanted Deborah to do was read my book because I didn’t want to go anywhere where they didn’t see the worth of it and understand that I was a few books on and I think I have improved and grown enormously  in my writing and it just started… Andrew said this is what you have to do; this is your homework; this is what you need to do on Goodreads; and he put me in touch with a network of people like you (Sian) who have been so kind and generous and then I started getting reviews. Obviously; I am not there. I am at the beginning but it just makes me feel quite dizzy when I think about it. That is because the book is my first child but also because it was a long time ago – I think you also need to give people a bit about who you are which is why the motivation for tonight is to do something trans-disciplinary. Lesegoe and I are friends for a long time and we connect on an academic and an artistic level and I think to showcase other people and to bring something different into the mix. People are going to read the book and if you titillate them a little about who YOU are and where you come from and what’s different about you that’s why I don’t think it’s too necessary to spend too much time talking about the book tonight.

Comment from Sian: Well that is going to be interesting for us. Having been to so many book events; generally the core focus is the book and I will admit it does sometimes get a bit boring because you’re like – I’ve read this book; I know exactly what it’s about; I want to know about the author that’s why I came here. I came here to meet the author.

A: I think that was the approach and I thought and thought and thought about it and then Lesegoe was so wonderful because he knows the book backwards and Mrs Meyer was his English teacher and she did a really good job. When I hadn’t prepared I just put in a running loop and said let’s just go for thirty minutes and the poor guy he kept asking me “What do you think about Noel’s devolution?” And we talked about it and A) there are spoilers and B) its dull you know. I think it’s far more interesting now that I was forced to do the reflection on where did this come from within me? And I have kind of knocked it down to when I was a preteen and where I developed this kind of interest in what has refused to leave me and what manifests itself in my work.

Q: Okay now talking about your work. Tangled Weeds is an exciting book. It’s got so many different things in it. It comprises of; for me; development; it comprises of – I wouldn’t say heroism – but certainly a sense of bravery; courage; determination. There are so many aspects to your book that it’s unbelievable and it’s one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much. Now going to it; you’ve written in two separate worlds because in South Africa there are two separate worlds. There is the African world and the White world and it was interesting to see it flipped because in your book for me the white people were the drug users – there’s a South African term for it gomgat – and the African people in your book proud; disciplined; highly motivated individuals and it’s interesting because that’s not the generalization that is set out in the country. So you’ve certainly brought to the table this – Look at this; look at what it really is like. People can be like this even though they are white and people can be like even though they are black. Did you do that deliberately?

A: They were just people I knew. Unfortunately the two white boys I wrote about were really bad. They made really bad choices and they became very bad people and I knew marvelous young black men however I do think that my heroes; my goodies are too good in Tangled Weeds. I think I’ve grown to the whole Buddhist thing – in good there’s bad and in bad there’s good. I think in Weeds I went too squeaky with Kgotso and Senatla – they were just a bit too good. Although I did know people who were like they. It was just life experience within travelling; within HIV work for three years; within rural communities; particularly travelling with my young assistant whose circumcision story that is. So I was in my activist stage; I was in my ethnic graphic stage. I wrote down all these stories and had a total need to tell them frankly and honestly. It was very intense the whole process. I think some of that could have been… the corners could have been a little more rounded and they could have been a bit of smudging in places. But your first book is like being thrown into a dark room where you don’t know where any of the furniture is and you just walk into things and tap around and you have got no lay of the land. So I overwrote that book by 20 000 words. It took me 8 months to write and 8 months to fix. It was a cathartic spew and my editor kept on saying can’t we leave out some of these issues? Must we have a hijacking? Must we have glue sniffers? Must we have human trafficking? Must we have… yes yes yes you must because this is what I had, I had to process all that stuff and it was one  way I could process it and get closure.

After the interview was done and the guests had arrived we were in for a treat as Sarah took us through what influenced her into writing; the things she had read as a child; the things that had influenced her book and she was accompanied by her amazing friend Lesegoe who played beautifully haunting music which suited the launch so well.

We even had Andrew from Books and Everything take over the microphone and open the floor up to questions which gave other people the change to interact with Sarah and ask her questions that you wouldn’t normally get to ask the author of an amazing book like Tangled Weeds.

I gave this event a full 10/10 because it had everything a person could want from a book launch. Good food; great environment; it was highly entertaining… and in Sarah’s own words on Facebook – Oh What  Night.

On behalf of The Blithering Bibliomaniacs

Sian Claven.


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