A Unique Look at Apartheid- Susan Wuthrich

Few periods in history or topics for discussion make people as uncomfortable as Apartheid in South Africa. A new story from English/South African/Swiss/Kinda Canadian author Susan Wuthrich tackles it head on.

Full disclosure, my family was almost part of post-colonial African history. My father got it in his head to homestead in a very apartheid-like Rhodesia in the mid-sixties, (a combination of itchy feet and a need to improve his luck) just before all hell broke loose. We were refused our visas at the last minute (probably by someone who saw the writing on the wall and saved us from ourselves) and we stayed in Canada. Needless to say, I was intrigued by Susan’s story.

So, what’s your deal?

     I began life in Toronto, Canada. My mother had married a Canadian and left England as a war bride in 1947.  When the marriage failed, we returned to the UK where my mother remarried.

     Fast forward to1966. I was 18 when my then boyfriend and I decided to emigrate. We could have gone anywhere, Canada, Australia or NZ, but we were broke and decided on South Africa as it was the cheapest fare. I lived there raising a family for the next 25 years.

     Many people have asked, how I could have stayed in that country during such tumultuous times. The answer is simple; although Apartheid is an ugly concept, and I’m not making excuses, it was in fact just another era and racial discrimination was rife throughout the world, (and I think still is to a certain extent), the USA included.      These days I am retired and live in a quaint Swiss village with my second husband.

What’s the novel about?

Initially, Portrait of Stella is set in England and tells the story of Stella’s daughter, Jemima, who finds out everything she thought she knew about herself was a lie. She is denied a passport on the grounds her birth certificate is false and there are no records of her existence. Through clues pertaining to the past, Jemima traces her late mother’s footsteps across the globe in search of her real identity.

What is it about that time period that intrigued you?

After much research, and through my mother I gained first-hand knowledge of life in the armed services in WW2. My own experiences of life during the Apartheid regime in South Africa,1960’s-1990’s gave me the impetus to write the story. I have combined the two eras to bring an unusual family/saga mystery to fruition. Although my book is a work of fiction, I have endeavoured to show what life was like for white non-racists living in South Africa during those years.

What’s your favorite (or favourite) scene in the book?

There are a few twists in the tale, but my favourite is when Jemima, who had always believed she was an only child, comes face to face with a sibling she had no idea existed. There is also a scandalous mystery surrounding her father.

Of course there was. How can we learn more about your work?

Portrait of Stella is on Amazon: amzn.to/2IPL82H

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35853641-portrait-of-stella

Twitter: Susan Wüthrich @Sue_Wue

Facebook: Susan Wuthrich Author

From India to the Blitz- Jane Gill

There is kind of a cottage industry around tales of England during the Second World War. By now we know what to expect–plucky heroines awaiting their men while ducking under furniture as Nazi bombs fall. But Jane Gill has a different kind of tale–of an Anglo-Indian woman who arrives in England just in time for the war to start. “Dance with Fireflies,” is the result.

Jane, tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in the UK to an Anglo-Indian mother and a linguist father who specialised in Russian. Every weekend of my childhood, between Easter to September was spent camping. My siblings and I were left to our own devices to dam streams, collect wood for bonfires and climb trees. The long summer holidays were spent roaming around Europe in our tank-like 1960’s Wolesley, tent in the trunk, ready to pitch up. In my early adult life I became a graphic designer. It was the days of typeset print and spray mount. I loved the world of design and became an Art Director in an Advertising agency. Art Directors were teamed up with copywriters; they did the words, I did the pictures. Never in a million years did I expect to become a writer, I had always been so visual!

So, what’s Dances with Fireflies about?

My debut novel, Dance with Fireflies is based on my Anglo-Indian grandmother. In those days (1930-40’s) letter writing was prevalent. She kept thousands of letters, chits and diaries in a large wooden trunk (which is allegedly cursed…but that’s a whole new story). It’s remarkable that over a span of many decades and continents the ephemera has survived. I took this rich resource and read every letter, every scrap of paper. Some of it was neatly typed but mostly handwritten. It took me two years. Having mapped out the outline of all the nitty gritty information I had gleaned, I sat down and finally put pen to paper. The book starts with her six-week voyage from Bombay to England in 1939. Phyllis had sacrificed her life of privilege in the British Raj in India to live with her new husband’s family in England. She was not the English rose they had hoped for their British Army son and they found it hard to tolerate this high-spirited, solar topee wearing ‘foreigner’.

