Interview with Angus Douglas, Author of South Africa: In the Name of the Father

Are you on social media and can your readers interact with you?

I’m on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Readers can also find my blog Saving South Africa on Substack.

Is there lots to do before you dive in and start writing the story?

The key to inspiration and creativity is research. I learnt this from the famous scriptwriter William Goldman. He said, “If you can’t think of anything to say then head to the library and read something interesting”, or words to that effect. This is great advice, especially these days when researching has become so convenient.

What does success mean to you? What is the definition of success?

As a writer it always feels good to be read and recognized. But chasing recognition is not the route to success. Success is having something interesting and relevant to say; and then the time to express it with sensitivity and care. You’ll know you’ve been successful when someone you admire comments positively on the piece.

Is writing your full-time career? Or would you like it to be?

I am a full-time writer. However, my published work is different than my professional work, which is mainly in corporate writing and strategic PR. The worst thing you can do as a writer is give up your day job, unless of course you are Stephen King. The only reason I have been able to publish books, is because being a paid business writer has sharpened my skills and given me a healthy respect for deadlines.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I have written three books and seven theatrical productions (some of these co-written). My first book was about overcoming chronic pain (Pain Beyond Belief); the second book was totally different. Confessions of a Voice Artist tells the tale of one of South Africa’s most famous voices, Malcolm Gooding. The book was great fun because it involved some nostalgia for the golden era of radio; and because Malcolm is such a wonderful character. My favourite is this last one, South Africa: In the Name of the Father, because I was writing about things close to my heart, and that I feel everyone (or at least every South African) needs to engage with.  

Do you listen to audiobooks? If so, are there any you’d recommend?

I love audiobooks. Sometimes when the author reads the book it adds a whole other dimension to it. I really enjoyed Bruce Springsteen reading his autobiography Born to Run, and John Lithgow reading his autobiography Drama: An Actor’s Education, as well as the short stories written and read by English author Alan Bennett.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

I want to make readers think about a subject differently, and more deeply. Good writing has the ability to draw the reader into a parallel world of the writer’s making. It is a wonderful challenge for a writer to develop a consistency of style that is distinctive, and that pulls the reader into this strange and surprising other world.

What book is currently on your bedside table?

Noel Mostert’s Frontiers: The Epic of South Africa’s Creation and the Tragedy of the Xhosa People (1994). This book should be read and studied by every South African, and anyone interested in politics and geopolitics. It is an incredible account of South African history; how its meaning echoes through to today.

What famous author do you wish would be your mentor?

I was fortunate to be mentored when I was writing wildlife documentary scripts for National Geographic. There are plenty of good writers around, but Sebastian Faulks and Julian Barnes would be near the top of my list. I would love to be able to write like them, but I don’t think any amount of mentoring would achieve that.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

These days writers are stuck behind a screen. Interestingly, DH Lawrence wrote outdoors, scratching away with a pen and paper in the beautiful surrounds his peripatetic lifestyle provided. I like to be outdoors when I’m not writing and try to switch my mind off for a spell.

Excerpt from book

What was Smuts going on about? Were the British getting blacks to do their killing and their dying for them? Thousands of blacks from both sides of the conflict died uncelebrated deaths in the Anglo-Boer War; hence the politically correct renaming of it to the South African War.

For a brief period during colonialism, armed Africans and coloureds, backed by the British Empire, had their chance to get one over the bullying Boers. Smuts believed that involving the coloured races in a white man’s war was a Frankenstein Monster that would lead to an eventual debacle of society, causing South Africa to relapse into barbarism. The bitterness of the war poisoned our politics and indirectly led to apartheid, which thoroughly codified white domination. Not exactly the type of historic justice Smuts had in mind. Unlike Israel, which has achieved a stable and sustainable state founded on the principles of Jewish self-determination, white South Africans could not secure themselves a long-term state.

Our white run state ended in 1994; now many of us are essentially a stateless people in a declining African country. Smuts’s warning from 1895, if politically incorrect for our times, has a ring of truth to it: “Unless the white race closes its ranks in this country, its position will soon become untenable in the face of that overwhelming [African] majority of prolific barbarism.”18 This sort of talk is now taboo, but there is a kernel of truth worth retrieving from Smuts’s dark vision. Something like this: unless minorities and moderate Africans make a united stand against chauvinistic African posturing, the country is finished.

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