Mark chats to us about his latest novel.
Mark Winkler, author of the novels An Exceptionally Simple Theory (of Absolutely Everything) and Wasted, chats to us about his latest novel, The Safest Place You Know.
What was your inspiration for The Safest Place You Know?
The character of Hennie, or rather his circumstances. He occurred to me as I watched the Free State pass by from my window seat on a flight to Joburg a few years ago. As with my other books, I explored and expanded the concept of the character through a whole lot of unstructured writing to see if he had the makings of a novel-length protagonist. Doing this allowed a time and place to evolve, and with them the themes of patriarchy and emotional abuse, which in turn allowed me to develop the storyline.
What three words would you use to describe the journey that you hope the readers will experience while reading your book?
Powerlessness, magic, resolution.
Who would you have play him in a film adaptation of the book?
Hennie is physically and emotionally unusual, and really doesn’t fit the typical Hollywood mould where body types are reflected in character. Hennie is stout, freckled, red-haired – but his role is far from comic. I guess I’d open up the casting to lesser-known actors who haven’t yet been stereotyped.
What was the most difficult or challenging scene to write in the book?
There is a climactic scene where Hennie is in conversation with his drunken employer. She puts to him an argument that’s both ludicrous and believable. Because she ends up acting on her belief, her dialogue had to balance logic and drunken nonsense so that the result would be credible. Writing it (and rewriting it again and again ), I felt like a DUI suspect from an American police show, forced to walk along a line on the road to convince the cop he’s sober.
What other projects are you working on at the moment?
I’ve been commissioned to write a screenplay based on my previous novel, Wasted, by a Hollywood producer. It’s keeping me pretty busy, but at the same time I’ve been pushing ahead with my next novel, Theo & Flora, during breaks from the screenplay.
What is your favourite book of all time?
If a favourite book is defined by the one you’ve reread the most, it would have to be the deplorably neglected Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban.