On the fringes of a civil war arise a kaleidoscope of stories of abuse, power, betrayal, sex, love, and absolution, all united by the failings of a dying government. Set in the backdrop during the last years of South Africa's apartheid, How the Water Falls is a psychological thriller that unfolds the truth and deception of the system’s victims, perpetrators, and unlikely heroes.
The two main characters, one white, Joanne– a reporter, the other black, Lena– a banned activist, have their lives continuously overlap through the people they know during a thirteen-year period and eventually become friends as a result of their interviews together. Joanne personifies the need to question and investigate apartheid’s corruption from a white person’s perspective. Although her intentions begin with idealism, no matter how naïve, as the years pass while the system is failing, she crosses the threshold of what it means to be caught up inside the belly of the beast, especially after crossing paths with the Borghost brothers. Lena, who is inspired by her predecessors, such as Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela, is among the minority of black women to peacefully battle for equality, even if her struggle is indicative of sacrificing her health and safety. Hans Borghost is Johannesburg’s commissioner of police who, like all those before, had a military background before pursuing a law enforcement career. Violent, manipulative, and controlling, he incarnates the image of South Africa’s perpetrators. Jared Borghost is the younger brother of Hans and, like his brother, has a military background, but unlike Hans, he internally combats between his sense of duty and morality. His inconsistency indicates a conscience that leaves one to ponder whether Jared is either a perpetrator, victim, or both. As his surname suggests, Bor-GHOST represents the “ghosts” that haunt the family’s past. Many other characters play the roles of spies, freedom fighters, lovers, adversaries, and supporters.
This novel is as complex as apartheid was itself, unlacing fabrics of each character’s life to merge into a catalyst downfall. The question of who will survive this downfall will suffice in the courts of truth and reconciliation and whether love is strong enough to preserve peace.
Thank you, Mrs. K.P. Kollenborn
Is still the apartheid a subject of interest? What history teaches us?
There are two reasons that the subject of apartheid prevails: One, there is a strong correlation of what occurred in South Africa to what is happening now in Israel. Segregating a population, denying them citizenship, displacing that population into ghettos or refugee camps, and the violence that precipitates mirrors the two countries in hardships and failures. When laws can’t and don’t protect all people living on the same land, it opens up abuse and injustice. Two, it’s only been twenty years since the eradication of apartheid, and we’re continuing to understand what all of that meant. Although political emancipation has succeeded, but discrimination and corruption resumes. The aftermath of apartheid endures a legacy of unresolved issues. What we all should learn from history is that a true democracy, one that is not dysfunctional, is all inclusive, and that education is best method to make it so. Ignorance and greed is what makes war; education and uniting people for a common goal is what saves our future.
How much fiction / non fiction is in How the Waters Falls?
The first chapter begins with the Truth and Reconciliation where I abstract real stories from those who testified at these events. From there, I douse the novel with historical events and references to fuse with the development of the plot. Several of my main characters, such as Joanne, Lena, Wanda, Jared, Hans, Father Mulalo, and Topsy are inspired by a mesh of people I’ve researched. I wish to preserve the integrity of the historical significance as much as possible while maintaining a strong story. If I had to calculate between the two, I would put fact and fiction at 50/50.
The apartheid in How the Water Falls, Japanese-American (people) relations after Pearl Harbor in Eyes Behind Belligerence – why to take such important historical events and transpose them in fiction stories?
There is more freedom in fiction. Although I do my darndest to uphold historical continuity, sometimes I need to bend the actual timeline or combine few real people into one person, thereby fictionalizing that character, as a means to represent either an archetype in fiction form or to establish the attitudes of that era.
What is the writer’s responsibility when approaching such themes?
Honestly, John Steinbeck wrote it best: “The writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man's proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit—for gallantry in defeat, for courage, compassion and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally flags of hope and of emulation. I hold that a writer who does not believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature.” And within the same context, he also wrote, “I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.”
What is the biggest trap to avoid in a psychological thriller? But in one based on real events?
Huh, that is a good question. My concern, when I wrote my second novel, (because my first novel is more of a historical drama rather than a thriller,) was to feel cheated after reading it from start to finish. And what I mean by “cheated” is by not making sure each of my characters felt real, had an authentic voice and purpose to the story, that there was a reason for their existence. I also wanted to make sure I didn’t “cheat” the historical accuracy while allowing the plot to prevail. The two had to “tango” well together in order to understand the psychology of each of the character’s mindset. Based on where the characters were born, what families they were born into, had influenced how they reacted to their environment and toward each other. I hope nothing felt forced and had a natural experience through it all- even though the violence as well as the tender moments.
About the author:
Although I've been writing since childhood, I have a BA in history. I love studying history as much as wanting to evoke stories. I like to believe that after decades worth of introspection we have learned to value our lessons, and the best way to recite our lessons are through storytelling. That's why I love history: To learn. To question. To redeem our humanity. Submitting to a moment in time allows us to remember, or to muse even, our society's past. Although writing can educate as well as entertain, yet what makes art incredibly amazing, to that of paintings, photographs, and music, it transposes emotion into another form of humanity, and therefore, it is our humanity which keeps all of us striving for an improved future.
I am fortunate to have been trained by one the top ten writing teachers in the US, the late Leonard Bishop, and author of 'Dare to be a Great Writer.' I owe my love of writing to him. In addition to writing, I draw, paint, create graphic design, and am an amateur photographer.