Here's a bit about Rossandra:
Rossandra White, a fourth generation South African, spent the first twenty-three years of her life in Zambia, where she had a baboon for a pet and learned to tell a log from a crocodile. As well as Monkey's Wedding, she is the author of the memoir, Loveyoubye: Holding Fast, Letting Go, And Then There's The Dog, published by She Writes Press. She lives in Laguna Beach with her two Staffordshire Bull Terriers, with whom she fights for space in her bed. When she’s not writing, she's at the gym or hiking the hills behind her home in Laguna Beach.
Why did you pick to write books for YA?
Twenty-two years ago, I felt compelled to write a book. Not something I’d always wanted to do. Maybe it was just time to finally get down all those stories I’d heard over the years about my ancestors who had been in South Africa since the 1800s. And then there were my own experiences growing up in a small Zambian copper mining town, as well as those two years we lived on a Zimbabwe sisal plantation. This was when Britain ruled, when the bush was full of animals.
There were all those road trips my family took to the Congo, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya. The time an elephant chased our car for two miles, forcing my dad to reverse down an excuse for a dirt road before the elephant gave up. The time we spent in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro with a crazy Belgian who kept wild animals for filmmakers’ use, as well as that episode in Kenya when rebels attacked the cattle ranch where we were staying with a family my dad befriended along the way. I had a lot to write about. What I didn’t know was that I had intuitively chose writing, “to take fuller possession of the reality of my life,” to paraphrase Ted Hughes.
What types of books do you like to read?
When you are not writing, what do you like to do?
Read, hike, travel, the occasional movie, dinner with friends.
Tell us about Monkey’s Wedding and how the story came to be.
It came about as I was revising an awful 500-page memoir of flashbacks I wrote about my life in Africa. I found myself wanting to give voice to a black African point of view. With this in mind, I created these two adolescents, Elizabeth and Tururu, a boy who worked for the family, and began with an incident that happened to me in Zimbabwe as a six-year-old when I was poisoned by rebels.
Adolescents Elizabeth and Tururu—she’s white, he’s black—share an uneasy friendship on a remote sisal plantation in 1953's Zimbabwe. Resentment to white rule erupts throwing them into the crossfire of political change and ancient ritual.
To make matters worse, a clash between Tururu’s witchdoctor grandmother and her apprentice unleash ancient fire spirits that will make the British overlords look like saints. Will their friendship survive?
The novel’s dual viewpoints afford an intimate glimpse into the two faces of a country at a crucial time in its history.
Have you written other books? If so, tell us a bit about them.
My memoir, Loveyoubye: Holding Fast, Letting Go And Then There’s The Dog, was the first of my books to be published. It was written after Monkey’s Wedding.
What’s next for your writing? Are you working on a new story?
I’m revising Mine Dances, a coming-of-age story. It’s the sequel to Monkey’s Wedding with the same characters.
What advice do you have for other authors?
Get your butt in that chair every day, and get used to staring at a blank page, consider time spent with the blank page well worth it; it’s an investment, it tells control central you’re serious about this writing thing.
Copy a passage from a writer you admire, one that really rings your bell and reword it, improve upon it. Builds writing muscle.
Anything else you want readers to know?
On my website, I have a more detailed description of how Monkey's Wedding came to be.
Where can readers find you and your books?