July 1, 2014

Joburg Expat, The Book, and Why I'm Dragging You Up a Mountain Instead

"I love reading your blog, when will you write 'Joburg Expat The Book'?" is a questions I've gotten more than once over the years.

Now I have written and published my first book, and it has nothing to do with being an expat or living in Johannesburg, seeing as its main action takes you to almost 4,000 kilometers from there. And somehow this makes me feel like I've betrayed my readers in some way.

Johannesburg...

...versus Kilimanjaro

So why choose Kilimanjaro over Joburg?

I think it's a combination of things:

  1. Write what you know. Every author will tell you this, and it's true. You're at your best when you write about the things you know. This doesn't mean all your work has to be non-fiction. The world would be a sad place if every author did that. But it means you have to write about the things that are true for you, that engage you emotionally, that you feel passionate about. And the best time to write about them is when you feel most deeply about them and can give the most feeling to your words. Kilimanjaro just happened onto my life when it did and left a deep emotional impact, and I felt like I had to seize the chance to write about it or it would slip away.

  2. Perhaps I'm a bit lazy. Honestly, if you have a choice between writing a book about 7 days and one about 3 years, which one do you pick? Although Kilimanjaro Diaries ended up spanning about 7 months rather than days, that is still a lot more manageable than 3 entire years jam-packed with tales about traffic cops, African time, and ballboxes. I chose what seemed to be the easier route. Though in the end, all books are a lot of work, regardless, I can promise you that much.

  3. I'm also a bit of a perfectionist. Getting 'Joburg Expat The Book' just right - starting with finding a better title than 'Joburg Expat The Book' (I wage epic battles with titles, see Title-Gate) - seems like a monumental task, and not just because of the time it would span. In fact, I might even limit the story to a year, since books with titles like 'A Year in the City of Crime' seem to be in fashion. There you go, there is a title that would capture readers. Anyway, the reason that book sounds really daunting to me is that the topic is so dear to my heart. Don't get me wrong, Mount Kilimanjaro is also important to me, but I spent a week of my life there, not three years. And Joburg Expat, the blog, has been at the center of my life for so long, I'm a bit scared of screwing it up by not doing it justice in a book. You might consider Kilimanjaro Diaries a trial run of sorts, a rehearsal for the big stage.

  4. Maybe it's none of these things. Maybe it was pure chance, and the fact that I was sitting in a hotel room on Grand Cayman last summer with an itch to write, a bad Internet connection keeping me away from my blog and Facebook, and just happening upon a backup of my Kili blog posts. Sometimes the best projects get started at the spur of the moment.

I promise you that 'Joburg Expat The Book' is a project postponed, not canceled, and still very much on my mind. It may have to compete with "Safari in Botswana and What it Taught me about Sex Education" and "Double-Buckled in the Middle of Nowhere: Tales from a Road Trip Through Namibia" for the Book #2 slot, but I will get around to it.

Just as soon as I've sold a few more copies of Kilimanjaro Diaries. After all, I am a (sometimes starving) writer.