S.A. Partridge is the author of award-winning YA novels Fuse, The Goblet Club and Dark Poppy’s Demise.
1. I am ashamed to say that I have not read any of your books but I did pick up a copy of Dark Poppy’s Demise at Kalk Bay Books on Sunday, would you be able to introduce yourself for those that have not encountered you in print or online before.
I am a YA writer from Cape Town, South Africa. I have three novels out in the wild.
2. Your novels focus on problems that many teenagers face – bullying, living rough and so on as a South African writer do you feel that SA youth have a unique set of problems or do you think what they face is universal?
South Africa is unique in that it’s a first world country with a third world reputation. It’s home to a melting pot of cultures and one of the most interesting places you can live. But rather than focus on what makes us different, race is kind of the elephant in the room that is missing from all my novels. Instead I focus on the real world, modern problems that face teenagers in South Africa and across the globe, such as Internet predators, drug dealers, peer pressure, abuse, and yes, friends with murderous intentions.
3. You have won a number of awards for your books The Goblet Club winning the SABC/You Magazine I am a writer Competition and the MER Prize for Best Youth Novel, Fuse short-listed for the Percy Fitzpatrick Prize for youth literature in 2010 and will be showcased at the IBBY World Conference in August and Dark Poppy’s Demise won the MER Prize. Not only that but you have been named as one of South Africa’s best authors. Do you feel under pressure from all these accolades or are you able to ignore the expectations and just write?
I just write. As soon as I’m done with one novel, another story starts nudging for my attention and I move on to that. I don’t write with things like awards and being prescribed at school in mind. I tend to focus on the story and the characters and doing my best to translate them down onto to paper. I’m weird in the way that I believe stories exist out there in the universe and that the writer is just the medium.
4. Have any of your novels been picked up by overseas publishers?
I’m working on it. Watch this space. You can pick them up through some online vendors.
5. Are any of your novels based on personal experiences
Not really. Sometimes I overhear bits of conversation or see something that makes an impression and then add it in, but for the most part the story is complete when it finds me. For Dark Poppy’s Demise, which is about a girl that meets a psychopath online, I drew on my own experience of online dating, but only for research. It didn’t play a part of the story.
6. I read in a review that you “deliver a dystopian view of South African youth culture” why do you think that young people have such a rough time (not just in SA but globally)?
There is an urgency to being a teenager that we tend to forget about the older we get. High school is where we learn to interact with people socially, so if you think about it, it’s a little bit like the island in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. It’s about being the alpha dog, fitting in, finding your social status, impressing the girl, impressing the rest. It’s such an insular environment that isn’t really affected by the outside world and every problem seems more end of the world than it really is.
7. What is your favourite part of the writing process?
I enjoy flat out bouts of writing where I produce a massive amount of content in a matter of hours. I’m addicted to seeing a story start to take shape. It gives me a greater sense of achievement than actually publishing the book.
8. How do you think that YA writing perceived in South Africa?
YA is incredibly popular in South Africa. Walk into any bookstore and you’ll see the floating displays of latest releases. There are also a lot of dedicated YA book blogs that build excitement for upcoming releases. For example, when Veronica Roth’s Insurgent came out, there was a huge buzz among local book bloggers on Twitter. They are also hugely supportive of local writers, which is awesome. There’s an incredible atmosphere of support and encouragement here.
9. Have you had much feedback from teen readers? What have their thoughts been about your writing?
I’ve been very lucky. My first novel was adapted into a school play and on opening night I was bowled over by the kids wanting to talk to me about the book. I also get quite a few messages on Facebook from readers, and most recently Twitter as well.
10. The SA YA writing pool seems to be incredibly small, can you recommend other SA authors that you enjoy reading? (I currently have you, Lily Herne, Cat Hellisen and Michael Williams as well as Liz Davis from Namibia)
Edyth Bulbring is very prolific. Adeline Radloff wrote an excellent YA about a super hero and his teenage apprentice set in Cape Town that won the Sanlam Youth Prize. Lauri Kubuitsile is a YA writer from Botswana whose novel Signed, Hopelessly in Love, was also up for the MER prize. There’s also Alex Smith, Jenny Robson, Gillian D’achada, Jayne Bauling, Francois Bloemhof, Robin Malan, Fanie Viljoen. It’s a small community, but the content coming out is fantastic.
11. What is coming next after Dark Poppy’s Demise?
My next novel is called Sharp Edges, which tackles the mystery surrounding the death of a seventeen year old girl at a trance party, seen through the perspective of the five other people there. It will hit shelves in April 2013.
You can follow S.A. Partridge via her blog: http://sapartridge.bookslive.co.za/
on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Sapartridgewriter
or on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Sapartridge