Words with Danila Botha Author of "Got No Secrets"

Can you tell us a little bit about "Got No Secrets”?

Got No Secrets is a collection of twelve short stories, told in the first person, about the private lives of twelve different women. Some of the stories are set in my native South Africa, some are set in Toronto, Canada, and one is set in the States. The stories explore the parts of ourselves that we keep hidden or feel ashamed of, even if they are a big part of who we are. They explore the idea of what it means to be good-and what it means to be able to live with yourself, no matter what decisions you’ve made. Some of them deal with addiction, drugs, and using sex to escape. Others are about childhood and relationships, and existential crises. They were all really interesting to research, and enjoyable to write. I tried to understand what people experienced, to live in their heads and hearts as much as I could. I hope they all seemed authentic and real- and that the characters felt like real people that you know after reading about them.

What's your background with writing?

I studied Creative Writing at York University in Toronto and at the Humber College School for writers. I wrote even as a young kid, and I always loved reading. I guess I got more serious about writing as I got through university. I always knew it was what I loved to do above all other things, but my confidence grew as I got older. It’s important to believe in your own voice and in your own writing. I’m still working on it as we speak.

Who are your inspirations/influences?

I’m really influenced and inspired by some of the writers from where I’m from in South Africa: Rian Malan, Marlene Van Niekerk, Aryan Kaganof, Andre Brink, K Sello Duiker, Phaswane Mpe, JM Coetzee, Rene Bohnen, Michelle Mcgrane, Toast Coetzer, Melinda Ferguson and more.

I love American writers like JD Salinger, EE cummings, and Charles Bukowski. Also, Darcey Steinke is another writer I really admire, and Shannon Burke, whose book Safelight I just finished reading last night.

I also love Hanif Kureishi. I love Heather O’Neill, her writing changed my life. Also Zoe Whittall, Camilla Gibb, Richard Scrimger and Nino Ricci. Also, Julia Tausch, and Ibi Kaslik.

I love Nicole Aube’s writing a lot. Chaka Reid’s writing is great too.

I’ve been reading a few memoirs lately too: I loved Kathryn Borel’s Corked, and Nic Sheff’s Tweak, and also, Jeannette Walls’ the Glass Castle. I love the Israeli writers too- Assaf Gavron, Etgar Keret, Eshkol Nevo, Zeruya Shalev. I could probably name a lot more- there is a lot of fantastic writing out there. I really love to read, and often read one or two books a week. I spend thousands of dollars on books, easy, and belong to two libraries. It’s so important to read a lot. I find writers who are brave- who search for the truth about why things are, who are not afraid to “go there” with complex or difficult issues- whose characters ask themselves the difficult questions- are the ones who inspire me most. There are a lot of fantastic writers out there.

What was it like working with Tightrope and Modjaji Books?

Working with Tightrope was awesome- they’re really a family of creative, powerful individuals and it was a total honour and pleasure to work with them. Halli Villegas, my publisher, is a force of nature- a kind and intelligent visionary. She’s a great poet and writer, who really understands where writers are coming from with their work. Shirarose Willensky, my editor, was excellent- she really understood the writing and what I wanted to do. She helped me to develop it and improve it , while sharing my vision for the characters and the book. I can’t say enough good things about her. It was an incredible experience working with her, and having her as a friend is equally great.

Working with Modjaji was great too. Colleen Higgs, my publisher in SA was wonderful to work with. It’s been an amazing experience all around

Who was responsible for the cover/book design?

Karen Correia Da Silva of Tightrope Books was the designer. She did an incredible job of making the book look beautiful. She’s really, really talented. Vanya du Toit, the South African photographer did the cover shot. She does amazing work.

I’m so privileged to call them both my friends.

What are you doing in terms of marketing/publicity?

Tightrope are doing a lot of it. I’m trying to do as many readings as I can, which I love doing, and trying to get people to review it as much as possible. The National Post’s Afterword column invited me to write a week’s worth of entries about South African writing, so that was fantastic.

Salty Ink, a great website about Atlantic Canadian writing invited me to do something similar about Canadian writing. I’m just trying to do as many of these types of things as I can. I’m always so thrilled to be asked.

Do you have any stories from book signings/radio interviews/etc.?

Stories from readings: so far, they’ve all been really fun. The launch in Toronto at T Cafe was so much fun. I loved reading the next month at Ben Mcnally Books too. I just did a reading in Halifax, at the Company House, and had a great time. The only thing I can think of is that in Halifax, I introduced one of the stories that I read completely wrongly. My editor and I had talked about changing some titles of the stories, which totally made sense cause I find creating titles the hardest part sometimes. I had planned to read the story A Tiny Thud (a title I had changed) so I started talking about what inspired it...then instead, started reading the story ‘Just Quietly Do It’ instead... and I realized it as I was reading it. When I was done, I explained it, and it was fine... but it really funny. I’d told a story that was a total non sequitor- not related to Just Quietly Do It all. The lovely audience thankfully didn’t seem to mind.

What is the name of your blog and what can readers expect to find there?

I blog through Aryan Kaganof’s writing community, called the Kagablog. Aryan is a South African writer, poet, and filmmaker, and he has created a true artist community that I’m so grateful to be a part of. Mostly just my writing can be found there, but sometimes photos, and other arty stuff.
What projects do you have planned for the future?

A novel that I’m in the middle of writing called ‘Too Much on the Inside’. Also a graphic novel about the Israeli/Palestinian situation that I’m working on with an illustrator friend of mine. And more to come!

Is there anything else about you we should know?

I love writing. It really makes me happy to express myself and to use it as a tool to try to understand why things happen.

Check out Danila's blog here!

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