|Photo credit: Andrea Nixon|
Sally Andrew, the author of the new Tannie (‘Auntie’) Maria mystery series, is here today with beautiful photos of zebras and life in South Africa to celebrate her book, The Satanic Mechanic. Sally lives in a mud-brick house on a nature reserve in the Klein Karoo, South Africa, with her artist partner and other wildlife, including a secretive leopard. Her background is adult education, and political and environmental activism. Her books are being published in fourteen languages by twenty-one publishers internationally. Kerry Hammond questioned her thoroughly...
We love the title of your book: The Satanic Mechanic. How did it come about?
I conceive of my books' plots on trips into the wilderness. On this particular trip we had 18 breakdowns (we drive an old Land Rover), so I had mechanics on the mind! There were many - and they were very kind to us.
'Satanic Mechanic' has a nice feel and rhythm. It suggests humor, as well as wickedness, and it evokes that iconic song from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
|Photo Credit: Andrea Nixon|
The Klein Karoo nature reserve is an all too real locale and a perfect place to set a story. Tell us about the real life nature reserve and the wildlife that call it home.
I live in a mudbrick, thatched house on a nature reserve in the semi-arid Klein Karoo. My neighbors are wild creatures: zebra, giraffe, leopard. It’s the stereotype of how Americans may think all South African’s live, but in fact it’s a very rare lifestyle. My fictional character, Tannie (auntie) Maria, lives not far from me, just outside the town of Ladismith. She’s not in a nature reserve, but is in a rural area, so we share some of the same mountains, wild animals, trees and big open sky. My leopard and jackal sometimes threaten her chickens.
Your characters really drive the story. How do you craft such interesting personalities?
My first response to your question is an indignant sense that I have not crafted them, they are real. But if I take my mind back to when they came into existence, I realize that I formed them all. Though it does sometimes feel more like I ‘met’ them. I get a visual picture of them; I sometimes sit inside their bodies a while; and I get a sense of them from Tannie Maria’s perspective (as my books are written in her voice, in the first person). But the characters only reveal themselves to me clearly in the process of the writing. Something that they say or do transforms them from notion to a concrete being. Although I am influenced consciously and unconsciously by aspects of actual people I meet in the Klein Karoo, the characters in my books are not based on individuals. They have their own unique lives, in that other world that I sometimes live in.
Tannie Maria is a character that grows as your novels progress. Do you have specific ideas in mind for her or does she take on a life of her own as you write?
Once I had ‘conceived of’ Tannie Maria, she definitely took charge of her own life. I do develop an outline of the murder and mystery plot, but it is her personality that shapes how that plot plays out. Sometimes she takes me off in a direction that I had not intended at all. The other day I was sending her home to make lime and brandy marmalade, and she took an unexpected detour to the police station and had sex with Detective Henk Kannemeyer in his office. I was quite shocked.
|Photo Credit: Mari-Louise Guy|
The recipes in your book are exotic and wonderful. We have to ask, have you actually cooked each and every one?
Those that I have not personally cooked, I have employed a professional to cook, and I have tasted them. There is quite an extensive process of developing, testing, tasting and adjusting each of the recipes, to ensure that they are all moan-out-loud delicious. Btw, you must try the Venus Cake in The Satanic Mechanic. It took twelve attempts to perfect this recipe, and the result leaves me feeling I have fulfilled my purpose on earth. Beam me up, Goddess of Love.
You can find Sally on Twitter @TannieSall, Kerry Hammond at @KerryHammond88 and Mystery Playground @MysteryPLaygrnd.