Blog Schedule

I post on Monday with an occasional random blog thrown in for good measure. I do my best to answer all comments via email and visit around on the days I post.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Interview With Judy Croome

(Answer to Thursday's Word Play: earthy pig = groundhog.)

Let me introduce you to Judy Croome, author of DANCING IN THE SHADOWS OF LOVE.

About Dancing in the Shadows of LoveIn the haunting "Dancing in the Shadows of Love," three emotionally adrift women fight to heal their fractured worlds. Not everyone can be a hero.Or can they? 

After a decade in prison for a murder she did not commit, Lulu begins a new life at the Court of St Jerome in the Old Sea City. An albino, abandoned as a young child at a Holding Camp for unwanted children, she has always been ostracised,for her difference to others makes her an easy victim of prejudice. 
Once, she believed, she had a friend to love her. Then that friend betrayed her and Lulu learned that hate is safer than love. But, from Jamila to Granny Zahra, the people of St Jerome's appear to accept her into their fold. Against a backdrop of never-ending war, the women of the court fight their personal demons: hatred, ambition and greed. As Lulu shares their victories and their losses, she learns to trust again, perhaps even to love. 

Nothing, however, is as it seems and Lulu discovers that love does not always wear the face of the one you yearn to call beloved.

Remarkably areligious and boldly atmospheric, buoyed by touches of magical realism, this compelling story explores the sacrifices people make in the pursuit of a love that transcends everyday existence. Lulu's quest, and that of Jamila and Zahra too, is to find the divine love that will fulfil their hopes and save their souls...if they can recognise the masks of those who seek to lead them astray.

I was so amazed and impressed by Judy's book I had to ask for an interview, my very first.

How long did it take you to write Dancing in the Shadows of Love from the first words to the final revision?

I’m embarrassed to say this novel has consumed me since I wrote the first word in 2004. I felt better about that statistic when I read that Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marilynne Robertson took 23 years to write her second novel. I hope to beat that record.

How many revisions did it take you?

Too many to remember. Maybe four? Or was it five?

How many rejections did you get from agents and/or publishers before deciding to self-publish?

I stopped counting when I hit 100 rejections.

Is there a story behind the story of how you came to write DSL? Where did the idea come from?

As I watched the Truth and Reconciliation Committee of the post-apartheid 1990’s, I found out how unaware I’d been of what was happening around me as I grew up in a colonial Africa. With my self-image of myself as a “good” person shaken to its foundations, I wanted to explore the nature of prejudice, but in a way that showed prejudice as a general human condition—a way of categorising the multitude of stimuli that make up our external world, rather than as a condition that exists only in certain races (or species.)

“Dancing in the Shadows of Love” is the result of that exploration. I wanted to write a story that transcended colour and race, even species (which is why, in the novel, gentle Grace speaks out against killing animals), so that it could speak to the collective soul, not just the soul of South Africa.  Somehow, out of these complex thoughts and emotions, Dancing in the Shadows of Love took shape until, through the eyes of three very different women, I found a way that an ordinary person like myself, one who doesn’t have what it takes to be hero, can also help repair the fractures of a broken and prejudiced world.

Did the stories of these three women come to you all at once or did each evolve separately? Or perhaps a bit of both?

A bit of both – something would happen to one character that would link to another character and so another scene would develop.

Did you write their stories sequentially as they are laid out in the book, or did you write each of their stories separately and then knit them together?

I wrote the stories sequentially, although originally I had the character’s childhoods as flashbacks. In the second revision I changed the order of the scenes/chapters to flow more chronologically.

As I started reading DSL I wondered why you wrote Jamila’s story in third person. But about half way through, I think I got it. Unlike Lulu and Zahra who examine themselves, Jamila seems naive and trusting, and is ultimately blind to her own motives as well as the motives of others. She is even cruel without realizing it. How did you come to know her story needed to be told in third person as opposed to first as with Lulu and Zahra?

