Interview With Nollybooks Writer Paula Marais

~ Interview by Melina Kantor

Hello Chick Lit Fans,

As you may remember, I recently came across a CNN story about Nollybooks, a new publisher of chick lit books (called “Bookazines“) targeted to South African women. I was so intrigued I couldn’t resist inviting a few of their authors to visit the blog.

We’re back today with the second of our Nollybooks author interviews (you can read last week’s interview with author Mbali Mbtha here).

We’re very lucky to have Paula Marais visiting us.

Welcome Paula!

How did you come to write for Nollybooks?

Moky [founder of Nollybooks] and I met through my ex-lecturer from the University of the Witwatersrand (Louise Grantham), where I studied publishing. My mini-thesis was on “mass market publishing in SA” aiming specifically at increasing the readership of books by black women in SA. I had already written a few books by then, not all published, and it was a few years after I studied. Moky and I were completely on the same wavelength when it came to what we wanted for the books and worked together on structure, characterisation, plot etc. with regards the first book. I wrote the plot on the plane to the London Book Fair, Moky approved it and we went from there.

How is writing for Nollybooks different from writing for other publishers?

I suppose this is partly answered above, but in South Africa, the book buyers are usually white women, between the ages of 25 or so and 50 – or thereabouts. So the difference in writing for Nollybooks was that my ideal reader was different from whom I normally write for. I am a journalist, editor and writer, so I am used to adapting my style and content, so this was not a problem. However, one does always have to get the context right and cultural differences always create a writing challenge.

Did writing your non-fiction book about South African cultures influence your fiction writing? If so, how?

No, I wouldn’t say that it did much. It did, however, make me increase my awareness of the SA way of life. I write a lot of different things. I’ve just finished a book on postnatal depression with psychologist Linda Lewis, and this has sparked the novel I am working on at the moment. So sometimes this happens, and sometimes not.

What is it about “Bookazines” that appeal to South African women?

Women, and not just South Africa women, are short on time but big on the need for escape. So bookazines offer both. Perfect!

“Bookazines” are a form of chick lit. Why is the chick lit genre important to communities of women?

Women, like you say, do form communities. Chick lit tends to expose vulnerabilities in our personalities more openly than we might admit but might do in the safety of a secure female network. What I mean by this is that chick lit unmasks us women in all our goodness and faults. Ultimately, though, it gives us hope that despite our weakness or strengths we can triumph – just as chick lit heroines usually do.

What do you hope your readers get out of your books?

I suppose that depends on the book. For A Perfect Holiday Romance I was really aiming for time out and entertainment. My novel, The Punishment is also a romance, but not in the same genre and deals with the illicit affair between a German soldier and a French mother and the consequences of the relationship. That book was about fairytales, dreaming and the desire to do something for yourself even if it goes completely against what the community expects of you. I wanted to give a voice to the woman who is not the first person you notice in the room but definitely has something to say. I hope readers get an idea of what living during WW2 in France was like, but also give them courage to follow their heart. For When your blessings don’t count – a guide to postnatal depression Linda and I wanted women to find out that the experiences they may be feeling after the birth of a child are not always joyous and that they are not the only ones to have experienced this. Rainbow Nation Navigation is about understanding cultures in South Africa in a practical way. It’s done in an accessible yet informative way.

You’ve traveled quite a bit. How have your travels impacted your writing?

I write a journal everywhere I go and the mind pictures I make while travelling filter into my stories, sometimes at a subconscious level. Travelling has taught me the art of observation, smelling, looking, listening and I try to capture that in my journals and then transfer these to my books. I have been to 70 countries, so I’ve learnt to appreciate the uniqueness of individual histories and culture – and have had enormous fun doing this. It’s also been a great bonding experience with my husband. Happy homes are good for writers – they don’t distract from the important goals in life.

Would you mind telling us a bit about what you’re working on now?

I can’t say too much about it but I am writing a novel set in Cape Town from the point of view of a woman in a mental asylum after she has committed a terrible crime. The novel I finished recently is a love story called Love and Wine and is about an English woman who comes to Franschhoek in the vineyards in South Africa and meets two brothers. Which one is the right one for her? It’s currently doing the rounds of publishers in London.

Thank you so much for joining us today! 🙂

Based in Cape Town, Paula Marais’s non-fiction and fiction has been published in South Africa and the United Kingdom. She’s passionate about writing in coffee shops, painting vibrantly in acrylics and reading in the bath. Having travelled to seventy countries around the world, she still feels she has a lot of places she needs to see and journals she needs to fill. Paula runs her own publishing company (and after her two very active boys) and works as a writer, editor, publicist and proofreader. She has a Degree in Languages from the University of Cape Town, an Honours Degree in Publishing Studies from the University of the Witwatersrand and a Diploma in Journalism from the Morris College of Journalism in London. She is currently doing her Master’s in Creative Writing at the University of Cape Town. Read more about her on or about her company on

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