Interview with Ginny Stone

Author of Out Damned Spot

Ginny Stone—an author, columnist and blogger, originally hails from Zimbabwe. She grew up in Malawi, then moved to South Africa, finished school and started adult life in Somerset West. Her first real job was as a secretary at a nuclear research institute, which her family found hilarious, considering she had “Hope Abandoned” written on her high school physics report. Stone eventually ran the outreach department at iThemba LABS—a multi-disciplinary research laboratory, until she and her husband, a materials scientist, moved to Springs in Gauteng, SA in 2007. (Stone is fond of saying that she has a PhD—she married him!)
Although she’d been scribbling for most of her life, this move proved to be the real start of Stone’s writing career. Since 2007 she’s had seventeen books published, three of them have been translated into seven different languages and another recently won an international award. She has self-published eight books, two of which are a direct result of having written a weekly column in a local newspaper for over eight years—A Dog’s Blog.
When she’s not writing, she develops and designs educational games, for both schools and industry, which are being used around the country.
Stone adores reading, fabric painting, gardening, mosaicking and walking in nature. She lives with her husband in a rambling old house with a variety of extended family members—a sprightly mother who is 85-years young, arty daughter, her significant other and teensy baby, not to mention her step-son who is well on his way to being a vet. In addition to this human zoo, they also have two rescue cats and a very neurotic, yet adorable, sausage dog. Stone also has a lovely elder daughter who is a foundation phase teacher, happily married and lives in Cape Town with their delightful seven-year-old daughter.

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How would you describe 'Out Damned Spot' to a new reader?
  • Anybody who has been to a hospital or had cancer will relate to this story immediately. Although I must warn you, the language is colourful.
What was the inspiration behind 'Out Damned Spot' ?
  • In a nutshell, I was diagnosed with melanoma and had to have it removed. It messed with my head hugely. I suppose I should have had counselling but it did not occur to me. Instead, I worked in the garden and wrote a novel about the experience. I changed the names to protect the innocent. Okay - I lie, I changed the names so that my surgeon could not sue me. Too funny - he's read the book now and thought it was hysterical.
What do you hope people get from reading this book?
  • If they have any dodgy looking spots on their bodies I hope that they dash off and get them checked out. Melanoma is a silent killer.
Where can we find this book of yours?
  • Out Damned Spot is available on Smashwords and Amazon. But like I said - remember - the language is colourful. I was angry at the time.
Do you recommend writing about real life experiences.
  • Absolutely! Firstly, it's cathartic and gets it out of your system. Secondly, it can serve as a tool to warn others about a certain situation. In my case, it was a cancerous spot, but a person can write about any life experience that they feel strongly about. I guess the thing is not to make the reader feel depressed and like dashing off and slitting their wrists after reading the book. Keep it lighthearted - if you can.
How long did it take you to write this book?
  • It's a funny story actually, I won an edit on Instagram and was going to submit 'Wizard of Wigwash' but then decided to submit Out Damned Spot rather. Only problem was... I hadn't written it yet. It took me a week to write 25,000 words. I then drove my lovely editor nuts by adding another 20,000 words when a publisher said they'd be interested in publishing it, but it had to be more than 60,000 words. I got to forty-something and decided the story was done. It would not benefit from adding extra waffle to reach the target. I self-published.
Which character in 'Out Damned Spot' has had the greatest impact on readers?
  • Obviously Giselle- the main character (aka me!). She is the one that goes through the whole experience and falls to pieces in her head whilst having to carry on doing everything that she had always done. Living in a house with 6 people of various ages and cooking dinner each night. Working on projects... writing... all the while wondering if she was riddled with cancer.
If 'Out Damned Spot' were to be adapted for TV or film, who would you see in the lead role? Who did you have in your mind’s eye when you wrote him/her?
  • Meg Ryan... I love her and having her play me would be simply fabulous! She's only a year or two older than I am too!
How have readers responded to Out Damned Spot.
  • One lady dashed off to the dermatologist and had her moles checked out - two had to be removed (but were thankfully not dangerous). Other people can totally relate to the hospital experience or the fact that many surgeon's receptionists are nightmares on toast to deal with. Different people seem to get different things out of the book.
So... are you okay now?
  • Absolutely! In fact, I've just had a dodgy looking spot removed and it turned out to be a regular mole. But, sadly, tanning is now a thing of the past.
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Life and family both seem to be oblivious to the internal turmoil that Giselle faces as she gets a spot on her arm analysed. She doesn’t get to have a break-down. There aren’t any charity organizations making her dreams come true. In fact, everyone at home is waiting for her to make supper before she has even been stitched up. To top it all off, Giselle has to navigate through the disorganized and impersonal South African medical system, which heightens the confusion and terror that comes with a rogue spot.

Life goes on—or does it?