Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Witchdoctor's Bones by Lisa De Nikolits: Interview with Excerpt



Welcome! Thanks for stopping by.  It’s wonderful to get this chance to find out a little about you and your work.  J  What books have most influenced your life?
A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith, Cannery Row and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, The Shipping News by Annie Proulx, The Stand by Stephen King, Weaveworld by Cliver Barker, Feast of Snakes by Harry Crews and Cosmo by Spencer Gordon.

I love characters who are strong but vulnerable, brave but easily hurt, losers who end up having moments of triumph, people who will break your heart and not let you comfort them.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a novelist. Call it arrogance or the delusion of youth but I somehow always thought I just would be one! Had I realized it would take so long and be such a hard road, I might have been quite depressed! Good thing I didn’t know. When I was young, I was convinced that I was Emily Brontë in a former life and that why I was born to write.

What group did you hang out with in high school?
Do you play any sports?

I’ve combined these two questions into one, which I hope is alright! I never hung out with groups at school and I only participated in solo sports such as swimming. I hated group things and I have a very clear memory of a summer camp, with me sitting under the bleachers, eating my sandwich and reading a book. I loved horse riding and I was a keen show jumper. I also loved karate and got my brown belt. It’s a regret of my life that I never got my black belt (I might still go back and try to get that). I definitely like solo pursuits. I like writing alone too, I don’t like being part of a writing group although I do love going to writing workshops. I am a very solitary person by nature which people find surprising because when I’m in a group, I appear very at ease and confident and happy. And I am confident and happy but I can only be in groups for very small periods of time as I find my energy is very quickly depleted. I don’t have party staying power! And I feel bad about this, as if I am letting people down, but that’s just who I am, primarily very solitary. I like playing the classical guitar and I take lessons and practice every day – again, it’s something I can do by myself!

Do you have any suggestions for beginning writers? If so, what are they?

Figure out the best way for you to learn the craft. I was told from a very young age that I was a natural writer and that effectively put a stranglehold on my learning because I already thought I knew everything. As I mentioned, I’m not a good participant of writers group, so that’s not how I learn but I attend workshops, I read books on writing style, on creating characters, on grammar and perspective. I read blogs on writing and I’ve always got my Tips Radar out there for becoming a better writer. For example, I don’t write romance but I attended a great workshop hosted by the Toronto Romance Writers and I learned a great deal; to study the dialogue used in TV and movies and read the descriptions of movies. I love conferences and writing festivals; I went to the Bloody Words Conference and learned about the plot structure of novel from Caro Soles. She used the story of Cinderella to break down a story and it was hugely helpful. So, find out what works best for you, if you’re a group person, find a good writing group. If you like to work solo, like I do, then find workshops, books and online blogs. 

Do you have a milestone birthday coming up? If so, how are you approaching it?
I’m going to be 50 in just over two years and it just seems amazing, that I’m this old! Now I understand when people say ‘how did this happen?’

I know I’ve done so much in my life but you don’t stand on the top of the mountain of a birthday and see your whole life stretched out below you, you only see the tiny patch of land you’re standing on and then you ask yourself, is this tiny patch of land all I’ve got to show for all these years? I wish I could see the whole mountain all the time, that way I could see how high I’ve climbed, because then the number 50 would make much more sense!

If you could apologize to someone in your past, who would it be?
I would apologize to my sister for not being someone she could ‘play’ with when we were young. I always had my nose in a book and I neglected her. I feel bad about that. I remember I tried to punch some guy on the nose when I thought he had insulted her, so I always defended her but I never hung out with her enough when she wanted me to.

How do you react to a bad review of your book?
Oh… I feel very sad. I feel as if I’m a poor writer and I feel tainted by the poor report card. My spirits deflate and it takes some doing, to bounce back. Somehow I remember all the bad reviews much more clearly than all the good ones – why is that?

Who should play you in a film of your life? 
Helen Hunt or Claire Danes. They both have a matter-of-factness that I can relate to and they are both fairly blunt and self-contained. I feel as if I am very blunt person at times, I have to be careful what I say. I have a tendency to blurt out strange things at inappropriate times.


If you could exchange lives with any of your characters for a day which character would you choose and why?
I know I am one question over the limit but I love this one! I think I’d be Kate, in The Witchdoctor’s Bones. I’d be her in the hot sunshine of Africa, with infinite possibilities ahead of me!

And here’s a small excerpt of Kate, on that perfect day and I thank you for having me as a guest blogger and I very much hope your readers will find my book to be intriguing.


The Witchdoctor's Bones

by Lisa de Nikolits

on Tour July

Book Details:

Genre: Murder Mystery/Thriller

Published by: Inanna Poetry and Fiction Series

Publication Date: May 21st 2014

Number of Pages: 460

ISBN: 1771331267 (ISBN13: 9781771331265)

Purchase Links:


In The Witchdoctor's Bones a group of tourists gather. Some have come to holiday, others to murder. Canadian Kate ditches her two-timing boyfriend and heads to Africa on a whim, hoping for adventure, encountering the unexpected and proving an intrepid adversary to mayhem.

