Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Welcome Brenda Hammond


Dancing was Brenda Hammond's greatest love as a child. She also read tons of books and wrote a few stories, sitting up in a syringa tree in the garden of her Johannesburg home. At the age of thirteen, she sailed away to claim her place at the Royal Ballet School. When she grew too tall for a ballet career she returned to South Africa to study at the University of Cape Town. There, the turbulent times of the first student protests against Apartheid left an indelible mark.
     After graduating, Brenda worked in the fashion industry, taught dance and French. But mostly she devoted herself to the business of bringing up her four children.
     She has been writing seriously since coming to Canada in 1993. Her humourous romance ‘At Your Service, Jack’ was hailed as a ‘sparkling debut’, as well as being nominated for an Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice award.
     Since then her work has taken a somewhat different direction. Right now she’s loving writing for young adults and feels much gratification that ‘Cape Town’, a story that carries such resonance for her, is now on the shelves.


Publisher: Great Plains Teen
ISBN: 978-1-926531-19-2
 ‘Cape Town” tells the story of country girl Renee Pretorius' journey of awakening as she deals with political and emotional growth in the strife-torn mother city, the year before Mandela's release.

Driven by her dream of becoming a ballerina, Renee’s journey begins when she takes that momentous step of leaving home. The only daughter of strict Afrikaans parents, for the seventeen-year-old  this means abandoning the familiar environment she’s lived in up till now to confront a very different reality: that of a city gripped by the Struggle for Freedom.
When she falls in love with a student aggressively active in the Anti-Apartheid Movement, she’s forced to make the most heart-wrenching choice of her life. 

MAUREEN: What’s your favorite holiday?
BRENDA: Christmas. Over the years, I’ve done the big family thing, and the ‘just me and my husband’, but it’s always a special time… especially in the Northern Hemisphere. In South Africa, it’s midsummer, which brings a very different mood. Still magic, though.

MAUREEN: What’s your favorite movie of all time?
BRENDA: It’s gotta be ‘Some Like It Hot’.

MAUREEN: Where do you most like to read and how often?
BRENDA: In bed. Morning, afternoon and night!

MAUREEN: What really scares you?
BRENDA: Violence. Of any kind.

MAUREEN: Do you believe in ghosts?
BRENDA: Absolutely. I used to visit a house in Essex, England. A young woman had been drowned along with her two whippet dogs in the pond in the garden. Although I never did, people would ‘see’ the two dogs and say to Cousin Ruby: ‘I never knew you had dogs’. The older part of the house was creepy. I used to avoid going there if I possibly could.
When my aunt in South Africa lived in an old Victorian house she had some strange ‘close encounters’ which I’m thinking of weaving into a middle-grade story.

MAUREEN: Where in the world would you most like to visit?
BRENDA: I’ve been travelling overseas ever since I was a teenager and first took a Union Castle mail ship from Cape Town to Southampton. (Here's a photo of what I left behind! Table mountain…) These days it’s mostly to visit my far-flung family (a common situation with ex-South Africans) in England, California and New Zealand. But my favourite place to visit has to be France where I’ve been many many times.

MAUREEN: What’s next for you as an author?
BRENDA: A follow-up young adult book, set once again in the Cape, South Africa—such a beautiful and exciting country. So, like ‘Cape Town’ it will contain adventure, excitement and romance. But the focus will be somewhat different because it’s set in the post-Apartheid era.

MAUREEN: What’s your favorite fairy tale?
BRENDA: I actually know many of the Grimm’s stories. But hey, my favourite has to be ‘Sleeping Beauty’ because of the ballet, natch, or ‘Sleeping P’ as we used to call it at ballet school—the ‘P’ being for Princess. And then there’s Tchaikovsky’s marvellous music that fits the choreography so wonderfully well. I still want to get up and dance whenever I hear it.

MAUREEN: What’s the best vacation you’ve ever been on?
BRENDA: Years ago our family did a boat trip on the Canal du Midi in France, all six of us, which worked well when we had to negotiate the locks. We went up as far as Beziers and back.

