Interview With Author Desiree-Anne Martin

Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

My name is Desiree-Anne Martin, born in apartheid South Africa in the 70’s, in Cape Town. I am what the then-government classed as ‘Coloured’ so became aware at a young age of issues such as social injustice, otherness, discrimination and separateness. I am currently a practising counsellor, published author and poet and public speaker, hellbent on destigmatising issues such as addiction, abuse and mental illness. My debut memoir, ‘We Don’t Talk About It.Ever.’ chronicles my life from birth until a few years ago and unearths the trauma, dysfunction, addiction and toxicity that shaped me and led me to becoming an intravenous heroin addict and sex worker. It is, however, a story of hope and redemption. One of my mantras is: there is hope, always. And my book is testament to this.

What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?

My book is based on my real, lived experiences and recollections of growing up in a family rotting with dysfunction, addiction and domestic violence. It recounts growing up, filled with insecurities based on my skin colour being “wrong” and my hair not being straight enough – like my mother’s fair skin and straight, fine hair – and not being able to manage the intensity of my emotions so turning to the full spectrum of addictions. I found a chemical solution to every emotional problem. It also talks to the struggles one faces in recovery and the battles one endures inside one’s own mind when one has a grocery list of mental illness to deal with on a daily basis.

What inspires/inspired your creativity?

With my memoir, I felt compelled to speak my truth. I am the reluctant recipient of a legacy of secret-keeping, lies and dysfunction. It was time for that to end. So, I decided to open that can of worms and now there are worms everywhere! Ultimately, my deep desire to demolish the painful patterns of the past inspired my creativity.

How do you deal with creative block?

I love free writing as a tool to unblock my own stuckness. Reading other people’s work also inspires me to write, and write well. But sometimes, I have to give in to the fact that “it” is just not going to flow so I stop and will return to writing when the Muses call my name.

What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?

Cringe! I am guilty of so many writing sins! I read and edit as I write which leaves me feeling like my work sucks lemons. As does listening to that ever-present “critical voice” that tells me I’m a fraud and a fake and not a writer. Not allowing other people to read my work is a grievous error (for fear of negative feedback). And not getting a proofreader and editor to go through your manuscript is just unforgivable.

What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?

  • I received an email from a woman who took my book with her when she was admitted to a psychiatric facility. She wrote to tell me that she read it five times, read parts of it to her psychiatrist and psychologist which enabled her to open up dialogues about things she has never been able to speak about before. She went on to say it had been painful yet cathartic, liberating and hopeful. It was the best feedback I had ever received. The woman attended a talk I gave about a week later and just gave me a hug and said, “thank you.”
  • I have not had a bad review about my book yet (fingers crossed).
  • The most surprising was that most of my family members have not read the book and yet were claiming that it was filled with lies. Denial, much?

Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?

I aim to strike a balance between the two. I am debilitated by perfectionism so need to be happy with the quality of my writing and what I am putting out in the world, the story I am telling. But I also need for that story to resonate with just one person; offer hope or renewed faith to just one reader. That, to me, is being of service. Not just telling a story for the sake of it but so that it has some – even if it is minor and immeasurable – impact on the way the reader thinks or feels.

What role do emotions play in creativity?

Writing, to me, is an entirely emotional process. I don’t believe you can separate emotions from creativity. Well, I can’t. I am utterly vulnerable on the page. I want the reader to feel what I felt, see what I saw, smell what I smelt, be in that very place and space in time. I want my words to resonate deeply with my readers; to touch, move, inspire. I hope I achieve this successfully in my writing.

What are your plans for future books?

I have an idea ruminating at the moment but it isn’t quite fully formed. I’m kind of half-pregnant with a book idea! But I plan on deliberately creating space to write next year so hopefully it can develop into something with truth, heart and soul.

Tell us some quirky facts about yourself

I believe that chocolate, caffeine, nicotine and bacon are the four major food groups. I sleepwalk sometimes. My idea of hell is a world without books, language and expression. Oh, and cockroaches are a disgusting cosmic joke.


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