Brain to Books Blog Tour
Dazzling and Brilliant! http://www.amazon.com/review/R26LR2TICO13AA/It is not often a book as intensely dazzling as “The Zebra Affaire” by Mark Fine comes along. A forbidden love story takes place against the dramatic background of 1970’s South Africa and apartheid. Fine draws you into the story cautiously, laying the groundwork for the eventual affair between Elsa and Stanwell. By gently educating the reader with the background of the conflicts in South Africa, awareness of the difficulties faced by the star crossed lovers is enhanced. This is more than a racial segregation issue; there is a deeper issue brewing in South Africa. Tribal conflicts cause significant damage to a country beset by violence and political unrest.
As the love of Elsa and Stanwell grows deeper and more intense they are assisted by some to strengthen their bond. While segregation forbids open encouragement of their union, friends support them quietly. But the strict Afrikaner regime stands against them if not publicly at least in a behind closed doors attack on their union. While they flaunt their affair the government seems to stand in stunned silence as the world looks on. But the fanatics behind the scenes are both appalled and disgusted by their obvious sexual relationship and strive to expose and punish them for breaking hundreds years old laws.
With vibrant descriptions of both the beauty and ugliness of South Africa the story weaves its way to an intense climax. Waiting for the resolution of the love affair the reader will also wait for the resolution of apartheid. Knowing the eventual outcome of South African politics and the rise of Nelson Mandela it is easy to anticipate the same result for Stanwell and Elsa.
I highly recommend this lush and beautifully written story. Fine’s use of words is akin to an artist’s use of the palette; this is not a black and white story, this is a rainbow story with the rich colors of lives in turmoil. In a word, it is brilliant. If I could rate it higher I would do so.
Read an Excerpt
Interview with Mark Fine
Angela B. Chrysler: I want to take a moment to welcome Mark Fine, author of THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE available on Amazon: http://bit.ly/ZebraAffaireKindle
Thank you so much for speaking with me, Mark. Please take a moment to tell us about your book. Tell us, how did you come up with the idea for your book?
Mark Fine: Thank you Angela for chatting with me. Though they don’t realize it, I would have to credit my two sons. I have this belief that if a people don’t know their history, they are destined to be forever lost. It was important to me that my sons learned about their African roots from their father; but my personal story isn’t that interesting. So I chose to couch the story from the perspective of far more intriguing characters, that of Elsa (who’s white) and Stanwell (who is black) and their daring romance of the no-no kind. The cruel dynamics of the love-struck couple’s story under the racist regime of then South Africa is all theirs, but the place and time that I inserted them is very much mine.
ABC: Stories always require some form of research. What kind of research did you do for your book?
MF: Besides reference works and letting my fingers stroll through the universe that’s Google, I went on safari. In capturing the romance and exotic location for The Zebra Affaire, I had the privilege of viewing many wild creatures in their natural habitats—a life-affirming experience that I strongly suggest for others. Being in the bush, tracking game (with camera, and not firearm) is not a bookish, academic pursuit, which was a welcome change. The composite of the senses are vital to telling a story that’s authentic. And as the climax of the book is resolved in the African bushveld, what better place to begin the writing process.
ABC: Which scene or chapter was the hardest for you to write?
MF: It’s less about a specific scene, than the challenge of ensuring the reader understood the arcane nature of South Africa’s apartheid rules. Without the reader truly appreciating the jeopardy Elsa and Stanwell faced in that turbulent society, the novel would not have the impact it deserved. So, instead of footnotes or endnotes—both devices that pull the reader away from the narrative, I created what critics have favorably called “anywhere notes.” These I inserted within the context of the story. In the wonderful reviews Zebra has received, these “anywhere notes” have been applauded. Readers now better understand the societal construct of the time, and Elsa and Stanwell’s story became more meaningful, touching and emotional.
ABC: Please describe your favorite scene or chapter in your book and tell us why it’s your favorite?
MF: The challenge was to set the stage for this unlikely union; a white woman and black man falling in love, at great personal risk, in a bigoted apartheid world. I don’t wish to reveal too much, but emergency events surrounding a catastrophe was the vehicle I used. Without a solid foundation to establish their relationship, and at the same time reveal the cruelty of apartheid, well, the novel would not have succeeded so handsomely. Fortunately this establishing scene worked, and as such it has become my favorite.
ABC: Which of your characters, do you relate to the most (or) who is your favorite character and why?
MF: The patriarch in the book, a character known by the initials DGF is certainly my favorite. He holds moral authority, decency and strength in an unkind world. Certainly flawed, but he represents all the honorable and kind people of South Africa who tried to make life easier for discriminated majority. He understood that bigotry was dehumanizing, and worked to make a difference. I’d like to believe that DGF is a reflection of my personal sensibilities.
ABC: I once read that every author is simply a compilation of his/her favorite authors. Which authors have done the most to influence your writing and why?
MF: Always enjoyed substantial books that both entertained and informed. It was such a pleasant way to learn. Without a doubt Herman Wouk, Leon Uris, Ken Follett, and South African authors Wilbur Smith, Andre Brink shaped me. I’d like to add Alan Furst to that list. He’s my current favorite.
ABC: “Story” has always been the center of all human cultures. We need it. We seek it out. We invent it. What does “story” mean to you?
MF: Of course, “story” takes me back to being a child, and the best moments were being read to. I was fortunate that my granny owned a private library in Johannesburg, and she shared with me her joy of the printed page. So many stories, and so many rich memories preserved in my mind.
ABC: Tells us about your next project.
MF: The Zebra Affaire is set in 1976 South Africa. I’m considering remaining in sub-Saharan Africa, and setting my next novel, The Hyena Affaire in 1978 Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe). I’m in the process of developing the outline, character profiles, and continuing research. Though my books are set back in time, and on a continent many are unfamiliar; the themes are relevant today, considering the tribal turmoil in the Middle East, as an example.
ABC: Where can we find you and your book?
MF: The Zebra Affaire is available in both paperback and Kindle editions. It can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Nobles and other fine retailers. For convenience the Amazon link for the Paperback is: http://bit.ly/ZebraAffaireNovel and the Kindle: http://bit.ly/ZebraAffaireKindle
ABC: Thank you again, so much for speaking with me.
MF: You are welcome, Angela. I enjoyed discussing my work with you.
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