I didn’t consciously choose to tell Jamila’s story in third person. I think it happened because she’s the character I liked the least. I couldn’t ‘connect’ with her like I did with Lulu and Zahra. It was easier to write about her in the objective third person.

Aside from the strong spiritual theme of forgiveness and redemption that runs through the book, there are two elements that weave themselves into the lives of the women: white roses and the ocean. I was wondering if you would be willing to give us a hint as to their symbolic meaning.

Bish, yes, those are two of the most important symbols in the story, although there are lots of hidden meanings in the text. Nothing appears in the story by chance. For example, the tuberoses decorating the fashion designer’s shop that Jamila visits with Chuki Wiseman denote dangerous pleasures and reflect Jamila’s dilemma. Enoch’s identity is hinted at because often when people interact with him, the smell of a cedar tree is present. Can anyone say what a cedar tree suggests?

But back to your question: A rose corresponds to the Lotus symbolism: Divine perfection (of the spirit) growing out of the mud of the earth (the body.) Roses thus denote the quest for perfect transcendence of the soul as it yearns for an untarnished fulfillment, and rises up from the dark and muddy primeval waters to blossom in the light above them. The white rose, in particular, is the “flower of light,” of innocence, purity and spiritual unfolding.  Thus, in the story, every time the white rose appears the character is moving along on her spiritual journey.

The sea/ocean, as a body of water, symbolizes the unconscious but, being larger than the rivers and lakes which feed into it, the ocean represents the cosmic consciousness (or the Divine Source from which all life emerged.) When a river flows into the ocean, at the point of their union, the two become one body of water. In the same way, at the moment when the individual Self merges with the infinite Divine, enlightenment occurs: we are all one; we have a collective unconscious linking us to the “other.” Thus in DSL, the ocean reminds us that, despite their apparent differences, all of the characters are connected. The sea/ocean (representing the collective cosmic consciousness, or Divine Being, whatever shape of faith it takes) dominates the background of their ordinary lives as a silent, objective witness to the choices they each make on their spiritual journey.

What are you working on now?

I’m tying up the loose ends of the “Dancing in the Shadows of Love” launch via social media, and I’m working on a collection of short stories for release in 2012. But bubbling away underneath all of that activity are the germs of a new novel about grief and loss. The images and ideas are starting to become concrete now, so I suspect I’ll start the actual writing soon.

Where can we find out more about “Dancing in the Shadows of Love”

I’m slowly building a blog dedicated to “Dancing in the Shadows of Love,” where I’ll be exploring themes and symbolism in the future. At the moment, you can watch the book trailer, read reviews, read an interview with the cover artist Wenkidu, or read about the quotes I used.

What are you currently reading?

The amazing “Song of George: The Portrait of an Unlikely Holy Man” by Jesse S Hanson;
“The 90 Day Novel” by Alan Watt and
“The Road to Immortality” by Geraldine Cummings (subtitled “Being a description of the afterlife purporting to be communicated by the late F W H Myers, Classical Lecturer of Trinity College, Cambridge, channeled through Geraldine Cummings.)

Being raised in Zimbabwean bush must have been quite interesting. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, like how long has your family been in Africa?

I can trace some of my Dad’s ancestors back to arriving at the Cape of Good Hope from the Netherlands in  1762.  My Mom is descended from English and Irish stock, but as she was brought up in an orphanage, it’s difficult to get accurate information about when they came to South Africa.  My sister and I were born in the small mining village of Zvishavane, Zimbabwe and had an idyllic childhood spent in the bush. I’ve lived in cities for years now, but I’m only truly happiest when I’m back in the busy silence of the African bush. 

And a bit whimsy: Oranges or mangoes?

No contest – mangoes! You can read why I consider mangoes the perfect last meal on my blog.

Favorite way to relax?  Meditation or reading romances

Thank you, Judy for taking time to *talk* with us!
Bish, thanks for inviting me to your blog. I found your questions interesting and challenging. To thank you for your hospitality, I’d like to offer you 1 print copy and 3 eBook editions of “Dancing in the Shadows of Love” to give away to your commentators.

