How The Curse and the Cup was Born

November 12, 2014

Welcome to The Curse and the Cup blog. I hope you will enjoy my posts and share your comments, thoughts, and reactions.

My first blog answers the question I get asked frequently, ”How did you decide to write The Curse and the Cup?”

I remember vividly the day the idea came to me. It was March 25, 2011. I was packing to leave for India to conduct an executive education program at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. I was watching the cricket match between South Africa and New Zealand on my Mac, only because it is not feasible to obtain live broadcast of cricket matches in Reston, Virginia, where I live. When South Africa lost…and frankly I had a hunch they would, despite bowling out the Kiwis cheaply…I started toying with what ifs.

What if it has nothing to do with cricket…what if it is some dark destiny…unburned karma from a previous era…what if someone had put a curse on the South African cricket team?

It was not the first time South Africa had lost. So why did I decide to play the “what if” game that day? Why not on earlier occasions? I can’t say. Looking back all I can say is that perhaps the universe recognized I was ready to write a novel and flooded my mind with ideas. Thank you dear universe.
By the time I boarded the flight, I was consumed by my what ifs. I worked continuously on the first leg of the flight to India from Washington Dulles to Dubai—didn’t sleep a wink—writing, scratching, scribbling on my pad. By the time I landed I had sketched out a rough framework for the novel. It read:
An injustice was committed in the past…which spawned a dark destiny…the ill effects of which continue to this day…and, if not reversed, will continue to prevent South Africa from winning.

All that I knew was that the injustice would have to involve a non-white cricketer, and that my novel would have to engineer this injustice using an original and unique set of incidents. Beyond that I didn’t have much.

In the summer of 2011 I visited the MCC library at Lord’s, London, to research books dealing with race and cricket. I didn’t find any novels, but did find extremely insightful non-fiction books, and contacted several of the authors on my return to the US.

Two calls proved exceptionally helpful; the first to Cricket South Africa, in Johannesburg, and the other to Professor Andre Odendaal, author of The Story of an African Game. The sub-title of the book, which has a foreword by Nelson Mandela, is Black Cricketers and the Unmasking of one of Cricket’s Greatest Myths. The book inspired me and shaped my thinking, including names for the novel’s characters and locations. For example, The Story of an African Game is a tribute to Khaya Majola, a brilliant black cricketer who hailed from New Brighton. In my novel, the family of legendary left-arm spinners—the Linganis—also comes from New Brighton.

I should have been able to start writing in earnest around the middle of 2012, but the pressures of earning a living derailed my intentions and it was not until May 2013 that I finalized my story plan and began writing seriously…and regularly…as regularly as I could given the demands of my day job.
Family events, one happy (marriage) and one unhappy (bereavement), and an unexpected opportunity to conduct an executive education program in South Africa pulled me away from my writing in late 2013 and early 2014.

The novel was about 70% complete when I left for South Africa in the first week of February 2014. The trip was hugely successful. I met a large number of wonderful people, including a few whom I had been in regular touch with on the phone, or on Skype, for close to two years. I visited New Brighton, spent time with sangomas, visited cricket stadia, and other locations featured in my novel, and had numerous conversations with people about the themes and events defining the story. The reaction was unanimously positive and supportive. I returned encouraged and enthused.

But, to my horror, when I returned, my novel and I had become estranged; I had forgotten my own novel. I remembered it in broad terms, but couldn’t recall the nitty-gritty, and the specific details concerning where I was and how I had got there. It was a shock to me at that time, but not in hindsight. By the time I returned to my desk in late February I had been absent from my novel for close to six weeks. I had made a ton of notes during my South African trip in a journal and in the margins of my manuscript; but that’s not writing.

After lamenting furiously for a few days, I reconciled myself to the only sensible option I had—starting at the beginning. So in March 2014, I did just that, went back to the beginning and started again.

Starting again had its benefits. I found it easier to be my own worst critic. As a result, I was more focused, and ruthless. I adopted a brand new structure for the book, which required me to drastically alter the sequence of events leading to the birth of the curse, its return, and its harassment of Themba towards the end of the novel. I may not have done it cheerfully, but I did it, because I knew it was in the best interests of the novel. I didn’t keep track of how many previously written words I discarded, and how many new words I wrote; writing was tough enough; I didn’t need additional depressants.
The resolve and persistence paid off. Approximately seven months later, by the end of October, to my great joy and satisfaction, I had a complete, fully written novel—proofed, edited, and pre-read by a team of beta readers—ready to venture out into an unknown world.

I hope you will welcome and embrace it.