Author and star of Kortverhale van Stilfontein en ander stories, Adriaan van der Westhuizen, has seen great success with his debut collection. The short stories that make up this nostalgic and whimsical collection of tales are all true, and tell the tales of his and his young adventures.
We asked Adriaan to share a little more about the man behind the words:
What were you like at school?
What you read is exactly how I remember experiencing it. But in those days I wasn’t such an extrovert as I am today. I only discovered my leadership abilities when I went to serve in the South African Defense Force.
What was your favourite subject?
Ugh…. Hated school with a passion but I guess it would have to be Biology. I was able to pass exams by just studying the sketches.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
My goal is to write two more books this year. The first will be about cycling. I’m a keen cyclist and, just like the stories in Kortverhale van Stilfontein, I’ve been through some hilarious and awesome experiences. Cycling, especially mountain biking, has been booming in our beautiful country, and there’s a lot I can write about it.
The second book that I’m planning will be about adventure motor cycling, another passion of mine. Both books will be more or less in the same style as this one.
Which writers inspire you?
I started reading at a young age. My grandmother worked in a second hand book shop. Even though my home language is Afrikaans, she would bring us all the Enid Blyton books to read, Famous Five, Secret Seven. Then I got all the Hardy Boys books, in hard cover, old as the mountains. Next was Allister McClean (I love Second World War movies), and after that I did all the Wilbur Smith books up to the Egyptian stories. I was amazed to see that a South African writer can be so popular. Then I stopped reading for a long time, until the Stieg Larrson trilogy came out and I found it simply amazing. Then I started reading Deon Meyer. I met him on one of our adventure motorcycling events. But I have to say, my favorite author of all time is Herman Charles Bosman. One of our prescribed reads at school was Mafikeng Road and other Stories. We did it in Standard 6 and again in Standard 8 (Grade 10). I didn’t enjoy it much then, but years later, after I moved to Johannesburg from Stilfontein, I stumbled upon The Illustrated Bosman, a compilation of his work, with beautiful illustrations in water colors. I read the whole book in a day or two, realizing that he wrote much more stories than we were given in school, like Cold Stone Jug, about his experiences on death-row, after shooting his stepbrother
Tell us about Kortverhale van Stilfontein. Why did you decide to write the collection?
It all started as an email, in 2002. I sent an email to our secretary, telling her what we used to do in the school bus on our way home after school. I could hear her laughing behind her desk while reading it. I decided to keep the story (Skoolbus Ry).
A few months later, I wrote the second story Kadet Orkes, when my cadet band teacher’s daughter walked into my office. She was seconded to monitor pollution on the mine where I was working at the time. I also sent her an email, telling her what we as a band got up to. Same thing. I kept the mail because it was good reading.
The third story I wrote was Japie Viljoen. He’s a lifelong friend of mine. I wrote his story for his 40th birthday, and his whole family loved it. Then I just kept on writing. Every time I experienced something special, I’d write about it and save it. In December 2014, I decided to compile it into a book and find a publisher. It took me more than a year to find someone that would print it for me.
One of my school friends introduced me to a proof reader and editor who “fixed” my book and then in turn introduced me to “eRreads South Africa”. I never realised that self-publishing was an option.
Then came the front cover. One of my friends suggested that I use a painting that I’d done way back in 2005, as the cover. The painting is about our farm worker, Ismael, who was tasked by my dad, to collect my sister and I at the bus stop after school, and then bring us home on his bicycle. So I obviously then had to write a story of Ismael, which is the last story that I did for this book.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing some of the characters from the book?
Jo….. Never thought of this one. I think for an Audio book, Marius Weyers. The man has an awesome voice. If this book was to become a movie, I wouldn’t know where to start. I reckon that for the child actor parts, kids would have to be interviewed, so that I could find someone that resembles the characters closely. For Japie’s mom, Elize Cawood, and for Shakespeare, our English teacher, Gordon Mulholland would have been perfect.
Why did you choose to self-publish?
I couldn’t find any publishers that were interested. I sent manuscripts out around the world with no results.
What was the biggest surprise that self-publishing gave you?
I never realised how much preparation must be done before you can hold a book in your hands, and how much it would cost. I had to fund this whole project out of my own pocket, and to get 300 books printed, cost close to R 27,000.00. I was very relieved when I sold enough books to cover my costs, and also have a little left for a second print.