Congratulations to Caroline Gill! With her review of A Fractured Land by Melissa A. Volker Caroline wins the Karavan Press Review Competition and a book voucher worth R1000 for a bookshop of her choice. Thank you to all participants for reading, engaging with Melissa’s novels, A Fractured Land and Shadow Flicker, and submitting your entries for the competition. To show our appreciation, we would like to send you all a copy of Melissa’s next novel, provisionally titled Switchfoot, when it becomes available next year. In the meantime, we wish Caroline happy book buying and reading!
Please join Karavan Press authors, Dawn Garisch and Melissa A. Volker, for an event at this year’s Prince Albert Leesfees:
SEE THINGS DIFFERENTLY
SATURDAY, 2 November | 14:00 – 14:45
Melissa A. Volker, A Fractured Land and Shadow Flicker (“Expect eco-fireworks and literary Happy Ever Afters!”), and Dawn Garisch, Breaking Milk, (“an evocative exploration of the divisions and connections between humans, animals and the environment”) discuss their novels with writer, editor, literary critic and publisher, Karina M. Szczurek
Venue: Jans Rautenbach Schouwburg
Ticket price: R40pp
To buy tickets, click here: Prince Albert Leesfees
Local eco-romance novel will blow you away
There are no blurred lines between the good and bad guys who all get their just desserts – cynical readers must bear in mind that Volker’s genre is romance rather than noir
By Barbara Erasmus
Many South Africans will identify with the heroine of Melissa Volker’s debut novel Shadow Flicker – she experiences panic attacks.
But unlike the gender-based violence currently grabbing the headlines, hers aren’t triggered by rape or murder – they date back to a grisly shark encounter.
This is not the only unexpected aspect in this absorbing debut novel, the first release by Karavan Press, the publishing house recently established in Cape Town by Karina M Szczurek, editor, writer and critic.
Publishing books is a brave venture in an industry struggling internationally in the face of the digital onslaught but Szczurek is well-known in local literary circles, not only through her marriage to André Brink. She is determined to nurture writers who may have been overlooked by mainstream publishers.
Shadow Flicker, the novel selected to kick-start this new venture, is classified as an eco-romance, a deserving winner of the Strelitzia Award in 2017, given to the most promising manuscript by ROSA – the local Romance Writers organisation.
Volker explains that the difference between a love story and romance is that the latter has a happy ending – a refreshing change in the current gloom. Her novel has the obligatory romantic ingredients – a good-looking, sexy hero and heroine ranged against a cast of suitably corrupt predators, out to enrich themselves by any means possible. Evocative descriptions lift the story above the commonplace, as well as the well-researched environmental issues it explores. Volker also writes a regular blog about surfing and skilfully incorporates her knowledge of the sport into the novel…
Continue reading review: Sunday Times
“On Saturday mornings, Kate and her dad used to wake up early and surf for hours at Muizenberg.”
Kate, the protagonist of Shadow Flicker by Melissa A. Volker, grows up in Muizenberg and becomes a surfing champion before a tragedy puts a stop to her career. Years later, she returns to the sea to face her trauma and to find love and healing.
Last night, Shadow Flicker‘s author visited Muizenberg, the place where she usually catches waves as a SUP champion, to launch her novel at her local surf shop, Xpression on the Beach.
The launch was hosted by surf legend Gary Van Rooyen. Melissa was in conversation with surfer, writer and historian Glen Thompson. Many friends from the surfing and literary worlds joined us for the special occasion, a kind of homecoming for the author and her novel’s protagonist.
A scene in Shadow Flicker is set in the St Francis Brewing Company and Melissa brought a few beers to share with her readers to give them an actual taste of the novel.
Thank you to Gary and all the other wonderful people at Xpression on the Beach for being such generous and enthusiastic hosts, Glen for leading a fascinating conversation and supporting Melissa and Karavan Press, to all surfers/readers who came to celebrate with us, and to Melissa, whose literary wave is becoming more and more impressive with every day!
