Annica Foxcroft was born in colonial Durban, lived for a few years in the Transvaal countryside, and since then has lived and worked in the melting pot of Johannesburg. Along the way she has seen South Africa in various guises. She is the author of the best-selling books ‘There Are Ants in My Sugar‘ and ‘More Ants!‘.
EB: For readers not familiar with your work, could you tell us in 20 words who Annica Foxcroft is?
Annica: A first generation South African, born in Durban during the last World War, in love with this country.
EB: What inspired you to write ‘There Are Ants in My Sugar’?
AF: I got speaker’s cramp, repeatedly telling my stories at dinner parties to new friends who hadn’t heard them. So – thank heavens I was literate!
EB: You wrote about a difficult time in your life, during a painful period in our country’s history. Do you feel that it’s important for people to laugh at the ridiculousness of everyday life – even under some pretty grotty circumstances?
AF: Our country has had its fair share of horror and torture. I don’t feel empowered or uplifted by keeping these memories alive. I love telling stories that make people laugh and revisit the happy, quirky, whimsical happenings in their lives and our history. This usually leads to more happy times – and that gets my vote!
EB: You mentioned in an interview that when you wrote ‘There Are Ants in My Sugar’, you worked on the book in the early morning before work, after work, over weekends, for six weeks – which left you panting and wide eyed. How did the experience of writing ‘More Ants…’ differ to working on your first novel?
AF: Writing ‘There Are Ants in My Sugar’ just poured out of me every moment I had spare. I didn’t intend to write ‘More Ants!’, in fact I wrote a completely different story for the second novel. My Publishers, Thomas Stein, hated it and demanded an ‘Ants’ sequel. I refused, with attitude. My Editor said sequels were tacky and didn’t work. Thomas Stein put their hand on their hip and said, “You’ve obviously never heard of Harry Potter?” People stopped me in the street, at launches, emailed me and phoned me, asking when a sequel was coming out. So, with this unfair pressure.. guess what? ‘More Ants!’ just poured out in another six weeks, almost as though I was taking dictation.
EB: Can we look forward to more fictionalized autobiography from you?
AF: ‘Fictionalized autobiography’ – I love that! And, yes, ‘Ants with Attitude’ is in progress. Due out next year.
EB: What did you read as a child?
AF: As a child I was a voracious reader, astonishing myself as I taught myself to sound letters out to make words. Kipling, Dickens, Shakespeare, The Saint – these were staples in my youth and I roared my way through them all very young so I could get onto archaeology, comparative religion, history and thence to Runes, Bones, Divination, Shamanism and Quantum Physics – for the laywoman.
EB: What are you reading now?
AF: So much fascinating research is being made available in plain English for non-specialists. Unified Theory stuff, Noetics, Genetics, Matter manipulation, NLP, Healing – one needs half a dozen bodies all learning full-time. And then, of course, there’s still my all-time favourite: Terry Pratchett, writer of hilarious fantasy. I reread his novels as an ongoing gentle habit.
EB: Can you tell us a little about your work at the language school, LanguageWorks?
AF: I and my business partner, Ava Venter, have run an extraordinary language school for thirty years, in Johannesburg. Our special interest is in customizing special courses to equip people with language skills in a very short time, and in exciting learning styles. Our Trainers are of many nationalities, offering African languages, English at all levels and for all purposes, Mandarin, German, Afrikaans and the Romance languages. Most important and exciting, though, is that we add in appropriate understanding and
skills to cope successfully with the variety of cultural norms of each language group. Wonderful experiences!
EB: On your website, you mention that you always nurtured three dreams: to be an archaeologist, a good sorcerer, and a writer. Could you tell us about how you came to dream the first two of those three dreams?
AF: From the age of two and a half, my mother read me, for bedtime stories, all the Greek myths. Apart from giving me nightmares, this shaped my curiosity about the past, which led me into my fascination with history and archaeology and, of course, the shape-shifting magic of Druids and Shamans. Thank heavens she didn’t read me stories of bunnies! And so I grew up with three burning ambitions: to be an archaeologist, a sorcerer and a writer. Well, I’m making some progress with the last one! If I could just take more time off work who knows what fun I could have!
EB: ‘There Are Ants in My Sugar’ has made the longlist of titles nominated for the 2010 International IMPAC Dublin Award (hearty congratulations for that!), and it is librarians from around the world who put forward the longlist nominations. This has obviously been an enormous vote of confidence in your storytelling. How has this left you feeling?
AF: I am so hugely grateful to the Johannesburg Library for putting my novels forward for the Dublin Literary Award. The Johburg Library was my home from home, my refuge, the storehouse of endless amazing information, for most of my life, so this vote of confidence from them is hugely moving. This Award is held in high esteem around the planet and I am awed to have been included in the nominations.
Originally posted on Exclus1ves.co.za on 01 February 2010 by Graeme Shackleford