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Q&A with award-winning author Jackie Phamotse

Known for her no-holds-barred approach, Jackie Phamotse is unapologetically occupying space in the literary space. Here, she chats Liwa, as well as her latest offering, BARE IV: Mercy, which gives readers an inside look into the underworld, plagued by social ills.

Glamour: I found Liwa’s story quite intriguing and got stuck in. How was the overall reception to the book?

Jackie: Liwa is a psychological thriller, written with the intention to educate women about the different mental health issues and related illnesses that we’re born with, like schizophrenic behaviour for example. It was quite surprising to see people warm up to it because it’s not part of the BARE series which I’m known for. It was something entirely different but they appreciated the different genre.

Glamour: Why was it important for you to tell the story?

Jackie: To highlight the various mental illnesses that women go through as well as the importance of checking in when you feel off balance. The increasing crime rate of women who kill their children was another important issue to highlight. This is becoming a pattern we seeing over and over in the news, women who kill their partners and themselves. Poisoning and suicide are a big thing so I wanted to shine the light on those stories from a female perspective; on a lighter, softer note.

Glamour: What sort of conversations emanated from it?

Jackie: Mothers speaking about their postpartum depression; suicidal thoughts, young mothers saying they were not equipped to be mothers, they were just thrown into womanhood at a young age. Mothers who came out and said “I had my children pre-maturely because I was raped so I was quite revengeful and hateful towards my children.” It sparked different conversations about the responsibility of parenthood. What does it really look like in a modern society and what are the options available to women with regard to having children?

Glamour: At times, I felt you could be Liwa, please talk us through the inspiration behind the character, and if you're at all related?

Jackie: Yes! I always find a personality trait that I can use for a character so I’m more aware of the character and maybe just an alter ego. I felt there was so much of me I could share in terms of personality and different sexual desires I’d want to experience. Liwa was that person I could live through vicariously. I could see my life through hers and use her voice to emulate my thoughts. I enjoyed writing about Liwa, she’s strong, bold and takes charge of who she is. She understands her sexuality and expresses what she wants, and I wish I was more like that in terms of my sexuality.

Glamour: What went into crafting the story of Liwa and Noel?

Jackie: Research, research, research! There’s no one in my family who’s been incarcerated or killed someone so I had to go find those people. I used the criminal justice system to get into documents and reports. I also went into correctional services facilities to speak to women who are incarcerated and different families of those who are. I spoke to the police about stats and the ongoing crimes that women specifically are prone to get into. About five to six months went into this research, thank God for the internet! There are so many stories available of women who kill. I used all of that to create this psychological thriller.

Glamour: Friendship, sisterhood, womanhood, betrayal and Noel's inability to show up for her kids are themes that came through quite strongly. Please talk to us about this as well as your intention for bringing these issues to life?

Jackie: We have those friends who are sometimes obsessed with us, and overprotective.I wanted to show that our friends can also be our downfall and to highlight the importance of sisterhood. You see Noel trying to protect Liwa so much, also in her protection there’s jealousy and obsession. She also tries to hide her own secrets under this guise. I wanted to show how devious and dangerous women can be, borderline psychopathic and narcissistic behaviour but through the story I wanted it to come across a two powerful women with different intentions, desires, authority and vulnerability.

Glamour: What do you want the world to know about Liwa and Noel?

Jackie: Liwa and Noel could be anyone, that’s why I was able to take pieces of myself and put them into the character. There also pieces of my friends and siblings; you could be a bold, powerful, educated, smart woman and you could still have the ability to have a huge mental disorder. You could have the ability to be a killer overnight. Things do happen when there’s an emotional and mental instability that could force us to do the unthinkable. I’ve learnt to be more compassionate and understanding towards people with mental illnesses. I’ve also learnt to understand that not every woman is designed to be a mother. We sometimes force women to be caregivers when they were not born for that role; they don’t have the innate capabilities to be mothers and we need to be more sympathetic towards women who make a choice to not be mothers because they know about their struggles and lack of desire to be parents.

Glamour: Let's talk about your latest offering, Mercy. How is it different from your other books?

Jackie: That’s book number in the Bare series, I highlight different human trafficking aspects, it’s opening the lid to a different systematic crime as opposed to the blue or white collar crime. We look at shelters being the harbour of human trafficking, what NGO’s go through to gather money, and how predators look at those institutions as harbours of human trafficking and organ sales and sex slavery. Just thinking about how difficult it is to get funding for shelters and NGO’s that assist women and children. If a rich person would come and say I can give you this amount of money if you give me a child. The trade off is a child that they can sell off somewhere so the story evolves to show you the different aspects of human trafficking and organ sales. It’s also important to understand how human trafficking on a broader scale as opposed to one kidnapping on the street, one child disappearing. We’re looking at a whole system of people that can aid human trafficking including the women we see who take care of children in creches, primary schools and shelters, how their vulnerability around finances changes the tone of human trafficking.

Glamour: What was the thought process behind it?

Jackie: To enlighten and open all channels to ensure the readers are more informed about human trafficking.

Glamour: What do you hope our readers will take away from it?

Jackie: With all of my books, I always hope that we are more understanding when it comes to people with different challenges. I also want young people to come back to reading…for pleasure, education, and academics. Some of my work has been used in various universities as part of research about human trafficking, organ sales, sugar daddies, the blesser/blessee phenomenon etc. They have used certain chapters of my work for educational purposes so I always hope that whoever reads my book feels enlightened, and most importantly enjoy modern literature.

Jackie’s books are available on and in bookshops countrywide

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