Speaking with Gillian Slovo

Gillian Slovo knows about writing. She’s written nine novels and one family memoir. I interviewed her at Wordstock last week where she shared some of her nuggets of wisdom on writing books. She was open and honest about the hard craft of writing good novels. “I cannot believe it takes me three years to make this thing I can hold in my hand – I cannot believe it takes so much hard work to get something so simple. Persevere. You’ve just got to do it. It’s not easy, but what interesting job is easy?” Sometimes she will write 16 drafts of the same chapter until she gets it right, revealing, “If you can’t write chapter four, there’s something wrong with chapter three.” Her views on success as a writer were simple. “ Success is if you make a living from your writing. I don’t advise people to write for market success. If you write in a way that you think will achieve success but doesn’t really interest you, you’ll fall flat on your face. For me to be successful is to write a book I feel proud of. You get to try and sometimes you succeed and sometimes you fail – and the failures teach you the things you need to learn.”

By Elen Lewis, with thanks to Elise for sharing her notes.


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