The author of the hit novel Happiness Is a Four-letter Word, Nozizwe Cynthia Jele, is thrilled that her book has become a film – but now she just wants to quit her day job and move to a farm to write. Do you dream of being a full-time writer?
I tell myself every day that I should just quit everything, buy a small farm outside of Joburg or in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and spend my days growing vegetables and writing. I’m not sure, though, that if my dream was granted, that I’d be happy. Writing is a solitary experience and farm work is apparently difficult. How did Happiness happen? What made you decide to write it? Is it based on your own experiences?
Happiness happened as a result of watching too many episodes of Sex and the City, and reading too much “chick lit”. I identified a great deal with the characters in these stories, or knew people who shared similar experiences. At the time I started writing the book, which was around 2006, I had not read anything local that captured the everyday lives of modern South African women – their small and big joys and heartaches. So I thought I would write something about “us”, and three years later, I had written a complete manuscript. What was your intention with the novel, especially in terms of a black woman’s experiences in Joburg?
My intention was simple – to write a fun and readable book reflecting our experiences. What Happiness has made me realise, though, is how privileged I am to be living in these times in our country, to have access to certain things and people, and to have my family and friends around me. Do you think the normal lives of women in Joburg are underrepresented in our publishing industry?
There is certainly room for more books written by women for women. We’re starting to see young women bring out good material, but it’s not enough. Marketing and distribution are still a problem, because sometimes I find books months or years after they were published and I’m actively seeking out local books. Have you seen the film? What did you think?
No. I missed the opportunity to see it last year. I love what I see in the trailer, which I confess to watching every day since it came out. Have you seen how HOT everyone is? What can we expect from you next? Are you working on a new novel?
It’s a story about coping with grief after losing a family member and moving on. It’s not sad, I promise. While it’s different to Happiness in style and setting, the common themes of love, relationships with family and friends, and work are still there.