Monday’s Friend: Nerine Dorman

Today I am pleased to welcome writer and editor Nerine Dorman to my blog. Nerine and I have agreed to a ‘cross-interview’, so today I am interviewing her, and an interview with me appeared on her blog yesterday.

Nerine has several published novels under her belt including KHEPERA RISING, its sequel KHEPERA REDEEMED and THE NAMAQUALAND BOOK OF THE DEAD, all available from Lyrical Press.

So without further ado, let’s get on with the interview.

SJT: When did you first know you were going to be a writer?

ND: I was about three years old and grew up in a house where we had piles and piles of books on these massive teak bookcases (which I’ve inherited, by the way). There was something so arcane about the meaning of these words bound in covers. I remember being very frustrated that I couldn’t decipher the meanings, and when I tried to write, all I could do was scribble. By the age of five I could construct simple sentences. I’ve always loved words, and find it easier to express myself in writing than speaking. Since my plans of being South Africa’s next big shock-rocker never materialized (thank goodness) I’m sticking to my first love: writing.

SJT: Who would you cite as your influences?

ND: First and foremost, Tolkien, Anne McCaffrey and CJ Cherryh, who taught me to love words. I then cut my teeth on Poppy Z Brite, Storm Constantine and Neil Gaiman. Lately I love Cat Hellisen, Jacqueline Carey and Mary Gentle. But I’m also influenced by my co-writer, Carrie Clevenger, whose eye-rolling and keen sense for plotting often help me out of my propensity for using too many convoluted sentences and murky story arcs.

SJT: There’s a strong sense of place in the Khepera series – Fish Hoek really comes alive. Is Jamie’s shop based on a real place?

ND: Jamie’s shop is based on a little nook called The Cook’s Room which is in Petticoat Lane. It’s this tiny little lane perpendicular to the main room. Most of the shops display a shabby chic style. There’re secondhand bookstores cheek by jowl with tarot readers and antique shops. Granted, over the past five years many of the old, really special places have closed to make way for boutique outlets, but I like to think that I capture some of that old bohemian flair that made Kalk Bay the special seaside spot it was. Right next to Fish Hoek, of course, which still has a long way to go before it’s fully rehabilitated.

SJT: Has anyone ever annoyed you so much you’ve put them in a book and killed them off?

ND: [laughs] I’m planning on it. I’ve painted in caricatures of teachers who terrorized me at school but I can think of one or two individuals at my day job who deserve to die painfully. I’m just looking for the most horrific, gory way for them to go. Ironically they asked me once and I told them I had written them in, just to see their reactions. They were suitably freaked out.

SJT: You list travel as one of your interests. What place is at the top of your ‘places to visit before I die’ list?

ND: Definitely Egypt, but I’d like to do a road trip through the United States and Mexico. I have this wild plan to visit the gravesites of my heroes. Unfortunately most of them were Americans. New York is high on my list, as is San Francisco. I’ve already crossed off Ireland. I was very honored when I was invited on a week-long media visit earlier this year. It was an unforgettable experience. Ireland is every bit as magical as they say and I understand why it’s a beating heart for the literary world.

SJT: What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone would’ve told you when you were a beginner writer?

ND: Please excuse me I’m going to shout now:


Newbies are often in such a hurry to get their first publishing credit that they send their manuscript in before it is even ready. Or just in a format that elicits an immediate “delete” response from agents and editors. I’m just bloody lucky I already had a lot of subbing/writing experience within a newspaper environment by the time I submitted my first novel. But I was on sub with assorted agents and small presses for more than six months and I had more than 60 rejections before I had a contract offered.

While I can churn out a 95,000-word novel in two to three months, I’ll let it lie fallow for up to six months before I revise again after having let my beta readers go at it with scalpels. By the time I go on the submissions mill up to a year will have passed since I wrote the manuscript. I will submit to no less than 60 literary agents and/or publishers. Only then will I fall back on the known “easy” submissions where I don’t doubt I’ll have a contract offered.

Last bit of advice: Always aim higher than your current position. Don’t settle for self-publishing unless you can honestly say your product holds up to the standards of traditionally published works already available in your chosen genre. Rather put the work aside and come back to it later.

Many thanks to Nerine for being my guest today. Follow her on Twitter @nerinedorman or see her blog at
Her Facebook author page is


4 comments so far

  1. Carrie Clevenger on

    Great interview, Nerine is always surprising me. Pleasantly. xx

  2. Cathy Olliffe-Webster on

    Sage advice, Nerine. Especially the part about being in a hurry. This is some of the best practical writing and publishing advice I’ve seen online. Not surprised you have a newspaper background!

  3. Abby Rose on

    Great insights, Nerine! And great to learn more about you. 😀

  4. Rachel Green on

    super interview!

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