WW2 adds to Phyllis’s struggle for harmony in a land far from home. She misses the vibrant life of Benares and longs for spice in the bland food and music in her daily life now filled with chores set by her in-laws. As nightly air raids plunge their Devon home into darkness, Phyllis battles to keep her marriage from being sabotaged and her young daughter taken by her manipulative sister-in-law.

Obviously the family connection resonated. What else about that period really intrigued you?

Being born in the sixties, WW2 was only one generation away from me. My father would tell me how they would hide under the stairs when the bombs fell on Nottingham, his parents were terrified but as a boy he found it exciting. My mother would tell me more exotic stories of her days in a boarding school in the Himalayas and living in Karachi at the time of partition (1947). It seemed like the most interesting period to write about…there was so much going on and so much to tell.

With something so personal this is a tough one, but what’s your favorite (or favourite) scene?

One of my favourite scenes in the book is when Phyllis arrives in England and is invited into her mother-in-laws house. It is a small red-brick terrace in Colchester. There is wallpaper on the walls and antimacassars on the chair arms. Phyllis sits in silence on the horsehair sofa and looks about in wonder. The house felt pokey and dark in comparison to the colonial bungalow she had been used to. The pretty English wallpaper would have been devoured by the ants in India. She looked around for a mora (stool) to put her feet on (she needed to raise her feet off the floor in case scorpions, spiders or snakes were lurking). Her new mother-in-law couldn’t fathom out why Phyllis was sitting with her feet hovering in midair! Everything was so new to Phyllis it was a great chapter to write.

What’s next, and where can we learn more about your work?

I have recently completed the sequel to Dance with Fireflies and hope to publish it soon. It is set in India at the time of partition. The dual narrative twists and turns from Bombay to Karachi. The suspense builds as the protagonist is destined to meet a crucial character in the story. I can’t  give too much away!

You can find me on Facebook:

Twitter: @Janegillauthor

My Blog: www.janespentopaper.wordpress.com

Here’s how to find my book on Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dance-Fireflies-Jane-Gill/dp/1507880375

And don’t forget to support my work. Acre’s Bastard and Acre’s Orphans available as a 2-book set on Amazon Kindle or one at a time in paperback.

The Resurrection of a Short Story- Dien Bien Phu, 1954

This morning, one of my short stories was published in the nifty online litmag “Twist in Time Magazine.” It’s a short piece of historical fiction set in Vietnam before the French left. You can read “Dien Bien Phu, 1954” by clicking on the link and visiting their very lovely website.

This story means a lot to me. First of all, one of my goals was to be published this year by an American magazine. The Count of the Sahara? The Book Folks are based in London. Dodging the Rain is a lovely litmag and I’m a fan: Galway, Ireland. Storgy? There’s a big old bromance going on with Ross, Tomek and the team over there but they’re in London. On one hand it doesn’t matter–the internet is a big place and as a Canadian living in the US writing a short story about a French soldier in Vietnam, does where it is published really matter? Still, it bugged me. Now that’s handled. Blessing on the homes and camels of Tianna, Renee, Adrienne, and their team.

There’s a second reason I’m excited, and it is that this story nearly didn’t see the light of day at all.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while might recognize the title. It was originally submitted–and accepted– as my last contribution to the annual anthology of the Naperville Writers Group. I even put it up on my website but eventually pulled it off because, through a bizarre combination of things, it never got published. The editor literally forgot to add it to the final version of the book. (At least that’s the story I choose to believe.)

This turned out to be something of a blessing. While I was disappointed, I could now submit what I thought was a pretty darned good story and find a larger audience.

You can read more of my short stories on my site here. This is a solid addition to the collection.

Of course, to be cynical, the idea of getting my short stories published is to draw attention to the novels. If you like the short pieces you read for free, consider buying a copy of The Count of the Sahara or the Lucca le Pou stories: Acre’s Bastard and Acre’s Orphans.