Q&A with Journalist and Author Karin Brynard

27 May 2015
Karin Brynard

Karin Byrnard is a journalist and author whose 2009 debut novel Plaasmoord won the UJ Debut Prize for Creative Writing (Afrikaans) as well as the M-Net Literature Award in the film category. Her second novel Onse Vaders (2012) also won the M-Net Literature Award in the film category and the ATKV Prose Prize.

Plaasmoord was recently translated into English by PEN SA member Maya Fowler and Isobel Dixon and published as Weeping Waters. It was longlisted for the 2015 Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize. An English translation of Onse Vaders is set to be published this year along with a third novel in Afrikaans.

Favourite South African novel?

Most recently: Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes.

What are you working on at the moment?

Next crime novel featuring Captain Beeslaar. It will hopefully be published in Afrikaans as Tuisland.

Can you tell us a bit about your fourth novel?

It is still mostly in my head, but will involve a hostage situation. But first I have finish to Tuisland.

Favourite part of the writing and publishing process?

Thinking up new characters in a first draft, recrafting them in a second draft and seeing the final product in print. I like the production part, where one is left on your own, playing god with fictional peoples’ lives.

Any characters (yours or another writer’s) that have stuck with you?

I love sergeant Gershwin “Ballies” Pyl, the rookie cop in Weeping Waters. He makes me laugh a lot. Also Dam de Kock, the San/Griqua farm manager who is prime suspect in the farm murders. I often think about him and wish I could meet him in the flesh. Other writers’ characters: Margie Orford’s somewhat aloof Dr Claire Hart. Further afield: Ian Rankin’s John Rebus, Australian Peter Temple’s sleuth, Jack Irish, who also makes antique furniture and bets on horses. Also: Prof Joe O’Laughlin, the psychologist with Parkinson’s Disease in Michael Robotham’s novels. Lisbeth Salander in the Stieg Larsson trilogy is my all time favourite.

Any advice / tips for writers starting out?

Remember to play; remember there’s more than one right way.

Hardest part of the writing and publishing process?

Uncertainty, fear and doubt – those two are my biggest enemies.

South African writers or books that have made an impact on you?

Growing up I read Leon Rousseau and Karl Kielblock’s excellent crime books for youth, which addicted me to this genre. Andre P Brink and Athol Fugard (his published plays) opened my teenage political eyes. Deon Meyer, whose world class crime novels made mince meat of local literary snobs. Marlene van Niekerk, Antjie Krog and Breyten Breytenbach who opened my heart to the incredible beauty of Afrikaans and South African poetry.

What are you reading at the moment?

Just finished Belinda Bauer’s The Facts of Life and Death (brilliant) and I’m about to start Mike Nicol’s Power Play, but I’m also reading Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari.

If you had to pick one book to give to all South Africans to read what would it be?

A change of tongue by Antjie Krog.

Any other genres that you’re interested in trying your hand at?

No, really, one is enough!

Proudest moment of your writing career?

Seeing my first book in print. My husband and I danced around our kitchen table like mad people.

Favourite quote from a book?

SA book: “I listen, watching for a story, which I want to hear … that it may float into my ear … I feel that the story is the wind” – !Xam quote from My heart stands in the Hill by Janette Deacon and Craig Foster.

International book: “Death is my beat. I make a living from it. I forge my professional reputation on it.” The opening lines of American crime writer Michael Connelly’s The Poet.

What was the process of having Isobel and Maya translate your book like?

Each one brought something different to the translation – Maya as prize-winning author of youth fiction and Isobel as accomplished poet. I learned so much from them and I really count my lucky stars.

(Image courtesy of Books LIVE)