Winner of the Arthur C Clarke Award

“Ideas develop like polaroids in my head. I always know my beginnings and my endings.”
Lauren Beukes

About

Lauren Beukes is the award-winning and internationally best-selling South African author of The Shining Girls, Zoo City and Afterland, among other works. Her novels have been published in 24 countries and are being adapted for film and TV. She’s also a comics writer, screenwriter, journalist and documentary maker.

Lauren is a former feature journalist, who covered electricity cable thieves, HIV+ beauty pageants, metro cops and homeless sex workers. She’s worked in film and TV, as the director of Glitterboys & Ganglands, a documentary which won Best LGBTI Film at the Atlanta Black Film Festival, and as showrunner and head writer on South Africa’s first half hour animated TV show, Pax Afrika, which ran for 104 episodes on SABC.

Her comics work includes the original horror series, Survivors’ Club with Dale Halvorsen and Ryan Kelly and the New York Times best-selling, Fairest: The Hidden Kingdom a Japanese horror remix of Rapunzel with artist Inaki, as well as The “Trouble With Cats”, a Wonder Woman short set in Soweto with Mike Maihack.

She’s the author of five critically acclaimed high concept novels, Moxyland, Zoo City, The Shining Girls, Broken Monsters and Afterland, a short story collection, Slipping, and a pop-history, Maverick: Extraordinary Women From South Africa’s Past.

Her work has been hailed by the likes of Stephen King, Gillian Flynn, George R.R. Martin. She has won several awards over the last ten years, including The Arthur C Clarke Award, The University of Johannesburg Prize, the Strand Critics Choice Award, The Kitschies Red Tentacle, The August Derleth Prize, RT Thriller of the Year, Exclusive Books Booksellers Choice Award and the prestigious Mbokodo Award for women in the creative arts from South Africa’s Department of Arts and Culture.

She’s given talks on storytelling at tech conferences and literary festivals around the world, including Design Indaba, TEDx Johannesburg, Webstock and D-Construct. Lauren has also spearheaded charity art show fundraisers for all her books, raising R100 000 for RapeCrisis and R350 000 for kids lit org, Book Dash.

When she’s not travelling for research from Detroit to Zagreb, Port-au-Prince to Antarctica, she lives in Cape Town, South Africa with her daughter and two trouble cats.

Frequently Asked Questions

Beukes, rhymes with “mucus”. Or, if you prefer, “George Lucas”. (That’s the anglicised version, of course. The correct Afrikaans pronunciation is slightly different, but I grew up English-speaking).

It’s the result of a lot of travelling, two years living in the US, and subconsciously trying to echo other people when I’m talking to them. Over time, it’s morphed into some mid-Atlantic bastard hybrid.

Check my schedule to see if I’m in your part of the world, or ask my local indie bookstore in Cape Town, The Book Lounge to mail you one. You can get them on booklounge@gmail.com. You’ll have to prepay for the book + postage from South Africa, and please specify exactly how you’d like it signed. Eg, just signed, or signed and dated, or signed with a message or with a customized personal message.. It’s fairly expensive, but I can personalize the message however you like and you’re supporting a wonderful independent book store!

I have done Skype sessions with students (including NYU most recently) and can often make time to accommodate this. Get your lecturer/teacher/prof to get in touch with me direct via the contact page to check my availability.

I can’t help with essays or assignments, and the real conversation is between you and the text anyway. It’s subjective interpretation.

I’m not available for student interviews unless it’s going to be published somewhere, only because interviews are so time consuming and a lot of work. You’re welcome to quote from previous interviews I’ve done (with due credit to the source and referencing).

Everywhere. Conversations, observations, watching the cultural shifts and fracture points and weirdnesses in the world. The inside of my head is less a memory palace and more of a hoarder house; full of strange and useless things that sometimes, if I’m lucky, come together in interesting and surprising ways.

I go into a shared studio with friends every day, which gives me the structure of a work day and social, because I find writing lonely and frustrating and it’s good to have other people around who understand what it’s like. I try to write 1000 words a day and balance it with seeing friends, getting outside, exercise, eating well, sleeping enough, doing all the admin, being a mom.

I always know my beginnings and my endings, but the subconscious magic of writing happens in the spaces between, where characters veer off in a direction you hadn’t anticipated, you find a clue you left yourself in an earlier chapter that ties everything together, the story shifts and you have to adapt and hold it all together.

The most important thing for me is finishing the first draft. Everything is fixable but you only know what you’re working with when you have the full shape of the thing in front of you, like doing taxidermy in the dark.

Finish the damn book. Nothing else matters. Stop second-guessing yourself and write it through to the end. You don’t know what you have until you’ve finished it. You don’t know how to fix it until it’s all down on the page.

This isn’t what I do. I’m not a star-maker or a fairy godmother. I don’t have this kind of power. You need professional help. Get an agent, or approach a publisher directly.

There are a lot of resources online about how to do this, but check out Writer Beware and the Writers & Artists Yearbook for advice. Do your research, follow the guidelines on their website, write a killer query letter, be polite, be gracious if you’re rejected, and you will be, a lot, before you get anywhere.

Again, this isn’t what I do. I can’t help you. I’m struggling to keep up with my own projects, and because writing is so hard and lonely and long and we have finite hours in the short starburst of our lives, I want to work on the things that matter to me, that are deeply personal and from my own bloody heart.

If your idea has merit and you have the talent and experience, you should write it yourself. If you don’t think you can write it yourself, you should probably let it go. Professional ghostwriters are expensive and most published writers are working on writing their own ideas. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but finding a suitable collaborator is a tricky enterprise. It’s definitely not me.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was five years old and it only took thirty years for me to be able to pursue that full time. Most writers are not full time writers. They have a day job, or multiple day jobs, or supportive partners or family, which was certainly the case for me.

