Marion Erskine chats to Riana Mouton

Why did you start writing? What was your inspiration?

Without a doubt Prof. Tom Gouws. We were in a restaurant one day and he asked me, out of the blue, why I didn’t try my hand at wielding a pen.

He had a good giggle at my expense after my email message to the Gows family. The seed had been sown. An because I’m a doer, I tried it a couple of days later.

You and your family currently live in New Zealand. What do you miss most about South Africa?

Where to start? I miss Saturday-braai-and-pap-days, WHITE asparagus, Estcourt Viennas, real (Boere-) lamb chops. I miss good Boere-weddings, bottled peaches and Theuns Jordaan!

I miss the campfire in the Bushveld and potjiekos. Above all I miss the essence of my country, the beat of its heart. The feeling that I fit. Africa is in the South African’s DNA–it is woven into our bones; burnt into our souls.

What is the strangest tradition you encountered?

Oh, I’ve been embarrassed twice. Kiwis invite you to ‘tea’. That means dinner. When they say, “Come for evening ‘tea’”, that means dinner.

Twice I’ve invited people for ‘tea’, and had cake at the ready, and then they would appear carrying salads and garlic bread. That’s when the Afrikaner calm kicks in, you keep a poker face and concoct an evening meal while your guests remain completely in the dark.

And the tradition of taking off your shoes before entering someones home. Usually there’ll be a heap of shoes in the foyer, and if you’re invited in, you add your shoes to the collection. Holes in your socks and all! I hate it!

Does speaking English not affect your grammar? (I know is all over the place)

Of course. I never thought it possible, because I’m an Afrikaner to the core. The editing of my most recent book revealed that my grammar had gone wildly wrong–most sentences back-to-front.

I was shocked that my Afrikaans had become so tainted. We have a house rule that we speak Afrikaans only at week-ends. We don’t want our beautiful boys to lose our language. My youngest, Arno, battles with Afrikaans and we often share a joke at his expense when he translates directly into Afrikaans.

The other day my son Naude had a note he had to hand his teacher in his shirt pocket. When we got to school, he looked at me in horror and said, “Mom, my noot (as in music) is is no longer in my sacket (pocket).”

Thrillers are a popular genre, particularly in Afrikaans just now.

I think many South Africans can identify with thrillers. I also think a South Aftrican author has an advantage over his international peers. All we have to do is read the newspaper every day. Or have a conversation with a detectice or police officer. Nowhere else is it possible for an author to research such unique research material.

The Smell of Death and Without a Trace have male leads. Is it easier to write a thriller from a masculine point of view, or would a female character succeed also?

It isn’t difficult for me to assume a male point of view. I have THREE of them around day and night. I have a constant running battle with them and have to put a foot down once in a while to keep my femininity among the rams!

I like my husband’s and my sons’ unpretentious and points of view. The Angel is passionate and intense–many of his good traits and those of my beautiful boys surface in my characters. I am a sharp observer, an Analyst, perhaps. Sometimes, just sometimes, men are straight-forward and without airs.

I expect I’d be able to ‘tell’ a woman. I’ve been planning a strong woman for a while now. An unafraid woman with spunk in her bones!

It’s terrible to suffer comparison with others, but do you see yourself as a female Deon Meyer? What does that mean for you? Is this an accolade or something you’d rather shake off?

A female Deon Meyer. Good heavens! I still have so much to learn. An accolade, without a doubt.

But I wouldn’t like to be labled. I don’t want to be compared with others. Every author has an own voice. And with every book your voice becomes stronger. I don’t write to win prizes, or to get wealthy or for fame. I write because I have much to share!

What is your current project?

I’ve just rounded off my third book, Nemesis. I’m into my third book now, and I’m at the same time very tense and very excited.

Complete the sentence. Riana is someone...

With a skip kin her step, a twinkle in the eye and a song in her heart!