Media and Sound Bites

So Oprah Winfrey’s producers have called you for an interview about your book.  You wish! 

 The point is, you will be interviewed on radio or television at some stage in your life.  Skype is here so distance is no barrier.  Be ready.  Prepare a list of media questions and craft short answers.  

It’s very easy because the media asks the same questions over and over again.  They are not looking for intelligent answers.  They want what they call ‘sound bites.’  I wrote down these questions for a radio interview I had about my novel Sweetness.

Q:  Why Sweetness?  Was that the best title you could come up with?

A:  Yes, for two reasons.  One, it is set in a sugar estate that hugs the Indian Ocean in a coastal province in South Africa.  Two, it is about people being sweet on each other today and sour in two months’ time.  That’s life.

Q:  Why do Zaba and her husband Phillip live in identical glass houses joined by a bridge?

A:  I blame too many movies about families fighting over one bathroom.  Imagine never having to fight about the toilet seat being up or down because you have three bathrooms for her and three for him?  Zaba and Phillip also live separately because most rich people have a choice.  The Queen has her rooms.  Prince Phillip has his own space.  Mansions in South Africa have HIS and HERS dressing rooms.  Rich people don’t fight over the television remote because there’s a TV room for wrestling, cricket or basketball and another one for the news, cookery shows, soaps, cartoons etc.  Some homes even have a TV set in the kitchen.  It’s all about space.  I love you but we don’t like the same things at the same time, so let’s live in two houses joined by a bridge.  Why not two apartments, 406 and 407?

Q:  Why glass houses?

A:  We criticize how our friends and neighbours live but our lives are also a mess.  Nobody is perfect.  People who live in glass houses should not throw stones. 

Q:  The character Zaba accepted her husband’s daughter with another woman.  Is that realistic?

A:  It is fiction.

Q:  It can never happen in real life.

A:  It happened in the novel Sweetness because Zaba is perpetually grateful that her husband’s mistress Pinkie did not demand to be the second wife.  The tradition of more than one wife is immortalized in the South African Constitution under culture.  Zaba is thankful because Phillip could have divorced her or taken Pinkie as a second wife.

Q:  Why did the family lose all those sugar cane fields?

A:  There is a demand for town houses and condominiums.  South Africans are attracted to Johannesburg and other cities because there are more jobs.  What also drives the demand for housing is that black people can now live anywhere they want, provided they can afford the rent or mortgage.  They could not under the separate development policy called apartheid.  They were confined in townships and rural areas.

Q:  Why does Sweetness have such a sad ending?

A:  My mother introduced me to movies and most of them had sad endings.  I miss that.  I think it is a reflection of life.  We seldom get what we want. 

The author generated interview was conducted by Nonqaba waka Msimang for her book Sweetness.   

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