What inspired you to write this story?
I am an idealist and an incurable romantic. I believe in love and in the happily ever after. My parents have been married for over 40 years and been together for almost 50 years. My husband and I recently celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary. I have witnessed the struggles of my single friends, both male and female when it comes to dating and picking the right person. I want to portray a positive view of marriage and relationships with a minimum of drama and pain. I also have friends and acquaintances who are in cross-cultural marriages and relationships and I have written about some of the issues that they face.
Why did you choose the title of No Rules?
Mwoyo muti unomera paunoda is a Shona saying which means the heart (love) is a tree which grows where it wants to. There are no rules to love. People have tried reducing the phenomenon of love to a formula, but there really isn’t one and have come up with all sorts of written and unwritten rules. The relationship in this story breaks all of them. The laws of physical attraction may be fixed but love is really a supernatural phenomenon. Magazines and self-help books are full of advice on how to get and keep a man, how to affair-proof your marriage and relationship etc. but the reality is love is about how two people feel about each other. There are different kinds of love and we feel them at different times for different reasons which makes it hard to predict and manipulate.
What are ‘the rules’
A tricky issue where people attempt to define rules is how long do you wait before you have sex. Many men driven by pure lust would want to have sex on the first date or soon after. Lust is a biological phenomenon intended by God for humans to multiply. A man in this case is driven by the instinct to spread his seed. The majority of men lose interest immediately afterwards. So women have a dilemma. Do you insist that he marry you, then watch him move on? Or do you compromise and have sex because you love him and let’s face it, women have needs too, then risk him waking up the following day and deciding you’re not the one?
There is a double standard that applauds men while denigrating women for having sex outside of marriage. Steve Harvey wrote Think Like A Man for his daughters because he understands how men think. He suggests waiting for 90 days, in order to be sure of the man’s intentions. However, there are people who had sex from the day they met and are still together, while others waited years, got married and still got divorced. So the only rule is not absolute.
In the novel, the couple wait for a while. They try to fight it. They don’t do a very good job. That is the reality. We have so many roadblocks, obstacles and protocol around marriage which make it an onerous process. In Genesis, God created Eve and simply put her in the garden. Adam decided she would be his partner saying she is the flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone. I don’t believe God ever intended for marriage to be so complicated, these are human rules for whatever reason. It would help if people were honest with themselves and with each other about expectations regarding sex and a relationship.
The other rule extends to marriage. How long should you wait. Again, there are people who get married within 6 months of meeting and stay together, while others wait years and still get divorced. Jide and Pelonomi meet, endure challenges and survive them to get their happily ever after. In some relationships a couple can go through in six months, what others take 10 years to experience. There is no absolute rule. The question is is how well do you know your partner and do you love him or her enough to live with their imperfections? Some people close their eyes to the truth, only to realise they can’t handle those imperfections and then they get divorced 2 years or 20 years later.
The story is set in South Africa in 2017? Why is that?
I have lived in South Africa for over 10 years. It is a beautiful country, vibrant, cosmopolitan and has such a rich history and diverse cultures. It is also a place that attracts people from different nationalities. I want to showcase what makes our country special. South Africans know to have fun, we can really party. We are among the earliest risers in the world and we strive to do better for ourselves and our families. If you live in South Africa, you can relate to the setting. I will be publishing photographs and other media to make it real for readers overseas because I want them to see what I see.
Why choose Millennials for the main characters?
I wanted to represent young urban African professionals who are educated, accomplished and cosmopolitan. I have not come across too many stories about this cosmopolitan generation. The Millennials have been the subject of research and debate. They are different from previous generations. They are more socially and environmentally conscious, they think differently. They also value family and tradition even though they practice these in their own way. They are technologically advanced and connected via social media. They want to change the world. They are the leaders of the future and that future is not far off. I wrote the story in the first person, which is incredibly challenging, because I want the reader to stand in the people’s shoes and experience the emotions. My children are from that generation. When they come of age, I want them to choose their partners wisely so In a sense, I am writing this for them.
Why does Pelonomi have to be studious, in other words, a nerd?
Nerds fall in love too. Pelo is a highly intelligent, educated and cultured young woman. Many men would be attracted to her face and body and not pay attention to her amazing mind or her crazy ideas. But crazy ideas are the ones that change the world. When we appreciate everything about our partners, we can support them and they can achieve extraordinary things. Jide is a nerd too, he just doesn’t look like one, because he plays basketball and is in great physical shape. So the story is about two nerds falling in love. In a sense it is a way of letting intelligent girls know that they can be themselves and find love and not have to hide their brilliance because it makes men insecure.
There are some highly charged and explicit love scenes. What is your reason for including these?
This is a work of adult fiction. Sex is an integral part of life. We are all here as a result of sex. Studies show the number of times men and women think about sex. It is a primary biological need, whose purpose is to keep the human race from extinction, not that we are in any danger of that now. In the novel, I wanted to portray sex in a loving committed relationship because many people believe sex is boring when you get married or commit to one partner. It really isn’t unless you make it so. If you do, you will forever be lusting after other people. Too many people destroy their marriages because they are fantasizing about what is out there. In my opinion, casual sex is the equivalent of eating junk food when you can have a gourmet meal at home, because you lack that intimacy and emotional connection that makes it special.
You don’t pull your punches when you talk about xenophobia. Why is that?
I was born in Zimbabwe. My paternal grandfather was Zulu. His family were immigrants in what was then called Rhodesia. I am classified as an immigrant because I was not born in South Africa. I have personally experienced xenophobia because I use my husband’s surname and my passport does not bear witness to my genealogy.
The reality is that there is no pure race or tribe. We’re all from somewhere else. The borders that we live within are artificial ones created by the colonial powers in an effort to keep peace among themselves. These borders split up families, clans and nations from a common linguistic and cultural point of view. In South Africa the only truly indigenous people are the Khoi San, everyone else is an immigrant.
My two main characters are from different countries and they each face hurdles in believing that the love is real and getting this relationship accepted because of the stereotypes and barriers that we have developed as African people.
You talk extensively about religion and spirituality. Why is that?
The lovers are both Christians at different stages in their walk with God. Our spirituality is an important part of who we are. When we do not spend time in some sort of devotion, we lose touch with a vital part of ourselves and we try to fill that emptiness with drugs, alcohol, sex, food or whatever other addictions. I want to promote a positive image of God as a loving deity, not a harsh taskmaster. The God that I worship is interested in all the details of our lives, including our love lives and believe it it not, sex. There are also different ways of relating to God, known as spiritual pathways and God will meet you on the pathway you choose because the Bible says God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6.
Who needs to read this story?
Single people, particularly women, who struggle with issues of relationships and expressing themselves sexually. Married people too will find some wisdom to revive the passion in their relationships. Writing the novel helped me to appreciate things about my husband and our marriage that I have tended to take for granted.
What can we look forward to in the novel?
There is romance, fun and laughter. There are interesting conversations with friends and family as they come to terms with the relationship. There are moments of crisis and conflict. There is the bridal shower where the pastor’s wife gives an iconic speech and the preparations for the four different ceremonies for the marriage to be complete.
What other plans do you have for the story?
I would love to make a film of it. I think it is a great story. I would also like to get people to engage with the story on different platforms, because there are so many issues that are relevant to our society that we need to think about and debate and confront and change our minds if possible, in order to make better choices for ourselves and for people around us.