I’m really pleased to be able to write you this letter.
My novel, The God Who Made Mistakes, was the culmination of a lengthy writing process over the past two years. The first and second incarnations under the working titles, What Will We Do About Frikkie and The Broken Rainbow were discarded almost in their entirety. I knew, as did my publisher and editor, that I could write a much better book. So I started again a little more than a year ago, trying to write once more with the freedom with which I wrote Dying in New York and White Wahala.
I suspect most writers are quite glad when they receive recognition and I am no different. However, I have come to learn that I write best when I write for myself, with little regard for what the readers might say and without wringing my hands over looming deadlines. It was in that spirit that I wrote The God Who Made Mistakes. The title came to me perhaps half way through the first draft and it sounded just right. The novel by this time was shaping up to be the story of Themba Hlatshwayo, a married man struggling to come to terms with his sexuality.
The possibilities of the story intrigued me and I had the privilege of speaking to a number of gay men who told me about the trajectory their lives had taken up until that point. I was struck by the similarities between them, although they were of different races and from different backgrounds. Their mothers, whether supportive or not of their sons’ choices, all had an inordinate impact upon their sons, which clearly persists until this day. All the men had, with some reluctance, turned their backs on the church and now found themselves missing the rituals and sense of belonging it afforded them. It would be more correct to say that it was the church that had turned its back on them and I’ve tried to reflect this through the eyes of my characters Pastor Michael and Prophet Makhubela, two men of the cloth who have brief but pivotal moments in the story.
I was told of a night club in Alexandra where gay men socialised and picked up partners. I went there one night expecting to find a discreet and almost exclusive establishment and was surprised to find it packed to the nonexistent rafters, with patrons spilling out into the street. I was kindly invited to a black gay book club in Johannesburg that features in the story as Themba’s place of refuge. I heard whispered stories of married women who discovered too late that their husbands were gay, sometimes bursting in to catch them in the act. Unfortunately, my approaches to these women through third parties never resulted in actual meetings. Perhaps some wounds are still too raw. I left it to Ayanda, Themba’s wife, to voice her horror and confusion on their behalf.
Thank you once again for your kindness and support. I hope you enjoy reading The God Who Made Mistakes as much as I enjoyed writing it.