Next stop for Melissa and Shadow Flicker: Fish Hoek Public Library, Friday, 30 August, 10am. Come and join us for books and tea!
An Eco-Romance to keep you on the edge of your seat.
I didn’t plan to read Shadow Flicker in one sitting. I thought I’d read a chapter before I went to bed. At midnight, I turned the last page and breathed out!
Melissa A. Volker took me on an unexpected roller coaster ride. Her protagonist, the vulnerable Kate Petersen, has a secret and she means to keep it. On a renewable energy assignment in an Eastern Cape surfing village, Kate’s resolve is challenged and she has to dig deep in order to hold everything together. She takes a risk and does not tell her boss that he is sending her into the very spot where the tragedy which has shaped her life actually happened.
Kate arrives in St Francis Bay, ready to tackle the inevitable opposition to her company’s planned wind farm. The widowed Matthew Sykes, local vet and surfer, proves to be a distraction, and she tries to ignore him at first…
Local residents begin their protest peacefully. But soon this develops into something more sinister, as other agendas surface. Kate is forced to face her worst fears and her secret is about to be exposed to the one person she’s come to care about. Her unexpected strength lifts this novel into a heroine’s journey.
As the drama develops, it becomes clear that other people have secrets too. The stakes are high for Kate. Both her job and her new relationship are under threat. What she doesn’t realise is that her life is in danger too…
Volker is a trail blazer in the Eco-Romance genre. Her gentle voice is unexpectedly powerful. Thorough research, well rounded characters, and a nail biting plot nudge the readers to sit up and take note.
I, for one, will be on the lookout for her next offering.
Gail Gilbride is the author of Under the African Sun.
Review also posted on Goodreads.
I had been hoping to interview Melissa A. Volker at a literary event for years. I had no idea that when it finally happened, I would be speaking to her about her life and writing as her publisher, but that made the occasion even more special.
Set in the Great Karoo, in Graaff-Reinet, A Fractured Land looked at home in the Little Karoo and received a very warm welcome.
Melissa and I first heard the term “Up Lit” from Kate Mallinder and, immediately, we both felt that it applied exceptionally well to Melissa’s novels. They are books which focus on kindness, empathy and a sense of community without shying away from difficult topics such as divorce, debt, grief, addiction or mental illness. They are stories of “redemption” and “second chances”. Above all, they are romances. In both novels, Melissa tackles vital environmental topics (fracking and wind energy respectively). Her protagonists find love while at the same time having to find some form of common ground when they end up on opposing sides of these environmental issues, as Melissa explained during our event. We also spoke about the innocence of falling in love, surfing, strong female characters, music, and perseverance. We had great fun talking to each other and engaging with the readers who came to listen to our conversation.
We want to thank the Montagu Book Festival for hosting us, the Montagu Bookshop for selling our books, and all who attended our session for your infectious enthusiasm and for sharing the love of reading with us. May there be many more such joyous and inspiring occasions!
Hope to see you all in Montagu next year!
In our author interview, Melissa told us about the place surfing holds in her life:
… I suspect it’s more of an obsession, a compulsion, much like writing, but possibly less plagued by self-doubt? I’ve been married to a surfer for more than twenty years, and initially I acquired a good beachside understanding of things. But four years ago, I stepped off the beach and learned to surf a stand-up paddle board. I have not looked back; I now plan my week around the surf report. Surfing is a most empowering experience; it has taught me that I am stronger and braver than I ever thought. I am grateful to have the opportunity to be in the water whenever it presents itself.
Significantly, the first editor who did NOT reject my writing was Calvin Bradley, of Zigzag Surfing Magazine. I entered a competition called Write To Surf, and wrote a story about my life as a surf widow called ‘The Thinking Girls Guide to Life with a Surfer‘. I didn’t win the competition, but they published the story online. It was my first ever published story and when it got over 1000 likes on Facebook I was beyond stoked. It’s been epic to subsequently write pieces for The Inertia, Zigzag and Wavescape, especially when I have had the opportunity to write about women’s interests in surfing. We have a bunch of smart and funny surf writers in South Africa and I enjoy reading their work and learning from them as well.