MAUREEN: Hiking boots or high heels?
BRENDA: Both. Kind of. Here’s the nearest I come to the former (known as ‘takkies’ in South Africa) and the latter (in which I’m inclined to overbalance).

MAUREEN: What hidden talents do you have?
BRENDA: I can whistle pretty well. In younger days I could also do the thumb and forefinger in the mouth to whistle up the kids. Lost that talent, tho.

MAUREEN: What was your favorite book when you were twelve?
BRENDA: Oh I read so very many. I loved L.M. Montgomery’s stories. But maybe ‘A Dream of Sadlers Wells’, which was actually to come true for me because the Royal Ballet School was still called Sadlers Wells when I first went there.

MAUREEN: What turns you off like nothing else?
BRENDA: Negativity. Mine, someone else’s, or in general.

MAUREEN: What sound or noise do you love?
BRENDA: The cooing of doves. I’m listening to them now, and they remind me of my childhood home and other happy times.

MAUREEN: Do you write while listening to music? If so what kind?
BRENDA: No. I need quiet. Although I have used mood music for the occasional creativity exercise.

MAUREEN: Vanilla or chocolate?
BRENDA: If I really had to choose, it would be chocolate.

MAUREEN: What was the first story you remember writing?
BRENDA: I wrote a King Arthur adventure for a knight named Gareth. No idea where that came from, because I’d never heard or read the name at that time.

MAUREEN: What’s something you’d like to tell your fans?
BRENDA: I’m passionately—although not fanatically—green i.e. I prefer to eat organic, use eco-products on myself and around the home, and do my best to not to pollute the earth. We use no poisons in our garden. Although I do own a car and fly long distances at least once a year, I try to be conscious and make the journeys as direct and few as possible.

MAUREEN: Is Elvis really dead?
BRENDA: Yes, but surely immortal. Some years ago I sat next to a five year old boy on a plane. He was listening to Elvis and enjoying the music so much. At one point he took off his headphones and said to me, “Look, can you see the angels on the clouds?”

MAUREEN: What a fabulous story! What’s the first thing you do when you finish writing a book?
BRENDA: Sigh, I imagine!

MAUREEN: What’s your favorite dessert?
BRENDA: Meringue glacé. Such lovely contrasting textures, the cool ice-cream, the crispy meringue, the fluffy, melt-in-your mouth sweetened and whipped cream!

MAUREEN: If you were given a chance to travel to the past where would you go and why?
BRENDA: You know what? I don’t think I’d like to. I appreciate contemporary creature comforts too much.

MAUREEN: What do you do to unwind and relax?
BRENDA: Go down to the water… river, lake or ocean works for me.

MAUREEN: Strawberry daiquiri or a beer?
BRENDA: I hate to tell you this, but ever since we lived on a wine farm in the Cape, I’ve been teetotal. Just find I feel better that way.

MAUREEN: Do you remember your grade one teacher’s name?
BRENDA: No, but my grade three teacher was Mrs. Townsend. My dad used to enrage me by referring to her as Mrs. Villagebeginning!

MAUREEN: Salsa or guacamole?
BRENDA: Guacamole, as made by my son-in-law in New Zealand. The avocados come from a neighbour who puts a box by the gate with a jar for the money. 50c each, and they’re large!

MAUREEN: Which of your characters would you most like to invite to dinner, and why?
BRENDA: My hero Andy’s mother Vivian, because she has interesting ideas and a generous spirit.

MAUREEN: What soundtrack or playlist do you recommend for your current release?
BRENDA: Juluka ‘Scatterlings of Africa’.

MAUREEN: Tea or Coffee? And how do you take it?
BRENDA: Both. With milk. No sugar! I allow myself more cups of tea than coffee tho. Definitely no cream with the former!

MAUREEN: What color would you make the sky if it wasn’t going to be blue anymore and why?
BRENDA: Golden. So it would be like Italian art before Giotto.


