Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Interview with thriller author K.P. Kollenborn

I’m featuring thriller author K.P. Kollenborn today. She’s on a multiweek virtual book tour for her new novel, How the Water Falls with Goddess Fish Promotions.

During her tour, K.P. will be awarding a print copy of the book to a randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!
Welcome, K.P. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
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.

Please tell us about your current release.
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 na├»ve, 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.

What inspired you to write this book?
The ideas for How the Water Falls were inspired by real people and real events. If a person is to become socially conscious as a means to understand the world around oneself, then exploring the past is a good way to start. For me, it began with the movie Cry Freedom, which was based on the friendship between Donald Woods and Steve Bike. The inhumanity shown in the movie left me horrified and emotionally displaced. I was only fourteen. 

Then, years later, I came across a documentary, the name I don't remember because I missed the beginning, about a white South African couple who had nothing in common. The wife was a liberal reporter, and the husband was a former army personnel and police officer who had been fired as a scapegoat for apartheid's problems. They struggled with understanding each other's past. 

The other inspirations came from the book Kaffir Boy and A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Woman Confronts the Legacy of Apartheid. In dealing with how to come to terms with violence and poverty, these two books opened up a world history books didn't touch. 

And in correlation to my title, I wish to have a symbolic connection to the meaning of my stories. How the Water Falls is meant to represent the ideology of power and corruption through the structure of waterfalls, and how a system can fall by the pressure of united power. One of my characters, Lena, explains it all at the ending of the book.

Colonel Hans Borghost, a man in his early forties, rested his coffee mug on his desk. His rectangular name tag was displayed prominently, broadcasting his distinction as Commissioner of Police. He bore a hefty gut, a sign of indulgence and importance, as well as silver streaks above his ears. His blazing blue eyes were the dominating feature of the Borghost clan. All three brothers had inherited their father’s strongest physical features which made their mother feel even more inferior, may God rest her restless soul.

Flipping a folder open as he sat down, he coughed while scrutinizing a handful of photos and then carefully read the first page. A Bantu woman by the name of Lena Skosana was brought in yesterday afternoon for not having her passbook in order. It was not long before they found out she was a banned kaffir; her status forbade her to leave Alexandra for five years, but she did anyway, claiming she needed to make an important trip into Jo’burg. She was a repeat offender, having already served time for illegal activity writing blasphemes that condemned their sacred laws. Another militant kaffir who threatened civil concordance. It was an endless campaign with these people. He studied her small photos. Her youth undoubtedly opposed wisdom. Probably someone who hadn’t yet left her twenties, he guessed. Sighing, he presumed her stupidity was chronic, and the only true cure for that was to treat her like a wild horse.

Sipping his coffee, Hans closed the folder and stood up. He peeked at his wristwatch, and proceeded to walk out of his office, down the hall into the interrogation room. Closing the door, still holding his mug, a mixture of sweat and urine lagged in the shallow room. Two other white officers were present: one sitting behind a table, the other standing with a cigarette in his mouth. Both were cross-examining the Bantu woman, who was tied to a chair. Both revealed exhaustion under their eyes; sloppiness through unbuttoned collars and rolled-up sleeves. The officer smoking a cigarette had blood spots on his shirt. He was young with a crew cut and gray eyes.

Hans wasn’t surprised to find the kaffir’s face cut and bruised. One of her eyes was swollen shut. He noticed cigarette burns on her arms and legs. Her clothes were damp and he could smell her urine. Rarely did his men beat on a woman unless she retaliated like a man. Some of these women did. Some of these pagan women were nearly as strong as a man. In that case, it was justifiable. He sipped his coffee while he walked around her. She was moaning and crying.

It had been a long night for all of them. Hans allowed his men to take care of the situation, trusting them enough to perform their jobs with little misunderstanding. They weren’t new to the system and had served their two years in the military. Already primed for war; already experienced. Insurgent bombings were a monthly activity in South Africa, and had been so for two decades. This unconventional war sadly required unconventional tactics. Then he stopped. Hans stared at her skirt crinkled to her thigh. Her undergarment was ripped and discarded by her feet.

Alarmed, he looked at each of his men. “Did either of you take advantage of this prisoner?” he demanded in Afrikaans. The two glanced at each other, but remained silent. Grimacing, Hans continued, “What have I said about this sort of thing? Do what you have to get your point across, but do not gamble your health with these meids! Most often they are infected! How could either of you be so damn careless?

She was a virgin, sir,” the one sitting behind the table replied.

What if she wasn’t?” Hans snapped. “At her age, I’m greatly surprised she still was a bloody virgin.” Shaking his head, he bitterly scolded, “I will not have my precinct run like a brothel! Jisus, man, be professional about interrogating a prisoner!” He glanced at the woman, partially disgusted. Again shaking his head, he grunted just before he slammed the door and ordered, “Clean her up!

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m working on two projects: One is is Pictorial Ballad which deals with the relationship between the American military and Lakota Sioux during the 1870’s. I hope to have this project completed by fall of 2015. My other Pictorial Ballad, Two Dairy Goats’ Journey, has already been published as a children’s book. You can learn more about this here. My other project is a historical fiction about a female cross-dresser who ponders on themes such as identity, sexuality, and race during the Victorian era. I have no idea when to complete this project! Perhaps in a couple of years.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
It was a gradual evolution. Initially I wanted to be an artist- mainly focusing on drawing and painting, and I do have a graphics art degree. Because I’m dyslexic, reading and writing came to me slowly as a child, and I somehow compensated by memorizing the structure of words. I used to tell stories to my sisters as children, but later in school, when I felt forced to write stories as part of our English and grammar training, teachers would compliment my story-lines. I began to have awareness that not only I could create something in which people liked. And I kinda liked it, too. The biggest influence in school was my 8th grade English teacher who read four of my stories out loud to the class. That was the same year I wanted to write about the Japanese-American experiences. Up until I was a teenager, I didn’t believe I had any other talent. After college, I was very lucky in finding a mentor, Leonard Bishop, who had taught writing at Columbia and Berkeley. (I should be thankful he married a Kansas gal which was the reason he would even live in Kansas!) It has taken me some time to find courage to pursue a writer’s career.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Part-time because I’m a full-time stay-at-home mom. I reserve the time for writing in the mornings before I fulfill other family and household obligations!

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
First I let ideas fester in my subconscious and when I'm ready to commit to writing, I begin researching about the time period and culture, and once I acquire enough information to get started, I begin writing incomplete scenes to see which part of the story feels right. It often starts out like puzzle pieces where I just pick out pieces and lay down a basic foundation until I start seeing who the story falls together. I don't work with outlines; too restrictive. I only come up with who the people are, their backgrounds, and how they interact with each other. The historical references come into play according to their personality type.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As I’ve mentioned before, I had wanted to be an artist and I do continue to draw, but then I had thought about becoming a teacher- but realized I have little patience, then a veterinarian- but realized blood makes me queasy, and at one point, a civil rights lawyer- but realized I’m too shy to debate in front of people.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I like mixing realism with symbolism. I love stories that deal with struggle for freedom, searching for identity and purpose, and have some sort of message that forces you to contemplate. I aspire to preserve realism as much as possible to uphold the integrity of history. Many of the characters are inspired by a mesh of real people of that time period as well as using several historical events as part of the plot.

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