Today it is my absolute pleasure to be the first stop on Lauri Kubuitsile’s Blog Book Tour to celebrate her outstanding Young Adult novel Signed, Hopelessly In Love, published by Tafelberg Publishers, South Africa.
Lauri is an illustrious writer from Botswana, Africa. She has won an impressive array of writing awards including the Bessie Head Literature Prize in 2008, the Baobab Literary Prize in 2009 and in 2005 was one of three nominees for the Botswana Writer of the Year. She is currently on the shortlist for the 2011 Caine Prize. Yes, we are in very auspicious company today.
Lauri has 14 published books. I’m sure that Signed, Hopelessly In Love will be one of her most popular titles.
The story involves Amo being asked to run the agony aunt column (Aunt Lulu) for her school newspaper. At first she doesn’t want to do it, feeling insulted, because she regards herself as a serious journalist. However, she changes her mind when an anonymous letter arrives from ‘Hopelessly In Love’ and she becomes convinced she knows who the writer is. She also becomes equally convinced that the writer is writing about her.
This is a marvelous book, full of humour, excellent characterisation and authentic teenage voices. I enjoyed it very, very much and almost fell off my chair laughing at certain points in the narrative.
Without further ado I would like to introduce Lauri who will tell you a little more about her novel and will answer some questions I posed to her.
1. The first thing I noticed about your book’ Signed, Hopelessly In Love’ is the large red heart on the cover. It is very striking. Did you play a part in designing the cover and how important do you think the design of the cover is?
Of all of my books, this cover is my favourite! This was the third cover the publisher. I didn’t like the first one. The second one was very similar to this one, though the colours were slightly less bright. I think the cover matters quite a bit. This cover stands out. I think too it gives a good impression of the book, it’s a bit of a wonky heart, with very earnest writing on it. A bit like the inside of the book. My input only came when the cover was finished in the form of- “Do you like this?” In a way I think it’s better that way. I’m a writer not an artist or a marketing person.
2. You write with a very authentic voice. Your characters are very well-defined, very believable. What led you to write Young Adult Fiction?
I wrote this book for a contest, it was shortlisted but didn’t win. It had a different title then, it was called Aunt Lulu. As you know, I write all types of things. I write for adults, I write for children and I write for teens. Usually I don’t set out with a particular audience in mind; I think the story decides the audience. I love writing across all of these different ages, in any case I’ve been a child, a teen and an adult so it’s not something I know nothing about.
3. Even though your book is set in Botswana many of the themes explored such as teenage crushes, not fitting in, balancing friendships and family relationships are universal. Change some of the physical aspects of the setting and the narrative could be taking place in Sydney, Australia. Do you think that the themes explored in your book are part of the universal teenage experience?
I think what I’ve found having travelled a bit and grown up in one place and lived the rest of my life in another, is that we really are all the same. We all want similar things, we all run into similar obstacles. I think that’s why reading books about other places where we don’t live works. Though I might have never lived in Japan and never felt an earthquake under my feet, if I read a story about it I can immediately understand the characters’ feelings, I can make that connection because I’m human too.
4. What stands out for me in your book is the underlying sense of humour that runs throughout. There are some really funny scenes and characters such as Gran, Pigs and of course the unforgettable liniment scene. I know you and I know that humour is an important part of who you are as a person. Do you think it’s important as a writer to put parts of yourself – such as your sense of humour – into your work?
I think it’s impossible not to. I’m not sure I yet know what voice is, but I think it might be the writer’s personality coming through. I think books always have a bit of the writer inside. You reveal yourself by the stories you choose and the characters that are in the stories, and in the way you decide to tell a particular story.
5. I really like the character of Amo. She is someone I can relate to. When I was a teenager I used to pretend I was my favourite character in whatever book I was reading at the time and I could feel myself slipping back into that mode of thinking with Amo. Do you see the potential for any further stories involving Amo? Would you be open to the possibility of a series involving Amo and Gran and the others?
When I first finished the book more than two years ago, I immediately thought I would write a sequel. Here in Botswana junior secondary school is three years (Amo is in her second year in this book) and senior secondary is two years. I thought I might do a book for each year. But then I wasn’t sure the book would be published and I lost a bit of interest. I’ve written two full-length, adult novels that have been rejected repeatedly. I don’t like spending all of that time on something and then not have the book published, who does? But now that this book is published I may think about it again. Quite a few people have suggested it now. I also really like Amo- and Nono too. I think they might have a few more good stories to tell.
Congratulations on the publication of Signed, Hopelessly In Love, Lauri. I wish you every success with it. Thank you for making Sydney, Australia, the first stop on your Blog Book Tour. I’m sure it has been a real treat for my readers. I know it has been for me.
**If you wish to buy Lauri’s book Signed, Hopelessly In Love you can do so here.
Come on, you know you want to. You will LOVE it.
You can also visit Lauri at her blog Thoughts From Botswana.
You can also follow her on Twitter.
If you wish to leave a comment or ask a question here please do so as Lauri will be checking in throughout the day (bearing in mind that Botswana is 9 hours behind Sydney.) I know she would love to hear from you.
And please follow the Blog Book Tour as it goes around the world.
The rest of the dates are –