The tour is led by Jono, a Zimbabwean historian and philosopher, and the travelers follow him from Cape Town into the Namib desert, learning ancient secrets of the Bushmen, the power of witchcraft and superstition, and even the origins of Nazi evil.

A ragged bunch ranging from teenagers to retired couples, each member of the group faces their own challenges as third world Africa pits against first world greed, murderous intent and thwarted desire. The battle between goaded vanity and frustrated appetite culminates in a surprising conclusion with shocking twists.

With the bones of consequence easily buried in the shifting sands, a holiday becomes a test of moral character.

Unpredictable, flawed, fun-loving, courageous, bizarre, weak, kind-hearted and loathsome; the individuals in this novel exist beyond the page and into real life.

Seamlessly weaving history and folklore into a plot of loss, passion and intrigue, the reader is kept informed and entertained as this psychological thriller unfolds.

Comparative synopsis:
A psychological, travel-based thriller set in Africa. A work of crime fiction in the continuation of the Agatha Christie tradition but with history and sociological facts woven through the narrative much in the way of The Witch of Babylon by D.J. McIntosh. The Witchdoctor's Bones is a more hard-hitting and literary version of Alexander McCall Smith's Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency but also has aspects of humour, as well as a likeable and appealing female protagonist. The novel is similar to Deon Meyer's tough Heart of the Hunter with a touch of The Devil of Nanking by Mo Hayder, conveyed by the profound darkness of muti murder and witchcraft. The novel also explores how various individuals respond to their emotional pain and how even dangerous men attract women who find them attractive for their own complex psychological reasons. A holiday becomes a test of moral character.


Beautiful, sexy, exciting, mysterious, dangerous and twisted. Those words can be used to describe not only the alluring locations depicted in Lisa de Nikolits’ thrilling novel The Witchdoctor’s Bones, but also some of the eclectic characters fatefully traveling together on a tour bus through South Africa and Namibia. A suspenseful page-turner that will bewitch you until the end.

Warning: You may get hungry reading this book. Some of the exotic dishes described in this novel sound so enticing you may want to risk being on a bus-load of crazy people to sample them.

- Alexander Galant, author of ‘Depth of Deception (A Titanic Murder Mystery)’

"Imagine you've signed up for a low-budget safari in South Africa and find yourself cheek-to-cheek on a battered van with the most bizarre travellers you've ever met - except in some ways they do remind you of characters you've encountered in a late-night screening of Moulin Rouge.

By planting her characters in the untamed landscape of the South African wilderness, de Nikolits has stripped away the niceties and rigours of polite society. You're drawn in. Illicit love, rejected love, misfired love, machinations of all sorts, and all involving characters of dubious integrity and (in some cases) of questionable sanity. Such are the players in Lisa de Nikolits's The Witchdoctor's Bones, who've embarked on a journey that soon seethes with peril (physical and psychological), and not solely because of the wild creatures roaming the bush veld.

Sweet-talking Kate, the Canadian, is the closest thing you get to a heroine in The Witchdoctor's Bones, proof that the best woman will be left standing."

– Doug O'Neill, Canadian Living

Fascinating South African lore comes to life in The Witchdoctor's Bones. De Nikolits gives us more than an intriguing mystery - a look at the dark side of the human soul and the healing power of love.
– D.J. McIntosh, national bestselling author of The Witch of Babylon and The Book of Stolen Tales (Quill + Quire's top thriller for 2013).

Take sixteen travellers from around the world, gather them on a tour bus bumping its way along the rough roads of South Africa and Namibia, add jealousy, sexual obsession, secrets, violence, magic, poison, mental breakdown and the breathtaking arrogance of tourists treating Africa (and Africans) as their playthings, and you have Lisa de Nikolits’ psychological thriller, The Withdoctor’s Bones. As the travellers and their guides slowly reveal their true (and sometimes twisted) natures, the tension ratchets higher and higher in a narrative that draws deeply on African lore and history, with echoes of Christie’s classic Ten Little Indians, Katherine Anne Porter’s Ship of Fools and Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.
- Terri Favro, author of The Proxy Bride

Put together an international group of travelers, each with their own secrets, in a bus touring Africa and you have the makings of a very suspenseful tale! Lisa de Nikolits does a masterful job of drawing the reader in and not letting go until the last delicious word! Set against an exotic backdrop of Africa and Namibia, this story is a great read!
- Joan O'Callaghan, editor and contributing author of Thirteen

“A cast of intriguing characters is thrust together for an African adventure. What results is far more perilous than anyone could have imagined. Against the beautiful backdrop of South Africa and Namibia, danger and death lurk around every bend in the road, as the trip of a lifetime becomes the holiday from hell. Within the pages of The Witchdoctor's Bones multiple mysteries emerge, as Lisa de Nikolits takes the reader on a suspense-filled journey that won't soon be forgotten.”
—Liz Bugg, author of the Calli Barnow Series

Lisa de Nikolits has done it again. This time she shines her characteristically unflinching but loving and humour-filled gaze on the land of her birth, deftly weaving Africa’s ancient witchcraft practices, superstitions, breathtaking beauty and disturbing struggles into the journey of a group of modern-day tourists — whose motives for coming on the “trip of a lifetime” are in some cases highly suspect. The myriad conflicts between the characters are handled so subtly and the physical terrain of southern Africa painted so vividly, you won’t be able to tear yourself away from your own seat on the bus, even as the body count begins to rise.

