Meet South African novelist, Jassy Mackenzie who took 30 years to venture into writing .

By Duchess Magazine

Jassy Mackenzie is from a family where books weren’t just more important than television, they were so important that television was banned from the house.
Jassy is the second youngest of five sisters. She was born in Zimbabwe, and moved to South Africa when she was eight years old. Today, she is the editor of HJ, a hair and beauty magazine. She lives on a smallholding outside Johannesburg and shares her life with her wonderful partner Dion, two horses and two cats.

Her first novel, Random Violence, featuring the feisty P.I. Jade de Jong, was published by Umuzi in South Africa in 2008 and shortlisted for Best First Book in the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Africa region. It was published by Soho Press in the USA, where it was nominated for a Shamus Award in the Best First Book category and received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal.


Excerpts of the Interview:

Please introduce yourself and tell us about the path that led you to where you are today.

I’m Jassy Mackenzie, author of seven novels published in South Africa and the USA, and I have always loved books and reading. I started writing when I was very young, but it took more than 30 years for me to learn how to finish a full length novel – it is not an easy process!

What obstacles did you have to overcome to get where you are today?

The main obstacle for writers is self-doubt. Those fears that tag along behind you and try to convince you that your story is no good. That you should scrap it and start a different one.

Another challenge is time management. Writing requires you to immerse yourself in the story, and this is most easily done without distractions. Most writers, including myself, have a day job as well, so it becomes even more of a squeeze to try and fit it all in.

Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?

I’d like to be a self-supporting writer who spends my day reclining on the couch, sipping wine, and dictating my novels to a hunky male PA dressed only in a pair of faded jeans. However, I am the first to realise this may be somewhat unrealistic… it might take me six years to get there!

Who would you say has been your greatest role model and why?

That’s a difficult question because there are so many wonderful writers who pen the most incredible stories, and often do so under challenging circumstances. One of the writers I admire the most is Kgebetle Moele.

He’s a prize winning author of three books who has the most hilarious, dry sense of humour, and when he is not writing, he works as a minibus taxi driver in Polokwane. I am in awe of anyone who can work at such a punishing job and still find the time, and the sense of humour, to write such amazing novels.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I have two horses and ride competitively. I also love to walk, cycle and run, and I enjoy cooking. I spend far too much time playing word games on Facebook, and as a result have never dared to join Twitter. One time guzzler is enough!

What advice do you have for other aspiring business people?

My advice to an aspiring writer is  to read as much as you can, because it is by far the best way to learn (every time you relax with a good book, you’re actually doing tax-deductible research).

When you’re not reading, you need to write. It doesn’t matter what – fiction, non-fiction, a diary, blog or journal – because they say that your first million written words are practice, and it’s only from then that you start to master your craft.

Could you tell us a bit about your book Folly, and what inspired you to write it?

I wanted to try something different from the more serious crime thrillers that I’ve been writing. The idea for Folly popped into my head when I was daydreaming about what a woman who fell on hard financial times might be able to do to save herself.

Imagine if she decided to open a domination dungeon in a cottage in her garden, giving spankings and humiliation to wealthy men. Then imagine if she ended up falling in love with one of her clients. What would happen?

The idea of writing a humorous erotic romance on this subject intrigued, and amused me so much that I mentioned it to my publisher, who was immediately enthusiastic about it. I started writing, and Folly was complete a few months later. The sequel, Switch, has just been published.

How do you feel about being part of the Knysna Literary Festival in March?

I am thrilled to be part of the Knysna Literary Festival. I think it is the most wonderful initiative, with such exciting panels and events planned. I feel so privileged to be able to spend some time talking about books, and meeting other authors and readers in one of the most beautiful settings in the world.

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