MAUREEN: You were/are a ballet dancer. Do dance and writing have anything in common for you? What about them are different/similar?
BRENDA: Well now, this is interesting. Of course, writing is a sedentary occupation, so that’s very different from spending most of the day dancing. But you know, there are similarities. For instance, self-discipline is necessary for both. And then there’s the ‘getting lost in’ aspect. In ballet you get lost in the music, the character, the emotion. In writing too you have to experience the dream, put yourself in the scene, in your characters’ heads… however it takes hold of you. Essentially, both lift me and take me to a different place.

Twitter: @brenhammond

From the age of 6 I dreamed of a career in ballet. And then, before I turned seventeen, my life in dance was pretty much over. And I didn’t regret it because, for me, it was time to move on. Have you ever had a similar experience?


  1. Good morning Maureen and Brenda,

    Greta interview! Brenda Cape Town sounds fascinating, and clearly it's a story close to your heart.

    You lived on a wine farm? I'm guessing that's what we call a vineyard, and it sounds heavenly to me. :)

    Best of luck!

    1. Thanks Susan.

      Yes, we had vineyards and it was heavenly. One of these days I plan to write a memoir of those years, but do it from my twelve year old daughter's point of view, because living on the farm was such an amazing experience for my children.

  2. Hey Brenda!

    Great answers to some great questions!!! I love the little boy's comment about the angel on the cloud. So sweet.

    I'm halfway through Cape Town and loving it :)


    1. Happy to hear this, Susanne.

      And for my first two commenters, a special comment from me.

      When I was little, my best friend named her doll Susan. I was destroyed because I thought that was the best name ever, and I had to find something else to call my dollie. I went for what I thought was closest: Sally

  3. Welcome to GLIAS, Brenda. Fascinating interview & I love the shoes !! Reminding me that I need a new pair of hiking boots for this weekend (too late to break them in ahead of time--ouch).

    My job experience was just the opposite. Others demanded from me and in 2009 I seemed to shout, WAIT A MINUTE, I want to be a writer, that's all I ever wanted to be. I concentrated very hard on giving editors and agents an opportunity to see my honed work and then it happened.


    1. Wow. So happy it happened for you, Andi.

      It took me a long time to get to my writing dream. Until I started in with fiction I thought I was a quick study. But nooooo...

  4. Hi Brenda! Loved the interview... I learned so much about you (two thumbs up to Maureen!). Congratulations on the new release :-).

    1. Thanks Joanne. Too long no see! And I agree, re Maureen.

  5. What a great interview, fun questions, insightful answers.

    Funny your favourite sound is cooing of doves. Mine too, the sound always brings a tear to my eye b/c I am reminded of my grandfather who made me aware of them on his farm in Germany.

    He said their song was, "Komm hier her, Hei-di" And I always here them telling me, and I always hear him telling me.

    Lovely interview, thank you for sharing it with us and for sharing so much of who you are.

    ~ heidi

    1. This was such a tough question. So many of them (not all included here) made me really, really think.


  6. Great interview! And I LOVE the cover of Cape Town!

    1. Julie! Thanks.

      And yes, Great Plains did a great job. You of course know how important a good cover can be!

  7. Thanks again for doing the interview, Brenda! And Julie is right. That cover is amazing.

  8. Love these tidbits of information that come out in an interview like this. You get to know folks so much better.

    Great interview, ladies! Wish you loads of success with your book, Brenda.

  9. I swear I left a message yesterday, but I don't see it. Must be somewhere out there in the ether.

    Anyhoo, at the risk of repeating myself, I love the way you shared yourself with us, feel I know you much better after reading your blog.

    As a child I wanted to work with animals. In the end, I never did, but now I always incorporate one or more critters in my books.

  10. Hi Brenda and Maureen, What a great and inspiring interview. Although I've known you Brenda for a few years, I still learned lots of interesting things about you. Mega congratulations on the release of your great book! And I too LOVE the cover, its perfect for the story! See you in the summer when I visit your home town, here in Canada!

  11. Maureen, your interviews are always so much fun, fresh and inspiring, thanks again.