Human contact, the human condition — This is what I aim to convey and love to write about. On the page, I treasure those moments when words and music meet.
As for authorly success: ‘Stay in your lane’ is the usual advice. But for me, writing is exploration and so I prefer to visit different genres — an idea, a situation that intrigues me. Not every path leads to a fully realised tale, but every story I’ve written has taught me more about the art of fiction.
Hopefully it won’t be too long a wait for you, dear reader, before my next novel appears.
When I sat down to write ‘Cape Town’ (actually a Crossover novel, original title: ‘Who Sees Clearly in the Dark?’), I had no idea I was writing teen fiction. It was a shock when the tutor I was working with at the time told me it was, ‘because of the diction’. I had no idea what diction was… that’s how ignorant I was! But I knew I had a story I wanted and needed to tell. So I persevered. Now my hope is that readers will find this an important book for years to come.
What sparked the idea? This lies embedded in a scene when the heroine confronts the hero. I always loved to read about Pavlova’s career, her early beginnings at the Maryinski Theatre, and came across a report of a raid that happened because some of the dancers were thought to be involved in the Bolshevik movement. This stuck with me, and slowly melded with my idea to write about an ‘unsympathetic’ heroine.
The thing is, back in South Africa I knew people who belonged very much to the left, and others who belonged very much to the right. I’m not politically inclined, but try to follow a middle path. John le Carre, in an interview with Eleanor Wachtel, put it very well when he said re being a writer: ‘You’re part of society, yet apart from it’. That’s how I experienced myself during the years of the Struggle.
These days I’m often asked, ‘Was ‘Cape Town’ the first book you wrote?’
Actually, no. For years my intention to write was put on hold, but on first immigrating to Canada I had time on my hands and the chance to take advantage of the vibrant literary scene.
My family’s experience during our four years on a wine farm in the Cape made me think ‘I really should write about all this’. So, when I heard about a South African writing competition for a humorous children’s book, I thought ‘Why not?’
One evening in March, my husband arrived back from work and I proudly showed him one hand-written page, a kind of memoir from the point of view of our elder daughter. He was somewhat taken aback! Anyway, eventually I achieved 25,000 words and posted off the typescript. No, I didn’t win, but the editor wrote that they’d like to publish ‘your charming book’. Wow! How wonderful, how easy was that?? A year later, I received a ‘no thanks’ letter. Too bad, too sad, as they say.
But I’d set foot on my chosen path at last. Going with the philosophy ‘It’s never too late’, I took some courses, met my two wonderful critique partners and began writing seriously.
For me, writing is exploration. This is why I do different genres, i.e. go with an idea, a situation that intrigues me and see where it fits. For instance, ‘A Wedding in Vermont’ is women’s fiction. Here’s a glimpse into my thoughts: As you’re no doubt aware, these days, the right to be legally married is heavily weighted with importance. Very different from the mid ‘60s and ‘70s, when couples more had the attitude ‘why bother?’. So I began to wonder, what difference does a marriage ceremony actually make, if any? Thus a reunion story about four university women started to take shape (and place!) in my imagination.
And just fyi, my present work-in-progress is epic low fantasy!
Homeward bound, I stride downhill and turn onto the narrow, paved path that runs diagonally across...
A prose poem: For those of us who live a solitary life, whose senses are dulled by age, a scent at...
Grey morning light filtered through the attic window. On a visit to a dear friend in Germany, I...
ABOUT THIS PAINTING
This is a portrait sketch in tempera and oils, done by the father of a university friend of mine when I was about the age of my heroines, Renee and Charmaine. Now I’m older…, and no longer have big hair!
BOOKS BY BRENDA HAMMOND
Books are currently unavailable on Amazon, but will be linked up shortly. You are welcome to check again for availability soon.
‘Cape Town’ was nominated for a White Pine Award
An excellent coming-of-age novel… beautifully written.
– CM University of Manitoba
A great read.
– Marsha Skrypuch