Ankara Press is delighted to welcome Aziza Eden Walker, author of forthcoming novel The Seeing Place, out on Valentine’s Day.
What first inspired you to become a writer?
As a child I had a lot of fun writing stories at school. My English teacher in high school told me that when it was time to mark my creative writing assignments she’d make herself a cup of coffee and settle down for a good read! After that, I was always writing: diaries, poetry and even a play. It all changed in 2007 when I experienced a great love of my own and was inspired to write like never before. For several years I toyed with the idea of writing that story up in some way. In 2014 I decided to try and write a romance, and I practiced with quite a few manuscripts – but The Seeing Place gave me a chance to give voice to a truly South African tale. I use a lot of my own experience in it as I used to be an actress! A lot of this stuff is actually true!Who are your favourite authors?
So many authors – including Carson McCullers, John Irving and Ernest Hemingway. Sophie’s Choice by William Styron is so good it’s hard to believe a person wrote that. Recently I’ve really enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and Room by Emma Donoghue, the kind of books that stay with you. On the South African front, Tracey Farren’s Whiplash is really good.Who is your ideal reader?
My ideal reader would be someone who enjoys a good story and who is in love with love, and the romance of living. Also, if you like to laugh out loud and feel deeply, my books are for you! And the sex is pretty red-hot. I mean, why beat around the bush?What was the most difficult thing about producing your novel, The Seeing Place?
It was a pleasure to write The Seeing Place. When you create something, anything, you have to give it everything. I think just sticking with it through the whole process, being very thorough and attuned to the details, was the most taxing. A book is a labour of love and it took many, many hours to get it right. This book was over a year in the making! And then there’s the letting go. Still working on that.What is your favourite line from The Seeing Place?
“I promise I won’t touch you. And you have no idea what that means.”What was the most fun thing about writing The Seeing Place?
Seeing what the characters got up to while I was planning something else! Laughing out loud at the things they said! Just feeling the joy of being in their lives, sharing their passions and heartache. My book still moves me, and I must have read it a hundred times. I had a very good editor!Do you have a writing routine? If so, what’s a typical writing day for you?
I don’t believe you have to write every day but I feel a bit odd if I’ve had a day without writing – like something is missing. And it’s such a joy for me, so I’m always sneaking off to do some writing if I can. I have a young son and before he was born I spent hours preparing to write, trying to create a space in which to write without fear, but now I’m just thrilled if I have an hour or two, and get on with it! I can write anywhere, under most circumstances. Noise is not a problem. But I can’t listen to music when I write because then I can’t hear the lines. My son recently started kindergarten so now I write for about three hours a day, four if I’m lucky (when he naps). I write in coffee shops, my bed, a tent and my car, wherever I happen to be. At Ankara Press, we are clear that we want our books to reflect the realities of African women’s lives in ways that challenge boundaries and go beyond conventional expectations. Do you think that your book challenges romance stereotypes? If so, how?
Romance stereotypes are kind of predictable in my view, pretty paper-thin and seamless. Real-life heroes and heroines are much more fallible. I love my characters because I can relate – they live in an imperfect world, they mess up, they’re brave beyond belief and they’re foolish. Thuli is a woman who has all this power – sexually, materially, and emotionally, which may seem threatening to some men. And then there’s Andile who is so obviously head over heels in lust (and love) with her, but she challenges his ego and his belief that you have to do it all by yourself. Those two certainly achieve the impossible! They have to, if they want to be together. Love wins out. It’s like the Beatles said: Love is the answer. Love is all you need.Do you believe that romance novels can be empowering? How?
Oh yes! Every love story shows an epic attempt at beating the odds – in romance, we win – it’s a celebration. These are stories about how women and men fight for what they want, and get it. And what are they relying on? Not chance, not good advice, or money; just their own instinct, determination and their ability to grow. In other words, their sheer humanity as they allow themselves to be vulnerable and let someone else care for them. What could be more empowering than knowing that who you are, just as you are, is enough?What does it mean to you to be part of the Ankara Press imprint?
I am more honoured and delighted than words can express. I am proud to be part of a new venture, a new kind of romance if you will. It’s such a fabulous and supportive team. As a South African woman with a local voice, stepping onto a broader platform, this means a lot to me.What did you think when you first saw the cover of your book?
I was so thrilled! I was grinning like mad when I saw the cover, as she is exactly how my heroine looks, in that exact place.