Tuesday, 28 August 2012
Meet the Author: Andrew Brown
What was the main challenge in writing Solace?The biggest challenge was venturing into the arena of religious differences and fundamentalism, setting the novel within this contentious environment without being offensive or overly insensitive to other people's beliefs and cultural practices. Some religions are more sensitive to criticism or debate than others and all three mainstream religions come under scrutiny in the book. I think that I may have annoyed a few people on the extremes, but the response to the book has been overwhelmingly positive.
Are you satisfied with the end-product; do you have any reservations about it, would you do anything differently? I had reservations when writing Solace about repeating a character, in this case Detective Inspector Eberard Februarie from Coldsleep Lullaby. I don't want to be a series writer or to fall into the trap of formulaic writing, so I was extremely ambivalent about dusting the mothballs off him and putting him back into action. On the other hand, he is a character that I like and he fitted the bill perfectly for the main protagonist in Solace. It also allowed me to develop him further as a character (in this case, taking the poor man to even lower emotional depths). On reflection, I think it was the right thing to do for the book, but I am reluctant to make Eberard a regular feature.
What drove you to write the book, what do you aim to achieve with it?At one level I wanted to write a crime thriller that would be readable and enjoyable, in a similar genre to Coldsleep Lullaby and, perhaps, not as dark as Refuge. However, at a deeper level, I am increasingly troubled by the right-wing fundamentalism that seems to be sweeping world politics, particularly when it comes to issues of religious belief and practice, with an associated intolerance of the cultural practices of others. I was particularly troubled by Mr [ex-French president Nikolas] Sarkozy's attitude towards Muslim immigrants in France. I wanted to explore this in a local setting - in this case Cape Town - using fictional legislation as a backdrop to real issues.
What impact did the writing of Solace have on you, what insights did it give you?Solace has confirmed for me that the crime thriller genre can comfortably accommodate more contentious and intellectual themes, and that one does not have to write an impenetrable treatise in order to explore serious issues that affect our society. The plot and the mystery will hopefully keep the reader interested, and entertained, but there are social concerns that can be focused on at the same time. Ultimately crime writing is about examining the shadow of any society and this provides a writer with fertile ground and wide parameters within which to explore.
What are you working on now?I may have bitten off more than I can chew, but I am working on a more serious novel set in the fledgling country of Southern Sudan. It is more in the line of Inyenzi, the book I wrote about Rwanda (which is the book that remains closest to my heart). I hope to explore some of the issues at play in the region through the eyes of a slightly na?ve English botanist. There will be deaths, but I fear no detectives.