About the Book
On the fringes of a civil war arise a kaleidoscope of stories of abuse, power, betrayal, sex, love, and absolution, all united by the failings of a dying government. Set in the backdrop during the last years of South Africa’s apartheid, How the Water Falls is a psychological thriller that unfolds the truth and deception of the system’s victims, perpetrators, and unlikely heroes.
The two main characters, one white, Joanne– a reporter, the other black, Lena– a banned activist, have their lives continuously overlap through the people they know during a thirteen-year period and eventually become friends as a result of their interviews together. Joanne personifies the need to question and investigate apartheid’s corruption from a white person’s perspective. Although her intentions begin with idealism, no matter how naïve, as the years pass while the system is failing, she crosses the threshold of what it means to be caught up inside the belly of the beast, especially after crossing paths with the Borghost brothers. Lena, who is inspired by her predecessors, such as Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela, is among the minority of black women to peacefully battle for equality, even if her struggle is indicative of sacrificing her health and safety. Hans Borghost is Johannesburg’s commissioner of police who, like all those before, had a military background before pursuing a law enforcement career. Violent, manipulative, and controlling, he incarnates the image of South Africa’s perpetrators. Jared Borghost is the younger brother of Hans and, like his brother, has a military background, but unlike Hans, he internally combats between his sense of duty and morality. His inconsistency indicates a conscience that leaves one to ponder whether Jared is either a perpetrator, victim, or both. As his surname suggests, Bor-GHOST represents the “ghosts” that haunt the family’s past. Many other characters play the roles of spies, freedom fighters, lovers, adversaries, and supporters.
This novel is as complex as apartheid was itself, unlacing fabrics of each character’s life to merge into a catalyst downfall. The question of who will survive this downfall will suffice in the courts of truth and reconciliation and whether love is strong enough to preserve peace.
Advice on Writing Historical Fiction
Writing historical fiction may seem like a daunting task; and what I mean by daunting is the amount of research it can take. And yes, it can take years depending on the depth of time a writer has to engage in such a task. But the driving force behind a writer’s engagement is actually a very simple one: passion. Like all things in life that requires a commitment, whether building a model boat, or painting a mural, or even raising children, it’s a love-obsessed commotion which on a normal scale can be seen as a bit fanatical, extreme, and ill-advised. Seriously folks, who in their right mind would want to spend the next eighteen years of their natural born life cleaning, yelling, preaching and watching grey hair grow out of pure exhaustion for the sake of love? That’s right. This innate mysticism that is in all of us, therefore say it with me: “Passion.”
I encourage this philosophy: “Submitting to a moment in time allows us to remember, or to muse even, over our society’s past. Although writing can educate as well as entertain, yet what makes art incredibly amazing, to that of paintings, photographs, and music, it transposes emotion into another form of humanity, and therefore, it is our humanity which keeps all of us striving for an improved future.” I believe writing about history in a fictional context can be intellectually, spiritually, and humanely liberating. Fact or fiction, the art of lying unveils misconceptions about ourselves, our humanity, and our future. We lie, we reinforce. We gossip, we self-destruct. We seek, we fail. We grow, we die. But always we hope. To escape. To learn. To rediscover. To reinvent. It matters, all, it matters because we are here. In the spirit of Will Ferrell: “How awesome is that?”
So, having already establishing the philosophical piece as to why a person would want to write historical fiction, now how does one approach to writing it? First of all, thank God for the era of the internet! But don’t rely on it completely. Obviously it can allow us to reach beyond our backyards and allow us to communicate to others in their professional fields to help us tighten the knowledge we seek. And it’s an awesome force for a quick reference. I’m amazed that you can download archives which subtracts travel time to the minimal. Nevertheless, like all cautionary tales of unlimited power, use the net wisely and don’t believe everything you read. Between keeping a stack of notes and contacting people who are willing to help you, double check the facts. Remember, you are like journalists for the past.
I still worship the library. Not only can you check out books- for free, but you can also check out movies, documentaries, and music- for free. To submerge yourself in a particular world as a means to understand the culture, the language, and mindset of that generation can be found both the public and university libraries. Because civilization has been recorded for at least six millennia, it’s astounding to rediscover stories through books, (both fiction and nonfiction,) music, art, music, photographs, and more recently, film. These are vast resources you can relate to, and in turn, you can exploit when recreating your story to help readers relate to as well.
The last thing I want to cover is how to use the information you’ve collected. The important factor is to never lose sight regarding the art of good old fashion storytelling. Without the proper development of characters and storyline all you have is a bunch of facts awkwardly stuffed inside your story. Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars, Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex, and Bryce Courtenay’s The Power of One are prime examples of interweaving very personal stories in the midst of historical backdrops. One way to analyze the foundation of a story is by asking simple questions: What does my protagonist(s) want at the beginning of the story? What challenges does my protagonist face to acquire it? And does my protagonist actually obtain what he/she wants or discovers something else? And while evaluating these questions then comes the setting the scenes with historical facts to reconstruct an era. By colliding elements of story and research, much like the collision of the Big Bang Theory, you bring life purposely and unexpectedly with a hint of violence and romance, and hope your readers will understand and benefit from your work.
Writing history doesn’t have to be tedious. And writing it in a fictional context doesn’t devalue the significance of history. In my opinion, it enhances the reading experience. It can preserve a sense of integrity that allows us to criticize, moralize, and to be informed not only about our past, but how we can be a better society today. Well . . . one can also hope at any rate!
Where to purchase How the Water Falls
Although I’ve been writing since childhood, I have a BA in history. I love studying history as much as wanting to evoke stories. I like to believe that after decades worth of introspection we have learned to value our lessons, and the best way to recite our lessons are through storytelling. That’s why I love history: To learn. To question. To redeem our humanity. Submitting to a moment in time allows us to remember, or to muse even, our society’s past. Although writing can educate as well as entertain, yet what makes art incredibly amazing, to that of paintings, photographs, and music, it transposes emotion into another form of humanity, and therefore, it is our humanity which keeps all of us striving for an improved future.
I am fortunate to have been trained by one the top ten writing teachers in the US, the late Leonard Bishop, and author of ‘Dare to be a Great Writer.’ I owe my love of writing to him. In addition to writing, I draw, paint, create graphic design, and am an amateur photographer.
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