Q&A with Author Pamela Heller-Stern

17 Jun 2015
Pamela Heller-Stern

Pamela Heller-Stern studied English Literature at the University of Cape Town and Rhodes University and obtained a doctorate and lectureship at the University of the Witwatersrand. She lectured in English literature, was involved in the art world and is now retired.

Pamela has written poetry, essays and literary criticism published by Fire (UK), The International Library of Poetry (USA) and the Poetry Institute of Africa (SA). Her novels The Pink Slippers and It’s a Red Moon and a Green Man were independently published. Who’s Knocking on My Door? was published last month in Sweden by Elementá.

Favourite South African novel?

JM Coetzee’s Summertime.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve just completed a new novel concentrating on the will to power.

Favourite part of the writing and publishing process?

Research as the favourite part of writing and holding the complete volume in one’s hand as the thrill of the publishing process!

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

Jane Austen’s Emma, interfering, know-all and yet likeable.

Any advice / tips for writers starting out?

Don’t worry about what other writers use in terms of themes, action etc. Use your own imagination.

Hardest part of the writing and publishing process?

Writing is 95% slog and perseverance and 5% inspiration! Acceptance by retailers and the public as the hardest part of the publishing process, especially if one’s writing is literary and not journalistic.

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

Lauren Beukes’s The Shining Girls, Chris van Wyk’s Shirley, Goodness & Mercy .

What are you reading at the moment?

Helen MacDonald’s H is for Hawk.

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

Jonny Steinberg’s A Man of Good Hope.

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

I also write and need to pursue poetry, political drama, short stories (mostly children’s) and essays.

Proudest moment of your writing career?

Although I’ve appeared on ETV, TV2 and local radio, I was proudest recently of literary crits/blogs and publicity on Swedish publisher Wisehouse’s site for avant-garde writing, under the imprint Elementá, regarding my latest novel Who’s Knocking on my Door?.

Favourite quote from a book?

From Herman Charles Bosman’s story “In the Withaak’s Shade” – “……I made up my mind that next time I went to lie on the grass under the withaak, looking for strayed cattle, I would first polish up my velskoens with sheep fat, and I would put on my black hat that I only wear to Nagmaal. I could not permit the wild animals of the neighbourhood to sneer at me.”

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