Okay, I’ve done some pretty odd things in my life, but I’ve never had to interview myself before (quite a “novel” experience, lol!) Still, I’ll try anything once, just so long as it’s legal, so here goes…
You’re a South African girl, and the settings for your books are all South African. Do you find it a challenge writing for an international market?
In some ways, yes. The essence of romance is, of course, the same everywhere, but each country and culture has nuances, turns of phrase, expressions… things that lose their real flavour outside of their cultural setting. I find I often have to “rework” something because it’s loaded with “South Africanisms” that have no real significance to an audience who doesn’t intimately know the context. It’s about getting the balance between infusing a book with a personality that reflects “Africa” without making it “unreachable” to the reader.
So how do you go about choosing your settings, and do you have any preferences?
I don’t really “choose” them. Not consciously, anyway - they seem to just sort of happen, to just “be there” when the time is right. I suppose I prefer smaller settings, probably for a number of reasons. It’s what I know - I grew up as a farmer’s daughter in a small rural community and I’m fascinated by the workings of the small town dynamic. It’s very different to city life where to a large degree you can remain anonymous outside of your social circle. In small places, “community” is spelled in capitals and anonymous is no longer in the dictionary. You either love it or hate it, lol. I also like the canvas of the rural setting. It gives me the opportunity to paint the South African panorama, whether it be the rolling green hills, the mighty Drakensberg, the tucked away, secluded corners that speak beauty and magic and mystery. A city landscape has it’s own version of romance, but I guess at heart I’m a country girl.
And your characters? How do you go about “crafting” them into your books?
Again, I think it’s more a case of they were there and I told their story. For me, writing a book is a journey - I love exploring the layers and complexities of each character, going beyond the surface to the multitude of things beneath. The events, memories, happenings that make each of us individual are fascinating, and the joy of writing is the discovery of those, to be part of the process of bringing those to life, to making a character understandable, and lovable, so that their story is done justice. I love getting to know each of them, being surprised by them, finding out something I never knew…
You’ve said your first book, Still Running, is about real people and real “stuff”… I’ve also heard it said that “real” and “romance” is something of an anomaly, that “real” essentially negates the concept of “romance”. How do you feel about this?
I suppose on a simplistic level this might be true, but then we would have to exclude the things that actually go into well-rounded characters who grow and develop and change. “Real” people are multi-faceted, whether in a book our out of one. I look at “real stuff” as being the fabric of life, the basic cloth on which the “romantic picture” is then embroidered… I think romance can be defined as the ability to lift us beyond the ordinary, to take the “negative” and turn it into something good and beautiful and positive. Pretending that life, with all it’s ucky bits, isn’t there doesn’t make much sense to me. They are the foil against which romance is measured - I heard once that “you cannot really laugh until you’ve first learned to cry”. It made a lot of sense to me, still does. To me, the ultimate romance, is when love and passion and commitment transcend reality to triumph over it at the end. It’s what gives us all hope…
How do you go about writing - are you a planned person, or do you take it as it comes?
I tend to write in marathons - just let the story pour out onto the page. I have a problem with thinking. I think way too much, and analysis doesn’t work for romance. If I allow myself to plan or think, my writing becomes very clinical and I lose the passion of it. Words have their own life, their own power, and I’ve learned that my best work is when I let them get on with it. It’s vital to capture the thought, the emotion, the nuance right there and then, otherwise it’s lost and no matter how hard I try it’s impossible to get back. So I just get going and keep going until I have to come up for air. Then I go back and do the adjustments, the tweaking, adding or taking out.
So why write romance? Was it any particular influence - a writer, a person, a place?
Mainly because I believe in it - it’s a “have to” for everyone. It’s in us, and we all look for it, no matter who we are or what we may say to the contrary. As for influence - I’d have to say all of the above. I cut my teeth on the classics - Jane Austin, the Bronte sisters, the romantic poets… the list goes on! My husband Gary was a real romantic, though he hated to admit it, and he taught me so much about finding romance in the little things in life. Then again, I live in Africa, which has to be one of the most passionate places in the whole world. Passion is the heartbeat of Africa - grand passion, sometimes harsh, but always hugely romantic. I was raised on the novels of Sir Henry Rider Haggard, the ultimate in “African romantics” and the poetry in some of our African writers… Romance is inevitable for me, I suppose. And it’s fun. Immense fun. Being able to turn something around and make it beautiful and eternal.. that’s way too good an opportunity to miss.
You have several online ships you Captain. Would you like to share a little about Classic Romance Revival (CRR)?
The vision for CRR emerged from a growing awareness of a need among writers, readers and publishers of "classic" romance to redevelop this particular genre in the marketplace. Generally, with the current almost overwhelming demand for "hotter" romance, many of us felt that "classic" needed a little more attention, and CRR was born. Essentially it is a "home" for all lovers of "classic", which aims to provide opportunities to build relationship among readers, writers and publishers, where readers can find books, authors and publishers, specifically within this genre, publishers can reach authors and readers, and authors reach publishers and readers. We also work together to provide support, encouragement and platforms for existing and aspiring authors. Currently we have an "authors only" Yahoo group for affiliate authors (a think tank and admin group), our public Yahoo group at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/classicromancerevival, as well as our blog at: http://www.classicromancerevival.com/blog where affiliated authors may post, and which has been our "headquarters" on the net while waiting for our website. CRR Reviews was recently launched, and is growing steadily, and offers a professional review service to authors and publishers within the "classic" genre. Our official website is being launched this month, along with a whole bunch of other services which include the newest "ship of the line", Classic Promotions. I could go on forever, but please use the links to check us out, and you're welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Well, that’s me - I hadn’t realised how difficult some of my own questions were, but hey, we survived. To find out more, visit my website on http://www.judahraine.com (I haven’t done an author profile for obvious reasons, but you can find out everything you need to know with just one click, or check our my Images of Africa slideshows too).