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My No Entry interview on Jera's Jamboree

 Jera's Jamboree is a fun online place to visit with a plethora of information put out by Shaz, the owner of Jera's Jamboree. Shaz describes her site as "a mix of posts with the focus on helping you to unwind – time out from the pressures of everyday life." There's an original combination of posts about everything from crochet to genealogy and a whole section on... you guessed it ...authors, reviews, book excerpts. I was honored that Jera offered to interview me for her site. 

Hi Gila, welcome to Jera's Jamboree.

Please summarise No Entry in 20 words or less.

In No Entry a teen heroine takes on a murderous elephant poaching ring in South Africa's famous Kruger National Park.

What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?

I wrote four Israel-based novels. They have a lot of variation (one is futuristic, another historical going all the way back to the Ottoman Empire, another migrates between Israel and Canada) but all have strong Middle Eastern settings. One time my writing partner mentioned that many writers are really writing the same book over and over again with different characters. For some reason that really resonated with me and I thought: I don't want to be one of those.

I've always felt the greatest stories transport us to other worlds and that location should be treated as a character in a novel. Immediately I began to consider another location but I was hesitant at first to write a novel that takes place in South Africa as I'm not South African and have not lived there for a long time. But once I had the idea, I couldn't let it go. Then I started thinking about the plight of elephants in South Africa and No Entry was on its way.

How do your characters come into existence Gila? Do they have a bio?

Yes. I tend to write anywhere from one to three chapters for the main characters that I end up deleting. Those chapters are their backstory you might say, or you could call it their bio.

Please tell us about the characters in your story.

All of these characters are purely fictitious and not based on anyone I know.

Yael Amar is a Canadian seventeen-year-old with South African parents. Before the novel begins, she lost her only brother in a terrorist attack. She's an animal conservationist and an environmentalist, a photographer and her particular passion is elephants. She's a brave, survivor, who is unafraid to follow her sense of morality.

Sipho Ndebi is a forest ranger and an artist. He is originally from Mozambique and is still fluent in Portuguese (Mozambique was once upon a time a Portuguese colony). He grew up in a poor family, a member of the Tsonga tribe. He realized there was a higher standard of living to be had over the border in South Africa. He's a leader, devoted to wildlife and sketches in his spare time.

Nadine Young is a seventeen-year-old New Yorker. She's bold and daring and beautiful, someone people admire automatically when they see her but she has an insecure past. Her grades went on a roller coaster in high school and behind her cool façade is an insecure teen who dropped out of school.

Clara Smith is a powerful white woman in South Africa. She was originally an animal conservationist and her good side was overpowered by greed. She's highly efficient, well respected and a maternal aunt to Nadine.

What scene did you enjoy writing the most Gila?

I knew that the ending would be a positive one for the heroine, Yael Amar, and by extensions for elephants and their protectors, but the original ending was far more dramatic. In my mind, it worked really well, but on paper the ending was too "teen James Bond" and I reworked it completely. The final ending does not in any way resemble the first draft and that's completely normal. I'm very happy with the current ending.

Did you do any research? What resources did you use?

I did a fortune of research on elephants, South Africa, Kruger National Park, ivory poaching, the ivory trade and anything related. I used Google, YouTube, interviewing actual South Africans, books, even Kruger Instagram posts. One of the most interesting things I learned that I did not know before was about Woolly Mammoth tusks. Woolly Mammoth ivory is legal and that's bad news for elephants and those trying to protect them. For 20,000 years Woolly Mammoth tusks lay frozen in Sibera and elsewhere—out of reach. They are no longer frozen. Now poachers can claim that illegal elephant ivory is really legal Woolly Mammoth ivory and, unless you're an expert, you cannot tell the difference.

And did you travel to any places? Undergo any new experiences?

Yes, I traveled to South Africa and spent time in Cape Town for a week. It was beautiful. Absolutely, the last time I traveled there I was with small children and this time I was only with my husband. So all of it in that sense was new, the beach, the views, impossible to describe the beauty, though I tried my best in the novel.

Favourite place you go to for inspiration or a favourite activity?

For inspiration I read novels. I go for walks. I find poetry is also very inspiring.

Finally Gila, can you share with us what you are working on now?

I've already drafted the sequel and Yael, Nadine, and Sipho are back in a new elephant conservation program. Unfortunately, it's not all as quiet and peaceful as it appears to be at first and Yael must use all of her resources once again. I'm busy proofreading it. After that, I'm thinking of taking a break and writing a new short story collection as my favorite genre is still the short story.

Thank you for being my guest today. Wishing you success with all your writing projects.

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Friday, 23 February 2024

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