Someone asked me the other day “why write romance?”My first retort was “why not?” and “because I can”.But it did get me thinking… why do I write romance?What is it about this particular genre that intrigues me?I thought about it a long while, then finally realised that the answer is really very simple:“It’s in my blood”.
I grew up a farmer’s daughter with my head sheltered under African skies and my little bare feet on African soil, and from the beginning I simply soaked up the romance that defines Africa. As far back as I can remember, I have recognised and loved the great big heart that is Africa. It beats with a solid, reassuring presence – older than time, stronger than eternity, and with a passion that is fierce and revitalising and consuming all at the same time.
It manifests its life in the enormous colour and diversity and melody and rhythm that infuses all who live here. It underpins the many cultures and heritages that work together to make our “rainbow nation”. And it defines beauty and romance on a grand scale – sweeping vistas, rolling grasslands, majestic mountain peaks towering and reaching heavenward.
I know I’m not the first to feel it, nor will I be the last. Countless others came to this continent, lured and intrigued by that same primal element, that same fusion of extremes that set apart from the world they knew. Many lost their lives searching for that romance, some left, some stayed. But none of them forgot. Of that I am sure.
For me, growing up on the farm was growing up in the arms of “Mama Africa”. It was a simple life of open spaces, of long walks down the river, of camping out and catching eels with the first of the spring rains. I learned to love the soil and the smell of a freshly ploughed field. I learned to recognise the smell of rain still far off and the slightly acrid smell of thunderstorms just after the lightning flares. I learned to love the feel of the first soft grass of spring under my feet, and to enjoy the taste of the “bushman’s tea” bush – a shrubby plant which grows wild, and which assuages a thirst when walking through the dry winter bush.
Most of all, I learned to love the African skies. They tell countless stories if you know how to read them. They reveal the childlike simplicity that is uniquely African in their clear and cloudless blue. They weep with the sadness of mothers and fathers, sisters, brothers, children and lovers in their grey and gloomy days. They paint pictures with their clouds to entertain and amuse and start a guessing game of “which animal is that?” They rage and howl a passion and fury with their storms.
Africa’s romance is often not “pretty” or “comfortable”.It is vast and huge and sometimes overwhelming. For many, though, it is the sunsets that best define “romance” on this immense continent. Colours swathe and collide and startle with their intensity, vivid and bold and tinted with the dust that rises from the daytime landscape. Breathtakingly beautiful, humbling in their grand display of eloquence.
But, for me, the mornings remain the most beautiful, and the most romantic. As a child, I would “sleep out” as often as I could. Some of my best memories are of waking up under a thorn tree, rolled in my blanket with the muted early morning sounds and the night just greying into the dawn.I would lie there, wrapped in the near silence of a brand new, perfect day.I never fully recognised it then but, looking back, that was when the “real” Africa could speak to me undisturbed. Those were the moments when my heart was touched and infused with the magic and mystery and passion that has made me who I am.
There, in that still, breath-holding moment before dawn, was when “Mama Africa” held her child close, whispered in her ear, taught her the deep, abiding passion that infuses this wonderful land.
I write romance because it’s in my blood. It’s who I am. And it’s what I learned to do under African skies.