07 Nov 2014

“African Me & Satellite TV” by Jo Robinson

4 Comments Book Reviews, News

African Me & Satellite TV by Jo Robinson 

“African Me & Satellite TV” by Jo Robinson is a great character driven novel AM Cover V1 - Copy (2) Smashwordsabout Zimbabwe. Suzette Hertzog is a white Afrikaans woman whose life gets challenged dramatically by the arrival of her bigoted and racist neighbours. For many years Suzette has managed very well to live her life without actually taking part in it, avoiding any possibility of pain by very carefully ignoring reality. Until something happens. Something so terrible that she has no choice but to abandon her cocoon of safety. 

After the brutal beating of an elderly domestic worker, Suzette takes her in, and sets off a chain of events that leads to devastating heartbreak. And an unexpected hero changes everything. Finally finding her voice, she speaks out, and her world explodes, culminating in the death of a very special man.
On her path to make amends, she discovers the story of his life, connects with the people of his past, and finds the chance to fully live her life once again if that’s what she chooses to. Her frustration and anger are a great subject in itself but her family and community life fit into the larger context of a post revolutionary Zimbabwe with its history and its challenges and flaws.

This is great story telling, entertaining, thoughtful, deep and of high literary and socio-culutral quality. The dialogue is sharp, the character are fascinated and well developed throughout, the story is engaging and emotional. It ticks all my boxes. 5 well deserved stars.

Interview with Jo Robinson:
Tell us a little about your life as writer and as person. P1040025 (2)

Writing is my life now, and I do it every day unless something beyond my control stops me.  When I’m writing new words I generally prefer the mornings for that, although quite often an idea will arrive at an odd hour and I’ll be banging away at my keyboard into the night.  Afternoons I’m generally editing, working on covers, or catching up on the internet.  As a person?  I’m pretty low maintenance I think.  I’m really not fond of waste, although I’m not a skinflint when it comes to life’s small pleasures now and then.  I can’t stand abuse of any kind, and people with superiority complexes get right up my nostril.  I like to live my life grateful for the good things I have now, including the lessons I’ve learned from the bad things along the way.  I’m pretty mellow, and slow to anger unless animal cruelty rears its ugly head – then I’m probably dangerous.

Tell us about your writing history. When was the first time you decided to write and when was the first time you did?

I only officially started writing fiction in 2011.  African Me & Satellite TV insisted on being written, even though I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.  I had thought about writing before, but never believed that I could.  All those authors of the books that I loved lived in a magical, secret place that was way out of the reach of mere mortals.  I remember writing the first page though – that bubbling joy when you suddenly see the rest of the story, and know without a doubt that you really can write it.  That feeling that you’re doing exactly what you should be.  I still feel like that when I’m on a roll.

I adored “African Me & Satellite TV”. Do you think it reflects the country, its people and the continent realistically?

Thank you very much!  I think that it does.  I didn’t include some of the truly dark things I’ve seen, but that’s pretty much the way people are.  The racists will always believe that they’re better than anyone else, and that the colour of their skin gives them the right to do whatever they like.  Things had started improving quite a lot in Zimbabwe around the time I finished that book, but they’re on a downward trend back to poverty again now, which honestly makes my heart bleed.  The people of that country don’t deserve what their leaders are putting them through.

You’ve written great characters. Would you say you’re like any of them? Or, how do you create your characters? 

Those characters really all arrived right on cue and made themselves known.  I didn’t have to try and think any of them up, and they all still pop in now and then for visits even though their stories are done.  I’m not like any of them, although there probably of bits of me in some of their habits and beliefs.  Characters generally arrive in my head around the same time that a story begins to form, and I generally just go with them no matter how strange or ridiculous they sometimes seem at first.

You write in several other genres. Tell us about your other books.

