I actually have a couple of Jan's book on my TBR list, Milele Safari and a compilation she put together called Dreamless Roads. I'm working in that direction, but you guys know how TBR lists get.
Jan is here today to tell us about Milele Safari.
Milele Safari – An Eternal Journey …twines around a single day, in an unremarkable border village that snuffs out the lives of four people and shatters many others, only to draw the survivors back to a different time and, perhaps, a hope of atonement and peace. Step out on the journey and discover an Africa that could have been, is and might one day come to be.
My pivotal protagonist in Milele Safari is Sophie Taylor, whose fiancé Tom, dies in tragic circumstances during the central incident that all the other main character storylines revolve around.
I didn’t know everything about Sophie at first and, believe me, it took a while to find out what her backstory was. If I’d had the chance to interview her, this is probably how it would have gone…
JH – Victoria Falls… sorry, Mosi-Oa-Tunya, holds a lot of significance for you. When did you first go there?
ST – It was for my sister’s wedding. I was fourteen and Claire and Grant were living in Zimbabwe, so they booked The Victoria Falls Hotel for the ceremony and reception (Grant was earning mega-bucks working in the Tobacco Exchange back then). The hotel’s a gorgeous place, like stepping back into the Edwardian colonial era. My parents loved it there, so we always started or finished our visits to Claire at the hotel, and flew via Vic Falls International.
JH – And the time you went there with Tom?
ST – (colouring slightly) That was almost 5 years later. I’ve got so many lovely memories of the southern side of the falls in Zimbabwe. That’s why I couldn’t go there in 2007 – I didn’t want to see the hotel again, in case it tarnished my memories. The Zambian side is more interesting anyway, for me. Like walking out to the edge of the cascades – you can’t do that from the Zimbabwe shore.
JH – It certainly is one of the most impressive sights in the world. Going back to your time working in Zambia, was this a gap year thing?
ST – It was, but also a lead-in to my university courses, so it seemed like a good idea to do some teaching assistant work with Voluntary Services Overseas. That all changed of course, after Tom was murdered.
JH – That must have been terrible for you. But why the switch from wanting to be a teacher to going to medical school instead?
ST – It wasn’t a snap decision exactly… I was all over the place after I got back from Zambia, first recovering from the miscarriage and malaria, and then I just fell apart basically – wouldn’t admit I was severely depressed until I broke down completely. Going to uni just wasn’t on the agenda for nearly a year. When I had got my head together a little, I decided that I was interested in learning more about psychiatric conditions and tropical diseases.
JH – Still a bit of a leap though?
ST – Not so much, really. I’d been seeing a lot of Youssef (Jettou, Sophie’s surgeon mentor) as he’d been coming to see me during his sabbatical and we’d been talking about PTSD (1) after I started the EMDR (2) therapy. Plus, both my parents were in the Forces in surgical teams, and Claire was a nurse with CAMEO (3). I was the black sheep of the family for not wanting to go into a medical profession!
JH – Youssef was a big influence on you, I think?
ST – A huge one, yes. When I first met him he was still recovering from a massive burnout that prevented him from carrying on as a mobile-unit surgeon with CAMEO. In fact, he came back to England with me to go into re-hab for alcohol abuse. He could see the signs of what I was going through and how it would lead into that downward spiral. I had no place to hide from him, because he’d been through something similar. He’s a world expert in malaria and yellow fever, and he really helped me get things in perspective over what caused me to miscarry Tom’s baby.
JH – Why was that, Sophie?
ST – (another blush) At the time I was blaming everything that happened on Teresa. She’d suspected I had a dose of malaria and had wanted to test me, but… Well let’s put it this way – I was so antagonistic towards her, I completely ignored her attempts to discuss why I was having so many abdominal problems, before she left for Tanzania. If I’d listened to her, even a little, then there might have been a chance that malaria would have been diagnosed sooner, and the pregnancy might have stabilised.
JH – You blamed Dr. Olatunde for Tom’s death too?
ST – Initially, yes. And if she hadn’t reacted to the situation in the way she did, then perhaps Tom wouldn’t have tried to intervene on her behalf so catastrophically. I couldn’t forgive her for a long, long time afterwards, as she was the catalyst for her own and Tom’s murders. It wasn’t until I met Henry and Helga Zimmerman in London 10 years later, that I began to understand Teresa’s background better, and how that influenced her actions that day.
JH – You were never close to her while you were in Zambia then?
ST – Lord, no! I barely tolerated her because she and Tom were thick as thieves. He used to get really mad with me because I was so rude to her – told me over and over that she was like his big sister. I saw her as a threat because I was jealous of how close she was to Tom.
JH – Even though she was a nun?
ST – I’m not proud of it! I was a stupid kid – what can I say… Plain old green-eyed monster.
JH – Well, thanks for being so honest about it, Sophie – that’s explained a lot!
ST – We can’t like everyone we meet at work. I don’t think she thought much of me either, but then she had more provocation. Can we have a break for a bit, please – I think I need a beer!
JH – Me too! Very thirsty work these interviews…
1 PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder
2 EMDR therapy – eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing. Developed in the late 1980’s, this type of therapy is commonly offered to people recovering from a violent experience and PTSD, particularly for war veterans, or victims of serious assault.
3 CAMEO – Co-ordinated Aid, Medicine and Education Organisation. An entirely fictional logistical umbrella group for several humanitarian organisations working all over the world.
Milele Safari – An Eternal Journey
Available on Amazon
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Twitter handle: @JanHawke
Craig here. Jan is the Spotlight author at the Rave Reviews Book Club. This blog tour is one of her benefits. As a member, I get the benefit of hosting her and we both gain exposure. If this sounds like a club for you, please check them out at this link RRBC. Tell them I sent you.