You heard it here. Leave a comment and I'll add your name to the hat. That's all you've got to do. Winners will be announced this coming Thursday the 22nd. Of course, if you feel like it, I'd love if you spread the word!


  1. Hi Bish, thanks for inviting me over! This may have been your first interview but you asked challenging questions a journalist would have been proud of!! :)

    Judy, South Africa

  2. This looks fabulous. I SO want to read this. Will go check out her trailer.

  3. Sounds fantastic. If you enjoyed it, Bish, that's a very high endorsement indeed!

    Great interview, Judy.

  4. Thanks Judy. They were questions that came to me as I read. What I like is that your book is one I will be able read many times over and get something new out of each time.

    Angela, I hope you do get to read it. It is a deeply layered, poetically written story.

    Oh Talli, you're very kind.

  5. Angela: I must confess of this whole writing journey the making of the book trailer was my favourite part - hope you enjoy it!

    Talli: Bish asked great questions, so I actually had to think to answer them (except about mangoes or oranges, I had no hesitation in answering that question!)

    Judy, South Africa

  6. Great interview! Thanks to both of you. Looks like a fascinating book, and Judy's publishing journey is inspiring.

  7. I'm sorry, I'm just getting around to this now.

    What a fantastic interview, Bish. I couldn't tell it was your first one. Great questions.

    And thanks, Judy. I've heard great things about this book and I've put it on my TBR list. Your own personal history sounds so fascinating, I couldn't even imagine what the "busy silence of the bush" sounds like.

    Best of luck with this. Sounds like a winner to me.

  8. Thanks Mel! For the life of me I don't understand why Judy's book wasn't snapped up by an agent or a publisher.

    Anne, you're not late to the party. Thanks for coming. Let's just this this is my first blog interview. I've done plenty of others, but not like this. I hope you get to read Judy's book.

  9. A really great interview ladies. I have to thank Judy again for the lovely package I won from her giveaway earlier this year too!

    I love the symbolism that you mention here, really wonderful. Thanks so much for sharing with us! x

  10. Great interview. I'm particularly interested in seeing how the author wrote one character in third person. And her reasoning - because she liked that character the least - is fascinating. You'd think it wouldn't work then. I have to check it out!

  11. You are welcome Talei.

    Suzanne, it was strange when first started reading. But it worked for me because it breaks up the intensity of the other two first person accounts.

  12. Only a hundred rejections? Just kidding. But that reminded me of what Stephen King wrote. He said he started with a nail in his wall to hang his rejections on, then he changed to a spike! It seems that rejections can be numerous.

    What a lovely story and how unique the characters seem just from what I've read here. Thanks to you both for a great interview.

  13. Yep, only 100! It is, in my mind, beautifully written Lee.

  14. This book sounds really great. I think there are so many books that miss the mark by skipping over the spiritual issues and that is such a big part of who we are as humans.

  15. What a fabulous interview! The book sounds so intriguing! It was great to learn about both the book and the author!!!

  16. This book sounds special.
    Thanks for a great interview.

  17. Sounds like a really powerful story! And I love all the symbolism!

  18. MG HIGGINS: My writing journey so far has been, shall we say, very interesting!! :)

    ANNE: The African bush ( especially at night) is brilliant. It’s at its best when the night animals are busy – the jackals yip yipping, the lions roaring in the distant – all these add an overtone to the utter silence of no cars, no electrical hum, no radios tvs or cell phones. I love my city life and all it’s conveniences, but the bush is where my heart lies. I don’t get back to the bush often enough, but when I do, it’s always a soul restorative.

    TALEI: Glad you enjoyed the parcel (and that it arrived safely!)

    SUZANNE: What I found really interesting about the character Jamila (the one I wrote in third person) is that I’ve had several readers come back to me and say that Jamila was *their* favourite character! Shows how subjective tastes are!

    CLEEMCKENZIE: Haha! Much more than 100, but I stopped counting there!

