Talking with author Maretha Botha
Talking with author Maretha Botha.
Can you tell readers about your inspiration and work as a writer?
Initially, when I think about inspiration and what would make me feel inclined to write, it's a difficult question to answer, because I didn't wake up one day and decide to become a writer. For me it was a slow process. As a child I made up stories which my friends and I acted out. At school I loved writing compositions and even got published in my high school magazine!
As time went by, my niece and nephew loved listening to my stories. I had to develop a good memory, because when a story was retold, everything had to be the same. This taught me a valuable lesson as far as younger readers are concerned. They are the most difficult critics of all - honest and brutal - and remembering this would come in handy later in life. The same thing happened when I had my own children.
Unfortunately, the ups and downs of life got in the way of any concerted inspirational writing. I was busy with life - my husband had a serious accident which led to two lumbar-laminectomies. Then I had to have corrective surgery for a debilitating congenital back problem, which got worse after my daughters were born. So, life went on and before I knew it, the girls were grown up and I was working as a librarian in a private school in Botswana. Now, I not only had two grandchildren who loved my stories, I also had a whole school where pupils loved stories and enjoyed being read to.
During this time, I began to make notes – little bits and pieces about our pets. They are still part of my fondest memories, giving a reality to the fictional tales happening in a place which the bush creatures call Fauna Park. For example, the hero of Fauna Park Tales
- a working dog called Flame, or Jack Old Boy by his humans - is a composite character built on all the oddities and endearing qualities I remember about our dogs and how they related to our cats and birds. Most of them were former shelter inmates, whom my sister describes as "all having fallen with their butts in the butter once they ended up with Maretha." I suppose she's right, because I love animals and really detest to see them being badly treated.
After three years, my post as a librarian was localised, which led to a serious bout of self-doubt and feeling-sorry-for-myself scenario. This happened at the end of April 2012. To keep myself out of mischief, I began writing seriously, expanding Flame's character and his world. This was easy to do, because we lived on the outskirts of a game reserve. Suddenly I had time to watch the local villagers looking after their free-range cattle, goats, chickens and dogs. (Not all of them were equally dedicated to proper care of their livestock and domestic animals, so we had a constant stream of village dogs at our fence, waiting to be fed. Even the chickens and goats lost their shyness and joined them. We often let our hosepipe run at night to provide water for many of the cattle who were far from home, looking for grass. Overgrazing became a huge problem, especially during droughts when there was hardly a green sprout to be seen any where.
Then too, the local birds loved splashing in our dogs’ water bowl. Again, they provided hours of free entertainment. During the drought, I began to realise that even smaller birds need special care as far as providing fresh water and proper habitation is concerned. Thus our garden became more environmentally friendly and we planted aloes and succulents - really any plants bearing flowers, berries and seeds in the dry season when food for smaller birds was scarce.
Succulents and aloes in my garden with nectar and berries, providing food for smaller, vulnerable birds
Fauna Park Tales
contains stories about martial eagles and eagle owls, too. The narrator of these tales is an elusive injured bird with pink eyelids who only reveals his life-story and identity in Book 2, “Friends” – a true story of what happened to a certain bird somewhere on the east coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal, woven into a fictional setting. Many birds of prey are often seriously endangered because of poaching, burning of grass and poisonous substances.
Goats/chickens doing their own thing - inspiration for Plump-Grump and his harem
Free-range cattle - inspiration for the farm and its location
Here are two of our regular visitors - Snowy and Chocolate - each with a tale to tell
After six weeks of intensive writing and sorting, I thought Flame and his furry and feathered friends were ready to face the world and I joined the HarperCollins Authonomy website for writers. There, I really learned much about creative writing. I made many friends - Sarah Jane Butfield being among them. After much hard work and polishing of the original manuscript, "African Adventures of Flame, Family, Furry-and-Feathered Friends", it gained Gold Medal status on authonomy at the end of September 2013. One month later we immigrated to the UK, so life was rather hectic just then.
So, it has been an exciting and challenging journey. I doubt there are many writers out there who don't secretly hope to be the next big thing in the publishing world. I feel a great sense of accomplishment and pride when folks leave comments, showing their appreciation for my writing. One of my oldest fans to date is an 85-year old lady who lives in Darwen. Whenever she sees me, she wants to know “what’s next” – henceI’ve been working hard to get the next one published. And when I've had the privilege to read to children from my books, I'm thrilled to hear comments such as, "M-i-i-i-ss, when are you coming again?"
At present I've published three books in the Fauna Park Tales
Series. I have an Author Page at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Maretha-Botha/e/B00MOORJAO/
Book 1 is called, "Flame and Hope: An African Adventure
" and is available as an eBook as well as a black-and-white illustrated paperback. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Flame-Hope-African-Adventure-Fauna-ebook/dp/B00MNKNI04/
Book 2 is called, "Friends: An African Adventure
" and is available as an eBook as well as a black-and-white illustrated paperback. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Friends-African-Adventure-Fauna-Tales-ebook/dp/B00Y2WS82E/
Book 3 is called, "Tales from Fauna Park - Flame and Hope
" and this is the first 210-page volume Colour Deluxe Version. We've compiled this book for the sake of providing the illustrations in colour.
There is no ebook available. http://www.amazon.co.uk/African-Adventure-Flame-Tales-Fauna/dp/1910115274
The first of these books was published in August 2014. Subsequently, Book 2 followed during May 2015.
At present, Book 3 called, "The Orphans' Plight
" is going through the final stages of proofreading and formatting. Flame, our hero - no longer a small, underfed puppy - has grown up to be a very responsible working-dog. When his small humans face danger, he and all his furry and feathered friends, keeping The Promise 'to look after and care for vulnerable and helpless ones in the bush creatures' world' decide that the orphans Larita and Leru are also vulnerable. So, they devise plans to assist them in their plight.
Here is a video clip where my 8-year old granddaughter reads the first chapter from, "Flame and Hope
I have no hidden agenda as far as writing Fauna Park Tales
is concerned. Yet, I hope that there'll be a time when people and animals live peacefully together, respecting one another's place on this beautiful earth. Animals and children often pave the way, setting by and large a wonderful example. This series is not political or preachy when it touches on subjects such as animal cruelty, destruction of wild-life and their habitation. Rather, as seen through the eyes of the birds and animals living in the Molodi valley, we are helped to realise what we can do to help animals and birds who face extraordinary situations. There’s a plot throughout - linked to a desert family and their first-born daughters who inherited the ability to speak Faunalang - the bush creatures' unique language. As you might imagine many situations arise when the animals try to explain to their humans what they need. Readers will read about friends and foes – some whom you’d love to hate and others whom you’d remember for a long time.
Many thanks for Taking the Time to Talk.
I can be contacted via my website and Facebook book page: http://marethabotha2013.com/ https://www.facebook.com/flameandhope.co.uk