Writer Marli Roode has almost finished her second novel, is working on a collection of poetry and is contemplating tackling a screenplay for her next project.
Her debut novel, Call It Dog, was shortlisted for the international Dylan Thomas Prize in 2013, and saw the UK’s Guardian describe her as “an astute and unusually gifted observer”.
Call It Dog was set amid the anti-apartheid riots in 2008 and features a journalist now living in London who returns to South Africa when her father is accused of murdering a black man.
Roode herself now lives in the UK and was a journalist before becoming a novelist, but that’s where the similarities end. “Thankfully the novel is not an autobiography,” she says. “But I did draw on my experience of being caught between two countries, of wondering where home is.”
For Roode, writing is both a way of exploring worlds she’s never experienced – the worlds of other people – and trying to understand her own. “It’s a way of getting away from myself, which I suspect most writers enjoy, and getting back to myself.”
She was born in Pretoria and became seriously interested in writing at Pretoria High School for Girls. At 17 she moved to England and studied philosophy and literature at Warwick University.
“The writing I most enjoy is writing that is trying for something true,” she says. “As a result, accountability, identity and what home means are important themes for me. I suspect my work will always feature questions about home, characters who are displaced: writing is how I got back to South Africa, even when I was sitting in a damp basement flat in London. It’s my way home.”
Her second novel, Subject, Object, is set in London and deals with the risks inherent in modern relationships.
Last year she held the Fellowship in Creative Writing at Manchester University and spoke at the Edinburgh International Literary Festival and the Open Book Festival in Cape Town. Her short stories have been shortlisted for both the Bristol Prize and the Bridport Prize. — Lesley Stones