One of the loveliest things is when a superb publicist grabs hold of me and introduces me to an author I know nothing about at all, but someone I find I really do want to learn more about. I knew Deon Meyer is a big name in the world of crime, and I could sort of place him in South Africa. But I didn’t know that he writes in Afrikaans and not in English. He is visiting Europe right now, on what is mainly a Dutch book tour, with a couple of days in London, to publicise his brand new novel Fever (which between you and me looks like a fabulous read).
Deon and I were meant to email chat one evening this week, but holiday wifi being what it turned out to be, it was as well that we had a plan B. Nothing will stop me from asking famous authors silly questions, so here goes:
Tell me who Deon Meyer really is! How famous are you? Do people stop you in the street? Any relation to Stephenie Meyer? (I’m almost not serious about the last question.)
In South Africa people do – and I have been stopped in France too. In the UK I was stopped once, but that was by people who wanted directions. I also admit to being stopped for speeding. And my wife’s beauty stops me in my tracks every time!
I was fascinated to learn that you write in Afrikaans; somehow one just expects people from ‘English speaking’ countries to turn to English for most things intended to travel. Did you ever consider not using Afrikaans, or is that as stupid a question as people asking me whether I really speak Swedish? (Which, of course, I don’t actually expect you to know the answer to.)
May I first say that South Africa is not an English speaking country … it is actually a Zulu speaking country. There are as many other languages spoken there as there are English speakers. Then I would say that writing is tough anyway – and to do it in a second language, constantly searching for the correct word, would be tricky if not downright difficult. And thirdly, even though the Afrikaans book market is relatively small, it is immensely strong, and to lose out on that market would be financially imprudent of me ..!
Not sure whether I just imagined this, but do you translate your books yourself? If so, does that feel a bit weird?
No – I have a wonderful translator who does a terrific job of moving me from Afrikaans into English – for the English speaking market. For most other languages I have to trust my foreign editors and believe them when they say the job has been done well. Of them all, I think Chinese is the biggest mystery.
I’m assuming the reason you have a Dutch book tour now, is that you are particularly popular in the Netherlands (and Belgium?)? Are the two languages close enough that there are no language barriers with your Dutch fans?
Actually, Afrikaans isn’t that similar to Dutch at all, so that is a good question, and there really is no simple answer. Slow, clear and unaccented speech makes it a bit easier – but that ‘ardly ever ‘appens. As they say …
And does the Afrikaans/Dutch aspect sort of make you a little bit Nordic? By which I mean half Anglo, but also half something completely different; something that means you stand out from the UK/US crowd [of crime writers]?
I don’t know the answer to this one!
If you weren’t Deon Meyer, who would you like to be?
If I wasn’t me … hmmm. Let me think. I’d say Ridley Scott because I love his visual storytelling, and it would be wonderful to have the opportunity to make a big budget, entertaining movie.
Do you happen to know what young South African readers like to read? (The one person I know, whom I asked, could only suggest Harry Potter…) I ask because children’s and YA books are closest to my heart.
The young in South Africa do read the same sort of books as British (and Swedish) children. Most of what is available here is available there – for young adults as well. They also love to read Facebook posts, of course.
What do you yourself read for pleasure?
I have been meaning for some time to read Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants… which I now am. He is such a great storyteller, I don’t mind taking on a big book – and it is part of a trilogy, so I know there is lots to come. I am an omnivorous reader – I even read the labels on the condiment bottles on tables … I find it fascinating how some makers can disguise what goes into their product. But crime and suspense fiction are still my favourites.
Finally – if you’ve survived my questions this far – please tell me you have a favourite Swede? (A simple ‘yes’ is not enough of an answer.)
My favourite Swede choice would be Svante Weyler – my Swedish publisher. He is a great guy, a really smart bloke and a wonderful publisher – and if I can’t be Ridley Scott, I want to be Svante Weyler.
I have met Svante, and I’m inclined to agree with Deon, with the exception of perhaps not wanting to turn into him. Admiration is enough. Now I want to meet Deon, either as himself, as Ridley Scott or as Svante Weyler. And how right this speedy and romantic man is regarding languages. Zulu… I should have known!
With many thanks to the ever efficient Kerry Hood for organising this opportunity to put Deon on the spot, and with rather less thanks to the local mobile network masts. But we beat you, so there!
And I’m off to read a nearby ketchup bottle.