In some ways surfing is like writing. It’s almost impossible to impress your will upon a wave, instead you have to be in tune with it and adapt your movement to the possibilities the wave is revealing to you. Much like a story. Sometimes you can’t impress your will upon it or force it in a certain direction. You have to be present, mindful and in tune with the possibilities that lie before you on the page.
Surfing features strongly in Shadow Flicker. It plays an important role in the protagonists’ lives, but both Kate and Matthew have to battle through loss and pain to return to the waves.
Thus, it is with great pleasure that we invite everyone to join us for a launch of Melissa’s Shadow Flicker at the iconic XPRESSION ON THE BEACH: “We are more than just a ‘SUP and Surf Shop’ – We are a community.”
Melissa will be in conversation with surfer, writer & historian Glen Thompson, who had this to say about the novel:
Melissa A. Volker deftly weaves romance, eco-fiction and surf noir into a gripping saga in Shadow Flicker. In the small coastal village made popular by The Endless Summer, the restless wind brings waves, haunted memories, and the promise of a green energy future. Volker takes you to the heart of the turbulence.
We can’t wait to catch this wave! See you on the beach …
Review or comment on Shadow Flicker or A Fractured Land on an online platform of your choice (your blog or website, etc.), send the link to your post to firstname.lastname@example.org, and stand a chance to WIN a book voucher worth R1000* for a South African bookshop of your choice.
Reviews/comments have to be at least 150 words long to qualify.
We encourage reviews/comments that reflect your true opinions and feelings about the novels. (But we strongly discourage unkindness!)
Where applicable, use #KaravanPressReviewCompetition.
Use ‘Karavan Press Review Competition’ for the subject line of your email containing the link to your review/comment post.**
We will publish all eligible entries on karavanpress.com.
The winner will be drawn at random from all eligible entries.
Competition ends on 15 October 2019.
The winner will be announced on 16 October 2019.
*The book voucher is sponsored by Karavan Press.
**Your email address will not be used for any other purposes than to communicate with you should you win the competition.
It was quite a while ago that Melissa A. Volker and I sat at Jonkerhuis, discussing over cake and coffee a version of the manuscript that would eventually become her novel Shadow Flicker. During that conversation, I mentioned my dream of becoming a publisher. I also told her that I’d loved her novel; that it needed some work, but that I was convinced it would be published one day and that she should not give up on it… Over the years that I have known Melissa and her writing, I have also been telling her that one day I would be attending her launch at the Book Lounge.
Shadow Flicker has been published, and last night, this beautiful novel was launched at the Book Lounge like I have always known it would be. What I could not have predicted was that I would be the publisher launching it with her, and that it would be a first for both of us. But we all know that the best stories are full of unexpected twists and turns, and that they have satisfying endings. And this one is only a beginning, for Melissa and for Karavan Press.
The Book Lounge was packed for the event last night, the warmth of the welcome palpable throughout the evening. Melissa was in conversation with Jacqui L’Ange, the author of the exquisite The Seed Thief.
‘I’m usually not a romance reader, but I gobbled these up. These are eco-romances. But they are also thrillers. They are eco-romance thrillers,’ said Jacqui, coining a wonderful term that describes Melissa’s work.
‘I would like readers to understand the issues without having to listen to an environmental lecture,’ Melissa explained. ‘If you package it all into a good story, you can get the word out.’
And a good story is what Melissa tells, in A Fractured Land and Shadow Flicker. May there be many, many more. For her and Karavan Press!
‘I hope that my writing makes people smile,’ Melissa said. It does. Thank you!
Listen to Melissa A. Volker talking to John Maytham about romance, renewable energy and the happy ever after: CapeTalk interview with Melissa A. Volker.