Q&A With NR Brodie

Author of Three Bodies

 

by Ezekiel Kekana

Dr Nechama Brodie has worked as a journalist, editor, and publisher for over two decades. NR Brodie as she is affectionally known for her fiction works has published nine books thus far. Her latest book titled Three Bodies was published by Pan MacMillan in 2020 and continues to be warmly received across South Africa. In this exclusive interview with EW Blog editor, Dr Brodie talks about writing Three Bodies, which is a sequel to her previous novel, Knucklebone, violent crimes in South Africa and she also has a good advice to young aspiring authors.

Question: For our EW Blog readers, can you kindly tell us who is Dr NR Brodie and how many books have you written thus far?

Answer:

 

My name is Nechama Brodie. NR Brodie is the name I use for my fiction works – I have published nine books so far, mostly non-fiction. My non-fiction work includes urban histories, memoirs (written together with well-known public figures), and a new book about femicide in South Africa, which is based on the research I did for my PhD.

Question: Your latest novel, Three Bodies published by Pan MacMillan, what made you to go for this title?

Answer:

 

The story revolves around the seemingly unrelated discoveries of three dead women, in or near different bodies of water: at the Hartbeespoort Dam, the Jukskei River, and the Vaal River. I chose the title because it conveys a sense of threat or violence, and also links back to the storyline.

Question: Three Bodies is a sequel to your previous novel, Knucklebone, was it also in your plans to continue with the story of Reshma Patel and Ian Jack?

Answer:

 

When Knucklebone was published (in 2018) I already had the idea for Three Bodies – a story that started with a dead woman being found in the Hartbeespoort Dam. Knucklebone had a really positive reception from readers, and so my publishers decided they were interested in a second book in the series.

Question: Femicide, traditional beliefs, superstitions, white privilege, apartheid injustices are some of the themes in Three Bodies, what inspired you to write this book which tackles South Africa’s many social ills at once?

Answer:

 

I research violent crime in my professional and academic work. And, as a journalist and history writer, the injustices and violence of the past always intrude into the present. The past casts a very long shadow. You cannot really write a South African story without acknowledging these aspects. In terms of writing a story that includes traditional beliefs, I have always been interested in books that have a hint of the supernatural. I think it is important to have local stories that include local ‘magic’ and power – not just European elves and dragons and pixies etc. We have a strong, and important tradition of belief and practice in South Africa, and one that continues to this day. When I wrote Knucklebone, the story involves a fight against an international animal poaching syndicate. The main characters, Ian Jack and Reshma Patel, are helped by a sangoma, MaRejoice, who is equally opposed to the wholesale plunder of South Africa’s natural resources.

Question: Writing a sequel might be challenging exercise, as readers expect characters to evolve more than anything else, would you say that both the lead characters, Reshma and Ian’s characters have grown and shown the reader their other side in Three Bodies?

Answer:

 

I think in Three Bodies we see a lot more of Reshma, and also see Reshma involved in some excellent action scenes, which show off her ability as a police officer. I think in this book they each grapple, more, with the complexity of their roles in seeking justice, and which rules they are and are not willing to break or bend. I tend to focus more on these aspects than, say, their (romantic) relationship.

Question: Some reviewers have criticised you for having not dug deeper enough on Ian’s reluctance to confront the legacy of apartheid, do you think Ian, like other white South Africans has a difficult in admitting the injustices of the past and even his family’s involvement in that?

Answer:

 

Yes – in fact, this is the point of Ian’s conundrum: he knows and wants to confront this past, be the good guy (or the better guy?) It’s challenging for him because sometimes he also sees himself in that same violence, which is why he stopped being a police officer in the first place. I do think, though, that Ian is actively seeking to be informed, not just in denial. Which is distinct from what I see many white South Africans do, which is exist permanently in denial.

Question: You are known for your work on femicide, do you think that the government has done enough to curb the killing of women and children in South Africa?

Answer:

 

I think that the government’s failure to curb femicide is, in one part, a bigger failure to curb violent crime overall. We live with rates of extreme violence that no society should have to find acceptable. We cannot address gender-based violence and femicide, without addressing the bigger violence problem. Within that, the gap between what our laws say, and how our justice and police system actually operates, is also unacceptable. We need our police services to be better-resourced, and then better trained to properly investigate and even prevent gender-based violence. We need safer infrastructures in communities, so women are not made more vulnerable. There are many ways the State could make essential and simple changes that would have significant positive outcomes. But these tend to get delayed by bureaucracy, lack of will, etc.

Question: If you were to co-author a book which focuses on femicide and gender-based violence, who would you like to co-author that book with and why that person?

Answer:

 

I have just written a book on femicide, and I think it is the book I would have wanted to write – because I approach the topic from a specific angle. And I refer to hundreds of other papers and research contributions made by others in the field, but who have not looked at the issue in the specific way that I have. I think if I co-authored a book on violence, it would be on a different topic other than femicide or GBV.

Question: With Three Bodies, what message (s) did you want to convey to the readers and South Africans at large?

Answer:

 

That the bad guys will get what’s coming to them in the end. The violent ones, the ones who thought they got away with it, the ones who never got punished. That justice will find them.

Question: Should readers expect yet another book on Reshma Patel and Ian Jack in the future or that was the end of their journey in Three Bodies?

Answer:

 

There is another story in the works, but it really depends on how the book market responds to Three Bodies, and how the book market survives the pandemic!

Question:

Which book are you currently reading?

Answer:

I just finished reading The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave – I got an advance copy from my publisher, and it was a powerful and very immersive story. I have not read much since lockdown to be honest.

Question:

What is your message to young people who want to venture into writing as a full-time profession?

Answer:

 

To have a day job that pays your bills (writing rarely pays well, at least at the start) and also gives you life experience. Interacting with the world is where you will get your stories from, and how you will be able to make your stories come alive and feel real. Every interaction I have, informs my writing process. Working as a journalist taught me to pay attention to the details around me, and that has helped tremendously with my writing and my research.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More