Winds of Change, Beneath the Lemonwood Tree and The Tangled Reins of Fate

The inspiration behind the Whitaker series began during a rather boring Girl Friday position I landed not long after my eldest son’s fifth birthday, way back in the mid-eighties, living in South Africa.

When I wasn’t busy, I’d sit with my pencil and doodle, write a few sentences on the life I’d left behind in Rhodesia and slowly characters were born, and a novel began to develop.

After leaving school and unsure of my future during the war, I joined the first intake of the Rhodesian Womens Services. I’d always been fascinated by books and films on espionage and though I didn’t go that route I committed three years to Top Secret service in cyphers in the Corp of Signals, and I loved it.

My dear father was a farmer, and farmers were front-line troops during the bush war, exposed and targets. Because a polo accident had put him in a wheelchair, he was a soft target. My mother had died many years before the war. I obtained permission to let my father know of terrorist activity in the area that may affect him. Forewarned is forearmed. I also worked shift so I drove home as often as I could to be with him in case of an attack on our farmhouse.

Many heart wrenching tales of loss, resilience and heroism came out of that war and why my father survived it was because his staff loved him and protected him. Toward the end of the war a terrorist leader operating in our area had tea with my father, and I happened to be in on the teatime gathering. To sit and chat to the ‘enemy’ in peace time had us both captivated and he told us that my father commanded so much respect, they left him alone. (When you read Muchingara – The One Who Sits, you will be amazed by what he went through and always remained optimistic.)

During that war, as a family, and as individuals, we lost many dear friends and associates. The price of war is high, no matter what war.

So, there I sat and pencilled the first draft of Winds of Change, but alas, my life went in a different direction, and I only came back to the filed pencil drafts thirty years later.

My equine dominated career took a few twists and turns, but for twenty-five years I had my own business. During that time I wrote articles for newspapers and magazines on my passion – horses, but in the back of my mind, the desire to tell the world about Rhodesia, its colourful, warm peoples, the war from both points of view, and the wonderful characters I met during my time in the services remained in the pigeon holes of my mind yearning for the moment I could pull the scribbles from the file and create a novel.

However, an employee, who became a great friend, asked if I’d write her astounding life story. Her story was my debut novel – Who Are You? Later revised with a new cover and name, and launched as Don’t Blame Me. It took three years to complete that novel. I wondered what was wrong with me and why after twenty odd edits, it had taken so long. Then I discovered Ernest Hemmingway’s great novel The Old Man and the Sea, had over thirty edits. I understood that writing a well written tale is a long and lonely task.