Q&A with Leslie Vyrenhoek


October 2019

What was the inspiration for We Will All Be Received? It came out of a whole collision of ideas, as they always do. One was from several years ago, being in a small motel on the Northern Peninsula – I just couldn’t shake the feeling of being in this isolated place and trying to make a go of things. But the story came much later, out of some thinking I’ve been doing around the tremendous change in communications since I was young. When getting a phone call meant waiting for the phone to ring, and then stretching the cord around the corner so your parents couldn’t hear you. If I wanted to talk to someone right this minute I could take out my cell phone and talk to someone anywhere in the world. Or watching the Olympics on TV from halfway around the world because it was being broadcast through a satellite, and now satellites are littering the sky. What the internet has done to our ability to define and redefine ourselves. So much of the conversations we have are brokered. What people can find out about us on the world wide web. What they can see on Twitter. How you are locked into what you were before. Before this shift, people could just make up their lives in some other place. But now what happens when everything catches up to you?


This is your second novel, and you’ve also published a poetry collection, and a book of short stories. Is the writing process different for each genre? The writing process for each is always vastly different for me. The circumstances of my life determined how fast this novel got done because I had a contract. With a short story you sit down and work with it for a couple of weeks or a couple of months and you might go back to it and edit a couple of months later. The first novel was a long process. With this I wrote 50 pages and I wasn’t sure where it was going to go. I signed a contract and then got all caught up in work, and then my mother was quite ill, and then the publisher said we need this manuscript in a month and a half, and then my mother died and I was useless for a month. By this time I was down to four weeks and I literally locked myself in a room and stayed there and only came out when I needed another bottle of wine or another cupcake from Sweet Mama.


What artists, not necessarily writers, inspire you? One of the things I’ve done in the novel is included a playlist; certain songs I listened to seemed to play into the story. This is not a story about music, but these are songwriters who are great storytellers: Bruce Springsteen, Melissa Etheridge, Wyckham Porteous.


What was your favourite book as a child? I loved Little Women. I loved the Nancy Drew mysteries. And in my early adolescence I loved those historical gothic bodice rippers. It was a terrible place to learn about sex but they were epic stories.


What book do you read over and over? I don’t generally go back and reread. I tend to read slowly and thoroughly. But I recently reread Six Miles to Roadside Business by Michael Doane, because I was remembering loving it 25 years ago and wondering if what I had loved was still there. It was.

We Will All Be Received publishes October 14 (Breakwater Books).


BY Prajwala Dixit

MARCH/APRIL: UGADI It is a March morning in Bengaluru, India. Summer is just starting to set in, making its warm presence felt. As a light breeze gusts along, mango trees…

Is a seal a fish?

We’ve often heard that none less than the Pope, or a pope, or the Bishop, or a bishop, decreed that seals were fish – not meat – opening a food…