Destination South Africa
By Nerine Dorman
Not many of us get the opportunity to physically travel to exotic locations, so that’s half the attraction when it comes to reading books set in places we only dream of visiting. Now, as far as being fortunate goes, I consider myself bloody lucky to have a day job that occasionally affords me with the opportunity to travel. So I’ve been able to see quite a bit of my home country, South Africa, and have even been abroad to places like Zambia, Mauritius and Ireland.
Which of course is a total bonus for my fiction. Even better, my experience as a travel writer definitely feeds into how I handle my world-building, and many of my readers will agree. This helps, of course, considering that most of my novels are set in South Africa and, more recently, in completely made-up worlds.
So, for me, setting is very important, and you’d be surprised to know how many folks from overseas simply don’t have any idea exactly how civilised we are here in South Africa – though you’ll still find mud huts in our rural areas. [smiles]
Cape Town is one location I never get tired of using as a setting (and just ask all the film companies that stop by each year to shoot). The Mother City, as we like to call her, has a complete melting pot of cultures, and isn’t at all that young either – she’s been going since the mid-1600s. We even have a castle with proper fortifications and the like.
But moving swiftly onward to the location for Camdeboo Nights, my most recent release. I absolutely love the Karoo. It’s a large, arid region in the interior of South Africa and it boasts some of the most dramatic landscape you can possibly imagine. The Camdeboo itself (for which the novel is named) is particularly beautiful – flat plains, punctuated by low mountains or “koppies” as we call them in Afrikaans.
And this is where I dump my characters – in the Karoo and specifically in the small hamlet of Nieu Bethesda which, if you look on a map of the country, is exactly in the middle of nowhere.
Can you imagine having spent the first 16 years of your life living in a biggish city only to be wrenched away from everything that’s familiar, and have to start over in a small farming community? That’s what it’s like for Helen, one of my main characters in the novel. Not only that, but she has to start attending boarding school.
That sucks. And yet it’s not all bad. She makes friends with a mysterious boy, Trystan, who gets her to sneak out at night with him and go star-gazing. There really isn’t much for teenagers to do in Nieu Bethesda, after all.
But something else South Africa is known for is our country’s roads. They’re big and they move fast – often through some pretty hectic scenery. And that’s reflected in Camdeboo Nights, which I often describe to people as “one helluva road trip” … It is very much that, because I do have to mention the car – a Hudson Commodore from the late 1940s that’s been kept in mint condition all these years.
Of course we can’t mention the car without mentioning the driver too – a vampire named Trystan, who’s been prowling the roads since he bought the car more than sixty years ago. That’s how long they’ve been together – long enough for him to get to know every byway and highway, which is knowledge he’s going to need by the time the story draws to a close.
So, if you think I’m sounding deliberately mysterious, you’re probably right. I’d like to entice you to step into an adventure in a distant land that’s got loads of strangeness but plenty that’s familiar. Can’t afford that plane ticket to Africa? Well, Camdeboo Nights will give you a chance to escape and see the Dark Continent in a way you never imagined.
Buy Camdeboo Nights at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Camdeboo-Nights-ebook/dp/B00B8XYO9G/ref=la_B004QXPOFS_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1368377358&sr=1-8
For Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/camdeboo-nights-nerine-dorman/1114234687?ean=2940015970265
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Helen Ashfield’s life is complicated. Not only must she adjust to her parents’ divorce, but she has to come to grips with her new school in the small South African Karoo town of Graaff-Reinet. She’s sorely mistaken if she thinks she’s going to slot seamlessly into her new life. Her growing magical powers have attracted the unwanted attention of Trystan, a vampire, who may not have her best interests at heart.
Outcast from his kind for drinking another vampire’s blood, Trystan has been on the run for almost a hundred years from Mantis–the closest thing their kind has to an enforcer. All Trystan wants is an existence of quiet anonymity, but Helen turns his world upside-down.
Helen’s powers also mark her as one of Mantis’ targets. If Mantis gets control of Helen, she’ll change the course of history…for the worse.
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The woman turned icy gray eyes on Helen, giving her the impression that she could read each of Helen’s secrets.
She was pale, which wasn’t helped by the funerary aspect of her clothing–a buttoned-up sleeveless shirt with a cameo at her throat. When she moved, an audible swish of many layers of satin and chiffon filled the vehicle.
This must be the aunt. She couldn’t be the mother. The resemblance to Szandor was almost uncanny.
Szandor smiled, but the pleasure did not reach his eyes. “This is Sonja, my sister. Sonja, this is Arwen’s new friend, Helen.”
Sonja gave the briefest of frowns before facing the window.
“Uh, hi,” Helen said, wishing that she could be anywhere else but in this car with these peculiar people. The journey to Graaff-Reinet would be just over half an hour but it would feel like an eternity.
Szandor made a sound that was almost a snigger before turning the key. If only Damon were here, but her brother had gone to visit the Prof the instant his chores were done.
They drove in silence, with only the hiss of the air-conditioner as accompaniment, until they left the valley.
Then Szandor said, “Did you enjoy the films last night, Helen?”
She thought her heart would explode. Should she lie? Should she allow the story to filter through without some of the pertinent details?
“I… Uh. Yes.” She had watched films after Trystan had walked them home. Granted, she hadn’t been able to concentrate on any of the onscreen action.
“Oh,” Szandor said.
She caught a glimpse of his amused expression in the rearview mirror.
Bloody hell, of course he didn’t believe her. What did she expect?
“You haven’t seen or heard anything that you would consider out of the ordinary, have you?” Szandor asked.
“You’ll tell us if you do, won’t you?” Szandor asked. It was more a command than a question.
“I guess so.” Helen clutched the seat with white-knuckled hands.
Her grandmother’s amused tones echoed in her memory. The whole lot of them, they’re all witches. The father, too.
How far would Szandor push his craft? What could he do? Was she in any danger? If there was the superstitious fear of witchcraft that was prevalent among the indigenous Africans…
She’d read a little about the subject a few years previously while researching for a painting for her art classes. Witchcraft was a fascinating topic but she had never expected to ever deal with the real thing. Now her present situation seemed very real and very menacing.
“Where’s Arwen?” Helen hoped to steer their conversation to safer territory. She may as well have said “Nice weather, we’re having.”
“Arwen has been grounded,” Szandor said, his pale gaze reading the road ahead.
Oh heck. He knew.
“Oh.” Perhaps it would be better to say nothing at all then she wouldn’t dig herself a deeper hole.
The rest of the ride passed in uncomfortable silence. Helen pressed her face against the glass and hoped nothing more would be said.
She hated deception of any kind. Whenever she lied, she always ended up being caught out. Instead, she watched the passing landscape, where gray-blue spiked agave lined the road in clumps. Every so often jeep tracks led from the road they followed and she wondered where they went.
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