News From Kwarts Publishers

Book personality of the week: Danie Markgraaff

Danie Markgraaf

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

There are so many places I would like to live, but when I start thinking about my emotional support structure like friends and family, and the roots I have in my hometown, I think Pretoria will always be the town for me. From this base, I can go anywhere with or without Google Earth!

What do you do when you aren’t writing?

I am an architect – not really a celebrity-type design architect, but more a technical site type with a small twist of project management added. A bit practical and a bit of systematic work. I had to learn that as my right brain profile does not allow for much of the structured thinking type of environments.

How would you define a successful writer?

Ah! One of those questions with answers that first must answer a different question to be able to answer the actual one! In this case: what is success? Money? Fulfilment? Prestige? Acknowledgement? The ability to influence? An urgent message to convey or interesting facts on a specific topic and then being known as an “expert” in the field? Being a successful writer, sadly for some of us, are not about the money. A successful writer, in my opinion, is an honest person. Someone who is in touch with his or her own feelings and emotions even though it may sometimes be hurtful. It is exactly that honesty that will colour the word paintings of the books the author writes. And every successful writer’s painting looks different, even though they might be writing about the same topics or genres. A successful writer is a productive person who keeps on writing and has the perseverance to continue until the final product is completed – always with a bit of perfectionism. Otherwise, the work can easily become gobbeldy gook for the connoisseur-kind of reader.

What is the first book that made an impression on you?

I read Louis L’Amour westerns, and Afrikaans books like Die Rooi Ridder, the Jasper-series, Trompie en die Boksombende and the Fritz Deelman books. I also read Konsalik and Desmond Bagley during my school years. And don’t forget about Alistair McClean’s Ice Station Zebra and Fredrich Forsyth’s Day of the Jackal.
But the first book that made a real impression on me, and influenced my choice of career, was Ayn Rand’s The Fountain Head. The character of Howard Roark as the rebellious architect breaking through the traditional boundaries of accepted design inspired me to study architecture. Even though I am not an Ayn Rand fan as the philosopher, I think that was the first book that really impressed me other than the Bible.

What is the most difficult thing about writing characters of the opposite sex?

I think the fact that I’m not of the opposite sex! To understand the interaction between the intellect and emotions of the female character, especially when one places them in a stressful situation, and taking into consideration the various types of personalities that can be attached to the individual. Perhaps I understand a little more than an author in his twenties, for example, do, but I still view female characters through the eyes of my own understanding of their world. All I can say is that I can still learn a lot about the behaviour and response of characters of the opposite sex to improve my realistic representation of them.

Where is your favourite place to write?

When it comes to writing spots, I am a nomad. I travel around the house with my laptop on my lap. I seldom sit at my workstation. It makes it too formal and often it is too cluttered to get the creative juices flowing. Only when I start editing and finishing a book do I stick my backside to the chair at my desk where my dictionaries are, and where I have a second screen to open multiple pages and documents. Writing and re-writing. But telling the story? All over the show.

How does writing change a writer?

Every writer writes from his own framework of reference. The framework expands as we read more books and write stories, but one’s worldview changes. Depending on the genre, and whether one writes fiction or non-fiction. One thing is sure – as a writer, I look differently at people. I think differently about their behaviour, and I find stories, or potential stories, in the most unlikely places and experiences.
Personally, and perhaps I’m different from other writers, I get quite absent-minded when writing because my mind never rests. It’s always busy plotting and planning. Not necessarily about the story I’m busy with, or with the next stories, but with life experiences. Writing does change the way the writer sees and experience life and people. It tends to detach me from situations almost as if I’m looking in from the outside and observing people’s actions and behaviour and building a resource of scenes and plots. In short, I don’t believe one can be a writer without being changed constantly.

What is the role of a publisher for an indie author?

Mostly I believe that it is the support and knowing there is someone who knows the industry and can take the logistics off one’s shoulders. That leaves the indie author with the freedom to write and not get involved with the nitty gritty of getting published. The publisher gets involved in the different levels of service depending on what the author can afford. Having someone who knows you and looks after your book with care and advice does complete the circle of publishing one’s book.

What marketing tips do you have for aspiring and perspiring writers?

Even though, I do quite well with sales, I have not done really true marketing. Even after four novels, and working on the fifth, I am still falling short in the marketing department. What I do find is that I talk to people a lot about my writing experience and where and how my stories originate from. The people buying and reading my books love the personal approach of signing their copies and talking with them. Perhaps my tip would be to engage with your readers in any way you can and make them aware of what you are busy with. I have a blog – – where I keep people posted on what’s happening and what’s on the dream bench. That stirs their curiosity about what’s coming. 
I’m currently slowly chipping away at my Goodreads profile and getting reviews and ratings to increase my exposure to the international e-book market. But due to my day job, things are going slower than anticipated as I would rather write than do marketing! Perhaps I need more balance in that department and sell more books!

Is being a writer a blessing or a curse?

It’s an absolute blessing. Finding the passion for telling stories at the age of 53 was refreshing and life-changing. It is a talent from God and how can it ever be a curse then? It can only feel like a curse if I let it become one. Enjoy the process and the journey and don’t allow pressure to consume the creativity. Keep on writing – it’s a major blessing.

If your name was a verb, what would it mean?

Diversity and detachment. If this sounds depressing or strange, it is everything but. Diversity in the fact that I am attention deficit. My mind goes all over the show all the time making my attention span shorter than those who are not, but it’s exactly there where I find my creativity. It is in the diversity of my mind’s functioning. 
Detachment sounds terrible, but it’s a blessing for me as an introvert. I get energy being away from people and this allows me to observe and to dissect life around me. Thinking about life, perhaps more than is always good for having childlike faith, but having faith in a beautiful world God has created whatever our perceptions might be.

What work have you done with Kwarts Publishers?

I have published my third and fourth novels with Kwarts Publishers and Kwarts assisted me in redesigning my second novel’s cover to start getting a 'brand' feel to my book designs. Shortly, I will be publishing my fifth novel with them. Building a relationship with them is important to me as I grow in my career as a writer, which I will hopefully pursue full-time once I retire in four or five years’ time.

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