Interview with Joy Bassetti-Kruger

Published 2014-06-14.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, so a number of my stories are set there. I also spent a lot of time in the Okavango Delta with its wealth of wildlife and one of my yet to be published novels is set in a game reserve there. I'm also busy working on a story about an elephant called Baby Huey, who was a particularly friendly elephant, whose claim to fame is that he has featured on the covers of both National Geographic and also Time magazine. I had a strong bond with this elephant, who appeared to recognize me after a time. A novella, which will be published shortly, called Firesticks, is about a Bushman, who taught a young white girl to make fire using fire sticks. This is based on a true story once told to me by Rae Graham, many years ago. A number of my longer short stories reflect my love of the bush and also the wild animals that reside there, so I think its fair to say that living in Africa has influenced what I write about to a large extent.
My family have always been big readers, so I was introduced to books at a young age. I was also one of those annoying kids that asked a lot of questions about why things happened in a certain way and as my great-grandfather was a big storyteller, I think I must have inherited my storytelling genes from him. He came to South Africa at age 14 with his parents and he told me vivid stories about his trip out here on an old Union Castle Liner. His family settled in Kimberley initially and his father worked for De Beers at the diamond mine there. He told a number of stories about the Siege of Kimberley, during which time the women and children were hidden down the mine shaft for safety, while the men prepared the food up top in a huge coco-pan and sent it down to them via the narrow gauge railway track. He also said that during the siege, the Boers were so close by, that as they rode their horses around and around the barrier around the mine, they could actually see their hat 'veld' hats bobbing up and down.
When I was around 12, I produced a play and recruited a number of local kids to act in it. I also won essay writing competitions at school and was fortunate enough to have a wonderful English teacher with a huge imagination, who encouraged me to put my imagination to good use.
Later, I became a librarian, so I have always spent a lot of time around books. I wrote my first full length young adult novel at 15 and after this I never really stopped writing. I never really did much with my stories up until recently, except for forcing my parents and grandparents and their friends to read them. After joining a writing circle I started writing short stories, but I think I prefer to write either novels or at least novellas, which are much more satisfying to write.
I studied English Literature and Creative Writing at University, -along with my Library Diploma, where I learned to plan my writing more carefully and also form the characters within the stories more fully, before actually sitting down to write a novel.
Apart from reading and writing, I enjoy walking with the Monday Walking Group at U3A, where we walk at several local golf courses,and botanical gardens. There are about 35 of us in the group presently, so we walk and talk and generally don't take life too seriously exercise wise. I also organize the Movie Group for U3A at Cedar Square.
At home, I have a gardener called Moses that helps me in our huge garden and presently we are trying to do our bit by growing our own vegetables and herbs, - a slow tedious process, which I hope will reward us in the end with some fresh goods to eat. My husband, Alan, indulges my passion for writing,-mostly, but he can be bothersome when he wants food and I need to write something down before I forget it. I also have a cat called Rosie, who is the love of my life and my constant, supportive, little writing companion.
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