Ceridwen Dovey

What is it like to be a young writer?

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Dovey feels that she stumbled into success.

Ceridwen Dovey

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 like to be a young writer

Dovey: I think my experience has probably been very different from a lot of other young writers because I actually initially was published in South Africa. Penguin South Africa took it on, and the publishing industry in South Africa is tiny. You don’t have agents. I mean I literally called them up on the phone and was like, “I’ve got a manuscript. Would you read it?” And they were like, “Sure. Send it in.” And so it was a very sort of localized, personal experience there. And when they took it on I was like, “Oh that’s great. It’ll be published in South Africa. You know maybe 10 people will read it,” because there’s such a small reading public there who can actually afford to buy books as well, and then who read in English. And then they actually sold it on to the UK and to America, and that’s the only reason then that I got an agent or anything. So I sort of feel like I came into this in quite a sort of safe environment. Because I felt, you know, the Penguin South Africa people were very . . . just very good to me. So I feel mostly just very privileged, I guess.

Recorded on: 12/6/07