Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I was born on a tropical island in the Indian Ocean, spent my childhood in the savannas of Southern Africa and have worked in South East Asia, North America and Europe. I’ve been an accidental traveler all my life, and have lived in fifteen cities, in seven countries, on four continents to date, so I’m kind of a recovering nomad.
I’m also a bit of a rebel and left home at a young age to distance myself from a difficult childhood. I worked for minimum wage, cleaning stinky toilets at one point and sleeping in basement rooms to put myself through a bachelor’s degree. I went on to get an MBA from Europe and worked my way through the corporate world for more than a decade until I rediscovered my life’s passion for books and social change.
Today, I write, speak and connect with readers with one goal in mind – to inspire and empower the lives of young women around the world, especially those who live in the darkest corners of our planet. I do what I do because I remember what it’s like to be a scared and lonely girl with few opportunities and little support.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest series is called the Red Heeled Rebels.
I started to write full length novels in 2010, mostly memoirs of a lifetime of traveling. It was only recently, I decided to write a story about a young woman who goes through experiences I witnessed, experienced or learned about, having lived in many places where women’s rights are not respected. I wanted to write a story about a girl who goes through adversity and hardship, but who rises up and fights back, and comes out stronger and wiser, despite what she endures. I write these stories because I’m compelled to write them.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I tend to listen to soft classical instrumental-music when I’m editing, but when I’m writing the first draft of a novel, I blast a playlist with blood-pounding, cinematic, fantasy epic music which can keep me going for hours.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
My love for books began when I was very young. I used to read Jack and Jill stories using a torchlight under my blanket till late at night, when I was supposed to be asleep. I graduated to Enid Blyton and Nancy Drew, then onto Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, Daniel Defoe and others. As a child who moved to a new city, a new country or a new continent every few years, I found it hard to make friends, so books became my companions, and authors, my allies. I gobbled up every book I got my hands on and savoured every word I read.
I remember one day, discovering a dusty, ripped copy of the Gulag Archipelgo, a difficult read about the Stalin era. This was not a book for a child, but there was not much else in my little school library, in that remote town where we lived at that time. That book taught me the strength of words. It taught me how storytelling can shine a powerful spotlight on injustice and how mere words can transform ideas and minds around the world.
What are you working on now?
The series I’m writing now is called the Red Heeled Rebels – a coming-of-age, adventure series with an international twist. Beginnings is the prequel short story to this three-novel series.
The series is about iron-willed young women who kick off their shackles to fight traditions that keep them down, band together and fight their oppressors from child-bride brokers and human traffickers to their own families who try to subjugate them.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
Word-of-mouth bar none. I love it when my readers tell me, excitedly, that they can’t wait to share the book or story with their friends. That kind of promotion is the best and makes me tickled pink. It makes me feel they’re coming on this journey with me and they are having as much fun as I am.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
My first advice would be to read. Read a lot, in many genres. This will not only give you insights to the world around you, but also show you the skill of putting one word after another to create captivating characters, plot lines, stories. I always have two books on my bedside stand, one fiction, one non-fiction, and every night, I read for an hour before going to sleep. I can do this now without having to hide under my blanket with a torchlight!
The second advice I have is to sit and write, every single day. Everyone has to start somewhere, so without ruminating about aptitude, validation or permission, the most important thing is to just start, and you’ll find skills and ideas will come. Validation and permission, on the other hand, are not necessary. I dedicate all my mornings to writing, and do not allow anything or anyone to intrude this sacred time. Some days I write rubbish, but I still learn from it, and in the end, I find I improve a little bit every day.
The third advice I’d give is to turn off that inner critic we all have within us. There are ample external critics who may tear our hard work apart, who may even hate what we write about, so why allow our own minds to get sucked into that fruitless drama? It’s important not to censure ourselves, which would be like dying with our dreams still hidden within us. A sad life to live, indeed. Yes, we must be wise and respectful with our words, but we must never be subjugated by anyone else or our own minds telling us we’re not worth it. We write because we have something to say, so write it out loud and be proud.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
The best advice I ever saw was from a cartoon of a stork trying to swallow a frog, but the frog’s had a death grip on the bird’s throat. Moral of this story: never, ever give up!
What are you reading now?
I’m reading Brenden Buchard’s Motivation Manifesto – a beautifully-bound hard-cover book and that is awesome on the outside as well as inside. It’s a great book about discovering your freedom and living your life to the fullest.
What’s next for you as a writer?
I will keep writing. 🙂
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
I’d take all of Gerald Durrell’s books with me. His wrote enchanting travel adventure stories filled with animals and family antics. He made me laugh and giggle through some tough times of my childhood. Getting lost in his books could make any bad situation feel good – even if for a short while.