I wrote the first book in my sci-fi/fantasy series for the 2012 NaNoWriMo.  Because I was so new to writing books, I set myself the challenge of writing in a genre that I honestly thought I would be rotten at.  I never had a plot or much of an idea when I sat down on the first of November, but the minute my newly arrived guys hit that crazy cave I realised that I loved the freedom of writing sci-fi.  The freedom to create absolutely any world or creature that takes your fancy.  I’ve written the bones of most of the first seven books in the series now, and am still loving my dragons and interstellar chicken.  The Shadow People series has a deeply theological theme though, and I’ve done quite a lot of research for it.  Using legends and myths and bending them to my story is something I enjoy very much.  Other than that, my stories are about real life, particularly the scary and twisty turns it can sometimes take.

What made you decide to write in the genres you chose? Would you ever consider writing something else?

I write what I enjoy.  I’ve always loved to read, and have never restricted my reading to any particular genre.  The only thing I’m pretty sure that I really can’t write is erotica – I tried a steamy scene once and ended up with the most cringingly embarrassing paragraph, so I blushed, giggled and moved right along.  In my pile of WIP’s, I currently have mainstream, African, Sci-fi, and horror books on the go.

Would you say there is a message in your books beyond the stories? Do you find it is well received and picked up by the reviewers? Are you happy with the reception of your work so far?

I think I do tend to try and get a point across in my stories, although these points mostly sneak up on me.  I wanted people to know about the kind of racial hatred that exists in Africa, because it’s somewhat unique, and I think that readers definitely picked up on that.  I’m truly grateful for the reception of my work so far – it always knocks my socks right off when anyone says that they’ve liked anything that I’ve written.

Who would you hope plays the characters in a movie version?

I’ve thought about this before, and always see Charlize Theron and Morgan Freeman as Suzette and Christopher in African Me & Satellite TV.  Imagine!

What do you like best about writing? What’s your least favourite thing?

I love everything about writing.  From getting the first draft of any story written, to the tweaking, the changing, and the researching.  African Me & Satellite TV was badly edited to begin with, and editing has become a very big deal with me.  I go over everything backwards now, taking a lot of time with each sentence, and that really has to be my least favourite writing thing – especially when you get to the tenth read-over. 

Did you have any say in your cover art? What do you think of it? Tell us about the artist.

I have a wonderful cover designer for my Shadow People series.  Chris Graham http://thestoryreadingapeblog.com  finds out exactly what the stories are about, and gets it right every time.  He listens to what I would like to see, and then seems to see it himself.  He could be a bit psychic I think, and only he could ever create the covers for this series.  I purchased the image for the cover of African Me & Satellite TV from an online site, because when I saw it, it seemed to be made for the story.  I’m designing the covers for my upcoming mainstream releases myself.  I enjoy art, photography (although I’m still a novice with a camera), and I’m learning quite a lot about image manipulation and digital painting, so I have pretty much complete covers ready to go.

What is your writing environment like? Do you need silence or music to write?

I’m fortunate to have my own little office with a nice big desk to spread out on.  I don’t write well in a messy or chaotic space, so I have files, folders, and LOTS of pens just where I need them.  I easily shut out any background noise as long as it’s not screechingly loud.  I have two parrots and two weaver birds who bounce around and sing and play all day long, and I only tend to notice them when one lands on my nose or bounces on my keyboard.  Not often, but now and then I do like a bit of mellow music in the background.

What is your advice to new writers?

Write in your own style before listening to the advice of others.  Worrying about showing and not telling, or whether you don’t have enough dialogue will knobble your creativity as you scribble away.  Forget about everything, and just write your whole story, without fear of what anyone other than yourself thinks about its style or content.  You can think about those things once you’ve written the final sentence.  You must be absolutely fearless when you write your first draft.

Who are your favourite authors?

So, so many.  Terry Pratchett, Stephen King, Maeve Binchy, Philippa Gregory, Jostein Gaarder, Ursula Le Guin, Isaac Asimov, James Herbert – I could go on, and on.

What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?

I read multiple books at the same time.  I think it’s important that I read and review the work of indie authors because they’re my people.  I have different books open on my Kindle, my PC, and my laptop which I’m reading to review, and currently a paperback copy of Zelda la Grange’s Good Morning Mr Mandela.

What is your life like outside of writing?

