Eleventh Month authors Q&A: Merle Grace
On a weekend in November 2016, a number of writers gathered at Temenos, in the village of McGregor in the Western Cape. In addition to the writers at Temenos, others were tethered to the proceedings via email and the internet. We gathered the stories that were the result of the weekend in an anthology, The Eleventh Month.
We asked the authors who jointly contributed to The Eleventh Month a number of questions about their writing. Here are Merle Grace’s responses:
Did you ever think you could write a short story in a weekend?
Did you create a character with a bit of you, or did you have fun with someone completely unlike you?
I’ve created someone totally different from me. I was fortunate enough to never go through the hardships my character had to face.
Is your short story fact or fiction – or a mix of the two?
It’s a definite mix between the two. The historic events that form the backdrop to the story is all based on my character’s perception of events, but it was a reality for many miners at the time.
What was the inspiration behind your story?
My family and I lived in Klerksdorp for three years. We were all desperate for city lights, bookstores, movies and friends, so we drove to Jozi often. On our way, we drove past a sad little town named Stilfontein. I drove off the highway once to go and look and the poverty could almost be touched. It started to fascinate me. Who knew Brett Kebble would be involved in the state of affairs? One day the mining community had salaries and the next day they had nothing. I also became obsessed with how people help other people. Without the help, many miners would have starved, but the way in which charity is handed out, comes with a certain prejudice, a patronizing hand…
Did you plot it out before writing or did the story evolve a you went along.
I plotted it out, but it changed a lot. I wanted my children in the story to go down an illegal mine to find treasure. I wanted them to believe desperately that if they found treasure, things would get better for them. Richard made me realize that no one in his right mind would go down an illegal mine!
Did you have an idea before Friday afternoon?
Have you written other short stories? Is this your genre?
I love short stories. I wish they could be re-launched to the world. The New Novel is a 20 Short Stories kind of a thing.
Have you published anything?/What do you consider your writing successes?/And dreams?
I have published a story in an anthology called ‘Incredible Journey’. I was super proud of it. I would love to keep on writing and writing and maybe give in to the world’s notion that Short Stories aren’t the New Novel. I’m trying to write that now, and find it exceptionally hard.
How does reading influence your writing?
Without reading I can not write. It is Everything.
What are you currently reading?
The Eleventh Month!
What tips do you have for other writers – either from your own experience – or a tip imparted to you that you think has made a difference to your writing?
Find a tribe. Write with them.
The Eleventh Month is available in both hard copy and PDF formats. The cost of the hard copy is R120 plus postage. Email us if you’d like us to post you a copy.
All profits will go to Short Story Day Africa.