Diane Awerbuck is well known in South African literary circles, and I was overjoyed when she entered our competition last year. Her story, which appears in Bloody Parchment: The Root Cellar and Other Stories, is visceral and rather unsettling. A big welcome to Diane.
What planted the seed for your story?
I knew someone who'd had mouth cancer. They really did cut off her tongue – or the front part. It seemed...atrocious; Biblical; ultimately useless.
Most of the Obs details in the story are real: I just saw or heard them because I walked up and down that road a lot. (I've only recently bought a car.)
The Viola character is also the woman in my novel, Home Remedies, which is the story of her crazy middle age. Duiweltjie is about her later infirmity: the injury to her mouth is significant.
What are some of the themes you treated in your tale?
The disempowerment of disease; the surge of power you feel as a young person in the face of someone decrepit; the comfort of birds when you are confined; revenge; cruelty; helplesssness; memory; our inability – as Hirst has already said – to really conceptualise death.
What are the hallmarks of a great horror/dark fantasy author and story?
An image that resonates, so that when you yourself visit the place you remember the narrative. The story overlays the ordinary reality with the surreal or hyper-real. This is not to say that banality is not horrific: of course it is.
How do you approach your creative process?
I'm dormant in summer. In autumn I get lazy. In winter I get so irritable I churn out a book that purges the me-grims.
What are you working on now?
A novel called The Little People, about a cameraman in the film industry and a psychic. They are filming a documentary about the alleged possession of Matric girls in a Kimberley boarding school. It's also to do with the water crisis that happened there last year, and the disused mines, the weirdness of the Northern Cape, like Area 52. But in a fun, happy way.
Short Story Day Africa is also coming up in June, and I'm involved there