At this point in my life I’m completely immersed in my writing, so it’s hard to get me away from it.  I love to paint, and I also love cooking, gardening and just recently, photography.  I have celiac disease, and don’t eat sugar.  I avoid carbs too, so I collect gluten free ingredients and spend time in the kitchen inventing new things.  Currently I’m growing heirloom tomatoes and chillies from seed because I want photos of the tomatoes for the cover of a soon to be published book.  All good fun for me.

What makes you laugh?

Lots of things.  I’m incredibly nosy and people watch as much as I can.  I love the people of Africa – black and white, and interacting with them almost always brings smiles or laughter.  I love watching wild creatures too – especially birds.  My weavers would make the sourest person on the planet laugh.  I enjoy silly B grade movies – think Sharknado, and the books of Pratchett and Tom Sharp make me cry I laugh so hard – every time.

What (not who) would you like to take to a lonely island?

A ton of paper and a pile of pens.  You’re never lonely with paper and a pen.

Who would you like to invite for dinner?

Akhenaten.  He could tell me about all those spaceship and submarine hieroglyphs, and his seriously high forehead too while he was at it.

What song would you pick to go with your book?

Suzanne by Leonard Cohen.

How do you handle criticism of your work?

I accept it for what it is.  I was deeply ashamed of myself when I got feedback about editing issues in the first copies of African Me.  To add insult to injury, there was a corrupted Createspace copy floating around as an ebook on Amazon for months before I found out, which people had bought.  I still worry about those books being out there, and some poor reader having a nasty experience.  So far I’ve only had one really bad review for my Fly Birdie, and to be honest I totally didn’t get it, so it just made me chuckle.  The way I see it though, every person who reads a book will see it differently in their minds, and people have different beliefs and values.  Everyone’s entitled to either like or not like what you put out there, and you have to take it all on the chin without dissolving into a puddle.

Tell us one weird thing, one nice thing, and one fact about where you live.

Weird?  Well – I haven’t been able to lay my hands on any of my mail since August because the post office workers are on strike.  It’s not a legal strike, so they’re all physically at work, but give you the deadpan wiggly eyeball look when you try to get something from them.  Same with the wiggly internet service right now.  The nice thing about living here is that our little town is plonked at the foot of the Soutpansberg mountains.  The scenery is gorgeous, and there are amazing birds and creatures that sometimes find their way into the garden.  Fact – it is the historical home of the Venda people, and there is a place up the road where a long dead chief is still supposed to be heard blowing a mystical horn.  I must investigate soon.

What are you working on now?

I’m editing a couple of my upcoming releases.  Books two and three in the Shadow People series, as well as three mainstream books that have been waiting patiently for me during this crazy past year.

Is there anything you would like us to know about yourself and your books?

I’d just like to say thank you very much to you Christoph, for having me as your guest.  It’s been a great pleasure chatting away about my scribbles like this, and an honour to be here.

 Thank you, the pleasure was mine, and best of luck 🙂

My links:

Amazon Page: http://www.amazon.com/Jo-Robinson/e/B009JB6IAW/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6979970.Jo_Robinson

Book Link for African Me: http://a-fwd.com/asin-com=B00F5640UK

Chris Graham

Amazon

Goodreads

African Me & Satellite TV

written by
Christoph Fischer was born in Germany in 1970 as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. ‘The Luck of The Weissensteiners’ is his first published work. He has written several other novels which are in the later stages of editing and finalisation.

4 Responses to ““African Me & Satellite TV” by Jo Robinson”

  1. Jo says:

    Thank you for having me over for this interview Christoph – I enjoyed every minute! 🙂

  2. David Lawlor says:

    A great interview, Christoph. Jo’s books sounds really fascinating. I like the setting, and the plot sounds very good. Congratulations Jo an good luck with your book

  3. Angel Sefer says:

    The interview is very interesting, and the book sounds amazing!

  4. Barbara A Martin says:

    The book sounds highly interesting. What grabbed me most is the author. I find that her philosophy of life very closely matches mine. Once again an insightful interview Christoph.

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