Literary Birthday – 14 September – Henrietta Rose-Innes

Happy Birthday, Henrietta Rose-Innes, born 14 September 1971.


  1. If we choose not to write African stories we are impoverishing our literature.
  2. I think the [creative writing] courses work well for motivated people who probably have the ability to write their novel anyway, but who benefit from structure, deadlines and interaction to get it done in a more focused way.
  3. I am interested in the interactions – physical and psychological – between human beings and the landscapes they inhabit.
  4. I like the idea of making a particular locale a long-term literary project. It’s a fun time for writers to be doing this in Africa generally, because there are many places (especially urban spaces) that are undocumented, or that have not been fully written into the literary history, or have changed so much in recent times that that transcribing needs to be done again.
  5. I still don’t think I have a vocation – and writing is a way of avoiding one. To do it you need a lot of different interests, without really committing to any of them. Which suits me.
  6. Contemporary South Africa remains a rich and challenging subject for writers. I think it’s important for us – for the vitality of the culture – to have writers who engage with what’s going on in their local environment. And the way one chooses to do that is political, of course.
  7. [My writing journey is] About 17 steps from bed to coffee machine, then 22 steps from the coffee machine to the computer.
  8. Bookish people drolly claim to be addicted. I think, in some cases, this is literally true. . . . I suppose this makes me a small-time pusher, holding a couple of capsules of a novel compound, looking for vulnerable readers for whom it might turn out to be habit-forming.
  9. I read fiction to transform my perception and I write to make sense of my experience.
  10. Each book needs a long time to come into focus – it’s always hard for me to say exactly how long each one takes to write, because each has its genesis in a period of vague exploratory messing about, in which I may wander in many directions. I feel my writing benefits and grows richer with the leisurely pace – it allows time for layers of meaning to accrue. I’m not the kind of writer who has all of those complexities worked out from the start. Of course, towards the end of the process, everything speeds up. By the time I have to hand in last corrections, I’m a hyper, sleep-deprived wreck. I do also like to revise and revise and revise, so it’s important for me to have time for that built in at the end stages.
  11. I don’t think I even have handwriting any more. I’m entirely helpless without a computer.

Henrietta Rose-Innes  is a South African writer. She has written Nineveh, Green Lion, Shark’s Egg, Rock Alphabet, as well as Homing, a short-story collection.

Quotations: source, source source source source

by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 14th September 2016