    CHRISTINA: I think there is a rising interest in novels (as opposed to non fiction books) that explore spiritual issues rather than religious issues, here are two great websites that focus on spiritual fiction: and

    JEN: I’m glad you enjoyed the interview!

    LYNDA: I must confess that no matter how many books I write in the future, I think this one will also be special to me!

    ALEXIA: I got a bit carried away with the symbolism, but I hope it adds to the mystery of the novel!

    Judy, South Africa

  19. Thanks, Bish! I love to hear about new reads. Although my TBR list is boiling over, I may just have to add Dancing in the Shadows of Love to It. And wow! Raised in Zimbabwe! How cool.

  20. Christina, it really does speak to the spiritual struggle by telling the story of three very different women. And yet...they aren't that different.

    Thanks Jen! It is intriguing, a book that can be read more than once. I'm so glad you were able to stop by. I know how busy you are these days.

    Lynda I believe it is a special book, unique in what it has to say and how it is written.

    I love the symbolism too, Alexia. It's loaded with it, layered into it like icing on a layer cake.

    Samantha, We are all raised somewhere. But I think Zimbabwe would be pretty cool too. I hope you get to read this story. It's worth it.

    And thanks Judy for stopping by and saying hello to everyone.

  21. Samantha, I sympathise with the problem of a teetering TBR pile - I keep on finding books that I know I just *have* to read, so onto the pile they go! And my Kindle is even worse, because there's no danger of the TBR pile toppling over, so I just keep adding and adding...

    Bish, I'm SO excited by your comment that the three women aren't so different after all...that's the absolute crux of the story, that underneath our external differences we are all one. And, once we realise that, we are able to just love one another!

  22. Hi Judy/Hi Bish - what a great interview! Judy - your book sounds absolutely fascinating. The conscious symbolism you've obviously weaved throughout is so very interesting. And it's clear this story means a lot to you. I'd love to read it!

  23. Great interview! Excellent questions, girlfriend. *waves to Judy* *waves to Bish*

    I always knew this book was a book I would fall in love with. Is it in print now Judy?

    If I don't win a copy, I'll buy one, that's for sure.

  24. This sounds like an amazing book! And Judy sounds like a fascinating person. Thanks for a great interview!

  25. This sounds like a powerful story. I feel for Lulu. Great interview, ladies.

  26. Donna: So glad you enjoyed the interview. I suppose this book is like any first "baby" - I'm so in love with it...! :)

    Robyn: *waves back* (with a hug for Christopher!) And, yes, it is in print now, but don't buy it just yet Robyn...

    Susan: I'm pretty boring actually (although some people call me crazy!!) :) Take your pick... :)

  27. once read review of the books..the post really compelled to read the complete book.

  28. Yay! I love bumping into Judy unexpectantly. ^_^

    I also happen to think mangoes are pretty awesome. :-D

  29. Interesting interview. I always love reading how authors work and come to get their novels out into the world. Thank you Bish and Judy!

  30. Quite an amazing journey to publication. It's good that you hung in there and didn't give up.
    The story in the book sounds interesting as well. I wish you much success with it.

    Tossing It Out

  31. Arooj: hope you get to read the complete book one day, you can read first chapter here

    Misha: YAY! Me too!! Mangoes should be the national fruit of SA!

    CYNTHIA: I also enjoy reading about the workings of a writer's mind..makes me feel I'm not so alone in my craziness!! :)

    LEE: A l-o-n-g journey, but a worthwhile one!

    MARCIA: Glad you could stop by!

  32. Great interview! I love reading about an author's journey to publication. It gives me hope and inspires me to keep on writing!

  33. Fantastic interview. Thanks for posting this. So very inspiring. Nice blog you have!

  34. Nutschell: Never give up! Really, it's worth all the trials when you finally get the point of knowing your book is out there and being read! Never give up! :)

    Ron: Bish's blog is great - one of my favourite places to visit!


Your Random Thoughts are most welcome!