I put it down to 10% talent, 10% sheer bloody luck and 80% hard work and determination.

My career changed after I won the Arthur C Clarke Award AND I had a killer idea to pitch, the skill to pull it off, and the right agent (my fourth, after a series of people who didn’t get my work) who knew how to sell it.

But I’d published three books by then, in between my day jobs and having a baby, three books over five years, which got great reviews but never the numbers to make it big.

You have to keep at it. You have to want it. You have to do it anyway.

You can make your own luck to a certain extent. Be open-minded, be friendly, be cheeky, be nice, be professional, put yourself out there. But you need the heart and guts to keep doing it, even when you fail, and fail again.

Journalism. It’s a backstage pass to the world, you’ll be exposed to people and places and ideas, you’ll develop an ear for dialogue and how real people speak by transcribing interviews and you’ll be writing stories every day. Sure, it might be a story about parking meters, but it’s honing your craft. To be a better writer, you need to practice writing as much as you can and if you can get paid to do it, so much the better.

Journalism as a career is also horribly paid with an uncertain future, so you’ll get a real taste of the novelist’s life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Beukes, rhymes with “mucus”. Or, if you prefer, “George Lucas”. (That’s the anglicised version, of course. The correct Afrikaans pronunciation is slightly different, but I grew up English-speaking).

It’s the result of a lot of travelling, two years living in the US, and subconsciously trying to echo other people when I’m talking to them. Over time, it’s morphed into some mid-Atlantic bastard hybrid.

Check my schedule to see if I’m in your part of the world, or ask my local indie bookstore in Cape Town, The Book Lounge to mail you one. You can get them on booklounge@gmail.com. You’ll have to prepay for the book + postage from South Africa, and please specify exactly how you’d like it signed. Eg, just signed, or signed and dated, or signed with a message or with a customized personal message.. It’s fairly expensive, but I can personalize the message however you like and you’re supporting a wonderful independent book store!

I have done Skype sessions with students (including NYU most recently) and can often make time to accommodate this. Get your lecturer/teacher/prof to get in touch with me direct via the contact page to check my availability.

I can’t help with essays or assignments, and the real conversation is between you and the text anyway. It’s subjective interpretation.

I’m not available for student interviews unless it’s going to be published somewhere, only because interviews are so time consuming and a lot of work. You’re welcome to quote from previous interviews I’ve done (with due credit to the source and referencing).

Everywhere. Conversations, observations, watching the cultural shifts and fracture points and weirdnesses in the world. The inside of my head is less a memory palace and more of a hoarder house; full of strange and useless things that sometimes, if I’m lucky, come together in interesting and surprising ways.

I go into a shared studio with friends every day, which gives me the structure of a work day and social, because I find writing lonely and frustrating and it’s good to have other people around who understand what it’s like. I try to write 1000 words a day and balance it with seeing friends, getting outside, exercise, eating well, sleeping enough, doing all the admin, being a mom.

I always know my beginnings and my endings, but the subconscious magic of writing happens in the spaces between, where characters veer off in a direction you hadn’t anticipated, you find a clue you left yourself in an earlier chapter that ties everything together, the story shifts and you have to adapt and hold it all together.

The most important thing for me is finishing the first draft. Everything is fixable but you only know what you’re working with when you have the full shape of the thing in front of you, like doing taxidermy in the dark.

Finish the damn book. Nothing else matters. Stop second-guessing yourself and write it through to the end. You don’t know what you have until you’ve finished it. You don’t know how to fix it until it’s all down on the page.

This isn’t what I do. I’m not a star-maker or a fairy godmother. I don’t have this kind of power. You need professional help. Get an agent, or approach a publisher directly.

There are a lot of resources online about how to do this, but check out Writer Beware and the Writers & Artists Yearbook for advice. Do your research, follow the guidelines on their website, write a killer query letter, be polite, be gracious if you’re rejected, and you will be, a lot, before you get anywhere.

Again, this isn’t what I do. I can’t help you. I’m struggling to keep up with my own projects, and because writing is so hard and lonely and long and we have finite hours in the short starburst of our lives, I want to work on the things that matter to me, that are deeply personal and from my own bloody heart.

If your idea has merit and you have the talent and experience, you should write it yourself. If you don’t think you can write it yourself, you should probably let it go. Professional ghostwriters are expensive and most published writers are working on writing their own ideas. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but finding a suitable collaborator is a tricky enterprise. It’s definitely not me.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was five years old and it only took thirty years for me to be able to pursue that full time. Most writers are not full time writers. They have a day job, or multiple day jobs, or supportive partners or family, which was certainly the case for me.

I put it down to 10% talent, 10% sheer bloody luck and 80% hard work and determination.

My career changed after I won the Arthur C Clarke Award AND I had a killer idea to pitch, the skill to pull it off, and the right agent (my fourth, after a series of people who didn’t get my work) who knew how to sell it.

But I’d published three books by then, in between my day jobs and having a baby, three books over five years, which got great reviews but never the numbers to make it big.

You have to keep at it. You have to want it. You have to do it anyway.

You can make your own luck to a certain extent. Be open-minded, be friendly, be cheeky, be nice, be professional, put yourself out there. But you need the heart and guts to keep doing it, even when you fail, and fail again.

Journalism. It’s a backstage pass to the world, you’ll be exposed to people and places and ideas, you’ll develop an ear for dialogue and how real people speak by transcribing interviews and you’ll be writing stories every day. Sure, it might be a story about parking meters, but it’s honing your craft. To be a better writer, you need to practice writing as much as you can and if you can get paid to do it, so much the better.

Journalism as a career is also horribly paid with an uncertain future, so you’ll get a real taste of the novelist’s life.