- Brenda Missen, author of Tell Anna She’s Safe

What I really enjoy about Lisa de Nikolits is her refusal to be pinned down to a particular genre. Besides the fact that The Witchdoctor’s Bones is so different from all her other novels, it’s also incredibly difficult to classify it in its own right. Part travelogue, part psychological thriller, part sociological and anthropological study, The Witchdoctor’s Bones entertains, educates and fascinates all at the same time. It’s a gripping read that draws you into the heart of darkness, both in the literal and figurative sense; the action takes place in untamed Africa, but it’s the darkness in the human heart that de Nikolits portrays with such chilling precision. It’s a page-turner that will keep you biting your nails right up to the bitter end.
- Bianca Marais, http://biancamarais.com/ Musings of a Wannabe Writer

Read an excerpt:

“It’s fifty degrees in the shade,” Richard reported, studying his portable barometer. “That’s 122 Farenheit.”

 “I’m going to have a shower,” Kate said to the others. “It’s too hot for me.”

She stood under the cold water and felt her good spirits return. She pulled on her new African skirt she had bought with Eva and went up to the cool verandah. She settled into a lounge chair and closed her eyes, enjoying the fragrant hot veldt grass and spicy thatch. Others from the group drifted up to join her and they were soon all dozing or writing in their journals.

Kate fell asleep and woke disorientated.

“What time is it?” Sofie asked in a similarly confused waking state, with deep sleep creases on her face.

Kate looked at her watch. “5.45,” she said and her heart skipped a beat.

“I must get my phone,” she said and she dashed off.

“What phone?” Sofie called after her, “wait for me.”

But Kate ran like the wind, her long African skirt whipping in the breeze. The air was hot and dry and filled with a rich mix of evening African smells; campfires, the cooling earth, a hint of the mysterious night to come. Kate dived into her tent and grabbed her phone. Her heart was beating fast but there were no missed calls.

She climbed out of her tent and zipped it up, thinking there was nothing she could do now but wait. What if he didn’t call? Should she call him?

It occurred to her that she was more concerned about the possibility of André not calling than she was about Rydell being the copycat killer of the murdered Rosalee Khumalo.

She sat in the shade on the stone wall. She was wondering whether she should go for a walk when she heard the unmistakeable sound of a car engine and she looked up in disbelief, yes, there was André, spinning into Aba Huag in a bright green Porsche, whipping up a cloud of dust.

She ran up to the boma where he had parked and called him.

 “Don’t you look very lekker in your nice new skirt,” he said and she blushed. He was much better-looking than she remembered, and bigger too.

They stood awkwardly and then Kate advanced a step.

 “I, um, I’m glad you came,” she said.

He flipped his car keys around his fingers and looked around. “Sounded serious, thought I’d better check out what’s going on.”

 “André,” she said suddenly, “I must tell you something…”

“Let me guess,” a scornful voice said, close to them, “your boyfriend has arrived all the way from Canada.” It was Stepfan. “It seems,” he continued, “that our good girl is not quite as good as she made herself out to be. Miss holier-than-thou turns out to be quite risqué after all.”

He smiled smugly and walked off.

André cocked an enquiring eye at Kate.

 “I can explain, let’s go for a walk,” she said, and he nodded, his expression not particularly forgiving. They walked in silence until they had rounded a corner of the sandy road.

“When were you going to tell me?” he asked her.

Kate sighed. “There’s no boyfriend. There was — he’s the reason I’m on this trip. I thought he was going to propose marriage and next thing, I’m listening to him tell me all the advantages of an open relationship.”

“Ah, I see. He had someone in mind then?”

“Yes he did. And so I left him and came on this trip and then on the first night, Jono seemed interested in me and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings by not liking him and so I told him I had a boyfriend. It seemed like the nicer thing to do. And I was right, Jono did, or rather does, have a crush on me, he told me so at dinner, the night before you and I met.”

“Goodness gracious,” André said, and the expression sounded quaint coming from one with so macho an appearance. “You have been having an interesting go of it. Okay, well, fine then. But now, listen, tell me about this serial killer.”

Author Bio:

Originally from South Africa, Lisa de Nikolits has been a Canadian citizen since 2003. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Philosophy and has lived in the U.S.A., Australia and Britain.

Her first novel, The Hungry Mirror, won the 2011 IPPY Awards Gold Medal for Women's Issues Fiction and was long-listed for a ReLit Award.

Her second novel, West of Wawa won the 2012 IPPY Silver Medal Winner for Popular Fiction and was one of Chatelaine's four Editor's Picks.

Her third novel, A Glittering Chaos, launched in Spring 2013 to much acclaim and is about murder, madness, illicit love and poetry.

All books published by Inanna Publications.

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