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Joanne Hichens

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

My Next Big Thing…

Thanks to Jenna Mervis, for the invitation. Poet, blogger and short-story writer, her Next Big Thing entices at Her Perfect Worlds sounds just up my street – a Sci-fi exploration into hate crimes, amongst other realities. Can’t wait to feast on her baking, whenever ready!


As for my Next Big Thing? Here goes…

What is the working title of your book?

Two Next Big Things will be published this year:
Bloody Satisfied is the working title of the first of the ‘Short Sharp Stories Award’ annual anthologies, to be published June 2013. This new award, for South African short fiction, is sponsored by the National Arts Festival, with the first collection dedicated to crime fiction. Sweet Paradise is the next in my Rae Valentine crime series, following Divine Justice, and will be on the shelves October 2013.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Talking Sweet Paradise, I worked in a psychiatric clinic for five years and am still interested in, and fascinated by, mental health issues and addiction in particular. The name of the psych facility in my book is Paradise Place – where each patient suffers in their own private hell.

What genre does your book fall under?

Squarely in the crime fiction genre, with a touch of Noir…. I capitalize on absurdity. The world I’m creating, in this dysfunctional rehab facility, is maudlin, hellish. There’s suicide, murder, the blood flows.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

SA actors please! Kim Engelbrecht as Rae Valentine would be just perfect! Though there’d have to be a special effects team to recreate her as an amputee (Rae has one leg) in a couple of scenes.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Rae Valentine is contracted to look into the cold case of a missing female drug addict who spent time incarcerated at Paradise Place, where her partner, Vincent Saldana, is co-incidentally in rehab…. Let’s leave it at that!

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Mercury, an imprint of Burnet Media, will publish. They’re small, they’re hungry, they’re innovative, they’re risk-takers. Sweet Paradise fits their bill of irreverent fiction.

Bloody Satisfied, the crime fiction anthology, will also be a Mercury publication. BTW, the acclaimed Deon Meyer will write a foreword for this collection.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I’ve had this idea in my head a long time…. and I’m still honing the first draft. Ha ha ha! (Hysterical laughter, I break out in a sweat…). I use multiple points of view to unfold the story, as I did in Divine Justice, and am continually adjusting the different voices…. the police, the victims, Rae and Vince….

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I’m writing hard-hitting black humour. Carl Hiaasen does it, as does the master crime-writer Elmore Leonard, also the fabulous US writer Mark Haskell Smith, and Vicki Hendricks writes Noir white-trash crime which I collect. I humble myself before these writers. I don’t compare myself. Their absurd plots, off-the-wall characters and entertaining dialogue makes for pages that turn almost by themselves.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

As an art therapist, I was acutely aware of the vulnerability of patients. I worked in an excellent clinic, but as a creative person, my imagination allowed to me see how possible it would be to exploit the patients as victims.

And I keep these Dylan lyrics in mind:
If you don’t believe there’s a price
for this sweet paradise
Just remind me to show you the scars ….

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Divine Justice was well received, and I hope readers will enjoy connecting again with my intrepid pair of PIs as they get caught up in the evil perpetuated at Paradise Place. Rae, of course, still hankers after love…


Now, for someting completely different, I hand over to Heather Parker Lewis who started self-publishing way back when it was definitely not in fashion. Her informal biography Olive Schreiner, the other side of the moon, is a delight. It’s an engaging eye-opener about Olive, acknowledged as the first writer of English literature in South Africa. The book explores Olive’s Bohemian lifestyle and exposes previously unpublished facts about her life. Heather has published a number of books under her iHilihili Press imprint. Read about the just released Dance of Bliss, and her Next Big Thing, on facebook at