Interview with Neville Herrington

1. What motivated you to start writing?
I fell in love with storytelling and drama at a fairly young age. In my teenage years, my brother and I often spoke about writing books on bushveld adventures, no doubt influenced by Percy Fitzpatrick’s ‘Jock of the Bushveld.’ I was drawn to the power of dialogue during my drama studies at Natal University, and soon began writing plays, initially a radio drama which was aired on the English service of the SABC, and then a series of stage plays performed mainly on the university campus, though several enjoyed a wider audience in Durban and Johannesburg. Following a 20-year period of scripting numerous television documentaries for the national and international broadcast markets, I turned my focus to writing historical novels.
2. How has your background in drama helped you in your writing?
Having spent some thirty years in the drama derpartment at the former University of Natal in Durban - initially as a student and later as a lecturer - it would be inconceivable to think that it hasn’t shaped my thinking about life, and the way in which I write about people, places and events. I started writing plays from the first year I was employed as a lecturer. The process was infectious, resulting in the scripting of six plays for public performance, and several minor scripts for internal student presentations. This anthology included a 90-minute student television drama sponsored by the Durban Arts Association. In coming to write novels in recent years, I have found the applied elements of drama, such as, dialogue, conflict, action, plot, character, climax and rhythm to be powerful resources in the creation of credible and riveting narratives.
3. What are the topics that most interest you and why?
I am strongly drawn to aspects of South Africa’s history, particularly where members of my own family were caught up in major conflicts and significant events. Hence the Anglo Boer War has always held a powerful fascination, as both my grandfathers fought on opposite sides in that conflict, and my maternal great grandfather was taken prisoner-of-war and sent to Diyatilawa in Ceylon (Sri Lanka).
During the guerilla phase of that war, my maternal grandmother, together with her mother and siblings, was incarcerated in a British concentration camp, leaving bitter memories of the thousands of women and children who died in those camps, largely as a result of disease and poor management.
During the my formative upbringing, the Boer/Brit conflict remained a simmering and unresolved issue in our household, as was the Catholic/Protestant divide that was personified in the arguments between a devout Catholic mother and a Protestant/Agnostic father.
4. In what way have your interests found their way into your plays and books?
After my father died, I wrote a play entitled, ‘Ulster of the Southern Cross’ that focused on
the religious divide within a middle-class South African family. As an underlying minor
theme in the Brigid O’Meara trilogy, a similar conflict is seen. South Africa’s racial politics
have also been an absorbing issue in my writing, beginning with the double-bill one act
plays, ‘Strike’ and ‘On Strike,’ which deal with labour issues, and the early attempt at
forming trade unions for black workers in this country.
This was followed by the colour-line play, ‘The Sullivans of Skeerpoort,’ set in the
Transvaal ‘platteland,’ where a young local Coloured man falls in love with a white
farmer’s daughter. It was hailed as a major play in 1979, winning several awards. Socio-
political divisions within a lower middle-class white family in Pretoria during the late
1950’s, were explored in the three act play. ‘Still Life.’
5. What are you writing about in your next book, and how does it link in with the trilogy?
In my fourth historical novel, ‘Ritchie’s War,’ Brigid has been dead ten years and I now trace the tortured development of her only son, Ritchie, who, on leaving school, immediately joins the South African imperial forces to fight in the First World War. He and his stepbrother, Kosie, who is also a member of General Smuts’ 1st Division, find themselves in German East Africa.
After one particularly violent engagement against General von Lettow’s Schutztruppe and Askaris, they go missing and end up stranded in a native village where they are forced to remain while Kosie slowly recovers from a gunshot wound. It is here that they learn a fundamental lesson about true compassion, and the generosity of the human spirit. After the war, Ritchie returns to Pretoria and meets someone who reveals information about his mother that is earth shattering and leads him on a course of self-destruction.
6. What inspired you to create the character of Brigid O’Meara as the heroine of your trilogy: England Wants Your Gold, The Irish Boer Woman, Dark Night of the Soul?
In some ways it was a bringing together of people and places with which I was familiar. Kimberley of the 19th century is where my paternal grandmother comes from, being the first white baby girl born in that diamond mining town. It is a place that I have visited several times, and was attracted to its early history and inhabitants. Pretoria is the location for much of my writing, as it is where my family and most of my relatives settled; my paternal grandparents owned valuable property on Church Square in the late 19th century, and a farm just north of the city. Premier Mine, some 40 km outside the city, is another site of significant family interest, where my father grew up and was educated at the local government school. It was from there that he went off to war at the end of 1915 to fight in the East African campaign.
The character of Brigid is largely a product of the creative imagination, but infused with significant influences from people that I had known or read about.
Published 2017-07-31.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Dark Night of the Soul
Price: $11.39 USD. Words: 92,290. Language: English. Published: July 14, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Supernatural
The dark world Brigid is projected into in this the third book in the Brigid O'Meara trilogy is a harsh one; it is a world that sinks her into a deep abyss from which there seems no escape, but it is also one which gives her the freedom to take revenge on past enemies and one in which she must face retribution for her actions.
The Irish Boer Woman
Price: $11.39 USD. Words: 88,890. Language: English. Published: July 14, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » War & military adventure
This riveting sequel to England Wants Your Gold is a tale of courage, determination and selflessness, in which the heroine, Brigid O'Meara,, as an Irish nationalist, is drawn into the conflict of the Anglo Boer War by identifying and entering the struggle of the Boers to retain their independence, putting her into direct conflict with prevailing British officialdom of an expanding global empire.
England Wants Your Gold
Price: $11.39 USD. Words: 66,570. Language: English. Published: July 13, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » War & military adventure
A riveting story laced with romance, humour, political intrigue and violence against the background of the infamous Jameson Raid that triggered the Anglo-Boer War. Caught up in the turbulence of the time is Brigid O'Meara, a beautiful Irish musical hall performer who falls in love with the charismatic leader of a group British Uitlanders intent on overthrowing Kruger's Boer Republic.
Growing Up in White South Africa
Price: $11.39 USD. Words: 215,840. Language: English. Published: July 13, 2017. Categories: Nonfiction » Biography » Autobiographies & Memoirs
“Growing up in White South Africa” is a delightful journey back into the past that brings alive an era that should resonate with those who lived through it, and fascinate those that didn’t. Neville captures the sounds, smells, nuances, events and special characteristics of a post war age that remain etched in his memory.