Ceridwen Dovey is a South African born novelist who now lives in New York. After receiving her undergraduate degree from Harvard in 2003, Dovey returned to South Africa to write a novel. Blood Kin, the result of that work, was published in 2007 to critical acclaim: the novel was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. Informed by Dovey's South African roots, the novel tells the story of a fictional military coup from the perspective of the overthrown leader's portraitist, chef, and barber. Dovey is currently completing a PhD in Anthropology at New York University. Dovey doesn't see a conflict between her two passions. "Both anthropology and good fiction are full of thick description and a layering of detail," she says.
Question: What is your creative process
Dovey: Mine is so boring actually. I mean I just . . . This novel I wrote on my roommate’s computer in a flat in Cape Town. And I was too scared to take the computer out of the flat because I was scared it would get stolen. And it was her computer, so I would just sit at the computer in the mornings the same place every day. And I was tutoring high school kids. I had flexible sort of time. And now I’m really struggling to find a routine. I don’t have one at the moment actually with the graduate school and the teaching. It seems to be more the kind of thing that I would need to do over the summer break as sort of a chunk of time that you can get your teeth into something. But I also find that it’s . . . I couldn’t, you know . . . I could only do sort of two to three hours a day, and that’s a good day.
Question: Do you need a routine?
Dovey: I probably do, yeah. I mean there must be a reason why I haven’t figured one out. And I’m sure it’s all about self-protection and fear that you can’t do it again. So you rather just pretend that you don’t have the time to do it than actually sit down and do it, because then you can keep pretending that you can’t do it. You just can’t find the time. (Chuckles)
Question: Where do you go to be your most creative?
Dovey: I eat breakfast. And I, you know, sit down and have second breakfast like a hobbit. And third breakfast, and all these procrastination techniques. Yeah, I guess the inspiration part is really just at the very beginning. And then you’re never to be sort of never, you know, meet your own expectations because as soon as the idea is put down, it becomes muddied and never really is as pristine as it was in your initial excitement about it. So the inspiration parts have all become sort of front loaded for me. And then it’s just a matter of slugging it out until that spark is actually transformed into something more meaningful and lengthy.