Books I'm looking forward to in 2017

Hey friends. 

2017 has begun with a lot of questions. Politically, socially, environmentally, it is easy to look around and wonder 'are we going to be OK?' I can't predict what Trump is going to do next or which celebrity is going to pass away, but I can make sure you're reading something great when the apocalypse comes. I've found some amazing books by local, African and international female writers, that all have a cracking plot in common. 

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Meet the author | Mike Nicol

Mike Nicol is, without a doubt, one of South Africa's most prolific authors. His works have been published across the globe, and his uniquely South African brand of crime and espionage thrillers have a loyal following. Yet for all his success, he is not seduced by the hype and remains humble on the subject of his career and his writing process. As a new writer, it was a privilege to sit down with a master and hear how its done. 

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Meet the author | Jolyn Phillips

A few months ago I walked into The Book Lounge for the first time. Eager to buy a piece of the store's atmosphere and of Cape Town itself, I picked up a thin short story book with a sunny, brightly coloured cover. I knew nothing about Jolyn Phillps then, but felt an affinity toward this small South African book. Only later when I read it later did I realise that its size was misleading - I didn't have a book in my bag, I had a world. 

Jolyn's stories mainly capture the characters of Gansbaai. Her musical, urgent phrasing is unlike anything you have read before, but it is not idiosyncratic or gimmicky. Rather, her voice pulls you instantly into her world. She answered these questions for me from somewhere in Genadendal, and I am so happy to bring more of her words to you.

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Why getting a literary agent is a lot like dating

In the hazy days before I met Rhys, I was pretty open about my dating life. All my friends, and the many acquaintances befriended at bar counters and pub bathrooms knew the intricacies, hilarity and outrage of my dating exploits. In a certain corner of the Internet, you'll even find a book I've  written about it under a top secret pseudonym. Thankfully, I learned a lot through those experiences, and have found myself finding parallels between dating and finding a literary agent.

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Novels to restore your faith in humanity

I think it is safe to say that, for many of us, life in the outside world feels a little raw at the moment. Society is inflamed and burning hot with outrage. Everything feels sore to the touch. Most of the time, I try block it out, I disengage because I don't know how to fix it. I'd say most of my Internet consumption centres around video clips of cute, unlikely animal friendships. 

So last night, Penguin Random House hosted a hashtag where you could ask a real, live librarian for a book recommendation. I asked for suggestions on beautifully written books that would restore my faith in humanity, and my, my the book geeks of the Internet (90% sporting profile pictures with comfortingly stereotypical horn-rimmed glasses) delivered. The suggestions were too good not to share, so here they are...

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Meet the author | JT Lawrence

It feels like local writer JT Lawrence is everyone on the local book scene at the moment. Everywhere I turn I see someone recommending one of her novels, or her collection of short stories. Her stories range from domestic thrillers, dystopian imaginings and a raw, hilarious memoir of her own struggle with infertility. Best of all, she is one of the many writers forging a new path in indie publishing, reaching readers and creating a career as a professional writer in the process. In between publishing books at the speed of light, she gave me a few moments to discuss her career to date. 

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What I've been reading lately

You know, I love a good book list as much as the next person. However, at this stage of the year I find myself struggling with how impersonal and repetitive these online lists can be. I miss the lived experience of a book, the feeling of someone saying "I read this at this point in my life, and it helped me, it distracted me." So here are a few of the books I've been reading and loving lately, and what moment in my life prompted me to read them....

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Rejection | Why it's OK (and important) to be told 'no'

How much of our lives is geared towards avoiding rejection? Whether in love, the workplace or simply booking a table at a popular restaurant, us human animals seem to be allergic to hearing the word, 'no.' The grief and humiliation of no extends it's sticky tentacles deep into our past, touching those bruised places where we were bullied, laughed at or ignored, prodding that uneasy sense that yes, you were right all along, you are not good enough after all. 

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Meet the author: Zola Nene

Zola Nene is one of those people you definitely want at your dream dinner party. Not just because she has an infectious love of cooking, but because of her wonderfully warm personality. Speaking to her and reading her book is a reminder that, at it's heart, food is about love, family and connection. When you read through each of her recipes, it's like getting a taste of her history, which reminds you of your own. I was lucky enough to interview Zola and get a bit of behind-the-scenes info on her new cookbook, Simply Delicious. 

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What I am learning as I pitch my novel

I don't know how to be cool when it comes to pitching a novel. 

I'm good at writing books. Once I've settled into the writing process I'm relatively free of self doubt and reliably chug along, producing a certain number of words every day. I retain my composure over the editing process. I don't think I'm unique in this. It's a wonderful time of gestation, where the words you are working on could become absolutely anything. And let's be honest, you could be destined for absolutely anything. It is far less complicated and more glamorous to announce at a dinner party, "I am writing a novel," than to say, "I have written a novel." 

Because once that novel is written, the expectation kicks in.

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Meet the author: Joanne Macgregor

Young Adult fiction is hotter than ever, for those going through their teens and those of us who have survived them. As you will read in my interview with prolific YA writer, Joanne Macgregor, this is no surprise. Deep down, we all remain the same person who pined over their crush and worried what to wear to civvies day. Young adulthood is a time of firsts, of becoming, of feeling everything a bit too deeply, like that shock of cold water when you first step into a swimming pool in spring. Thankfully, we as readers are in good hands with Joanne, who lives a double life as an author and psychologist. She lets us into her writing journey, and her love for YA fiction below.

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Self-care for writers

Us writers are strange creatures. Many would assume that we are self-indulgent, given that we spend hours every day typing out our thoughts and visions. Over time, this has given way to an image of writers all over the world sitting serenely next to a steaming cup of coffee, pondering the view over whichever idyllic landscape they find themselves in and then, eventually, exhaling slowly and typing their memoirs until they are provided with their next snack. The reality, however, is far less charming. If fellow writers are anything like me, writing is a process by which you retreat further and further into yourself, until daily human practices are rendered superfluous.  So, in celebration of finishing my new book, here are a few self-care tips for writers. 

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Writing for my life

I've been a bit quiet the past few weeks, not only on this blog but in real life. My days comprise a small reliable orbit around home, yoga class and Checkers (great bargains people, seriously, my grocery bill is a matter of pride). The rest of the time, I write. It's a crude process of creative input, followed by creative output. Like running a marathon, it's regular and intensive, with an unquestioning rhythm that must be held else all momentum will be lost. 

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Meet the author - Paige Nick

Paige Nick needs no introduction. As a Sunday Times columnist and prolific novelist, you're guaranteed to have read her or read about her at some point. Her writing is light, warm, funny and often deep without getting too serious or self conscious about it. Pick up any of her books and you'll find an instant escape, with relatable local characters that make it feel like home. Interviewing Paige was like speaking with an old friend. She has that magical quality of making you want to tell her everything. In fact, if it hadn't actually been her interview, I probably would have spilled my whole life story, with all the juiciest, unedited, inappropriate bits. I can see how she's had such success in writing about sex and love. So get a cup of tea (or glass of wine if you're having that kind of Monday) and hang out with our friend Paige. 

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