Friday, December 11, 2009

All roads may lead to Rome, but South African born author, Vanessa Del Fabbro, found her writing success on “The Road to Home”

Vanessa Del Fabbro, a wife, mother of two young daughters and Christy Award finalist and winner, was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Her first piece of fiction was published in a South African newspaper when she was in the first grade. Vanessa has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications, with a second major in English literature. She also has a cum laude Honors degree in Communications.

The Del Fabbros spent a year in England before immigrating to the USA at the end of 1995. Vanessa and her husband have lived in Saint Louis, Missouri, Montgomery, Alabama and now reside in Houston, Texas.

Vanessa’s fiction writing started by chance after attending a fiction workshop in England – just for the fun of it. The story was published by a women’s magazine. This inspired her to write her first novel which won the coveted 2006 Christy Award.

In the USA, Vanessa frequented the writing section of bookshops. She spent hours reading how-to articles on the internet.

It took several years before her first manuscript was ready to submit to an editor.

Vanessa loves meeting people from different cultures and trying their food. There are many things - besides her parents and siblings - that she misses about South Africa: the perfect weather, the beautiful spots she used to visit, the easy humor of her fellow countrymen that mixes the local languages with unique flair.

You can find Vanessa online at


Vanessa, if you had to describe yourself in five words, what would they be?
Caring, reliable, creative, serious, private.

From a writer’s viewpoint, what makes South Africa the perfect backdrop for fiction?
To me, South Africa is more than a setting; she is a perfect character. She has a dark history but a bright future. She suffers immense tragedy but finds joy where others would not. Like any good character she is flawed, but we like her and we really want her to succeed.

Did your years as a radio and print journalist play any part in writing your debut novel, THE ROAD TO HOME?
When I came to the United States I had never considered writing a novel, but then I realized I had a story to tell about my country of birth and what better way to tell it than through fiction? A background in journalism helps in that economy of words is ingrained in me, which is great for avoiding purple prose, but sometimes that filter has to be lifted to allow the narrative to flow.

How does SANDPIPER DRIFT, sequel to your debut novel differ in terms of tone?
My first book, THE ROAD TO HOME, is a drama with heart-wrenching scenes. Monica, one of the two main characters, becomes a victim of the random violent crime that is sadly so common in South Africa. For the sequel I wanted a lighter tone; I wanted to highlight the beauty of the country, of the people. So much of what’s written about Africa is negative, and with SANDPIPER DRIFT, I wanted to portray regular people living lives of quiet dignity, people who, in their own small way, contribute as much to the new South Africa as elected officials.

When you wrote THE ROAD TO HOME, did you have plans to write a series, or was it initially intended to be a stand-alone book?
It was intended to be a stand-alone book, but after I’d finished it I found I missed the characters. I wanted to know what sort of life Sipho and Mandla were having with Monica. And so I wrote on.

Tell us a little about how your four book series of South African journalist, Monica Brunetti, evolved.
My wonderful editor, Joan Marlow Golan, liked the story enough to want to make it a series, and so I continued writing until Sipho went off to university, which I thought was a good place to bring the series to a close.

With your journalistic background, is there a little of Vanessa Del Fabbro in your protagonist?
We’re both journalists so we’re both curious about the world around us and we both grew up in a segregated country. The opening scene of THE ROAD TO HOME is based on a visit I made to an AIDS orphanage in Soweto while working as a journalist. That was before the South African government started giving antiretroviral drugs to pregnant women, so these children had not only been orphaned, but they were suffering from AIDS themselves. And for me, it was just as Monica says in the book, “I knew the dire projections for the impact it was going to have on the underfunded health system, as well as the entire economy of the country. But I’d never seen the disease up close, seen its too bright eyes, its feverish brow, its thin wrists and overfull diapers.”

Would you like to write more novels set in South Africa? If yes, what topic/s would you like to write about?
I would like to write more novels set in South Africa but I won’t because it’s been a long time since I’ve lived there, and I think quintessentially South African novels are best left to writers living in South Africa.

Are there any other countries you would consider as backdrops for future novels?
The United States because that’s where I live now. I’d like to write about the US as seen through the eyes of immigrants, both recent and from way back when.

What are you working on now?
A series of children’s books featuring Coco, a pampered dachshund who has adventures in different countries all over the world. I’ve also just finished a play based on The Road to Home and have a book of short stories on the boil.

Vanessa, you like to read stories set in different parts of the world or stories of cultures colliding. What favorite books can you recommend? What is the country or cultural setting of your recommendation/s?
My favorite book is LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez. I am a big fan of melancholy, and Marquez is the king of melancholy. I also really admire writers from India or of Indian descent, such as Jhumpa Lahiri, Arundhati Roy, Kiran Desai. I don’t have a favorite country or cultural setting but when I read I want to be transported to a different place. That can be somewhere I’ve never visited or it can be the city I live in, only seen through the eyes of a newcomer. In SANDPIPER DRIFT, Doreen Olifant, the town librarian, says, “Only an outsider can tell the truth,” and I really believe that with distance, geographical or emotional, one gets a clearer, truer picture of a place.

AIDS is always mentioned in your books. World Aids Day occurred on 1st December and I therefore found it fitting to conduct this interview with you this month. Can you share with us why always the subject of AIDS?
It is impossible to write about South Africa without mentioning the scourge of the country: AIDS. It is an everyday reality in South Africa and not mentioning it would mean not capturing the real South Africa.

There’s a specific non-profit charity in South Africa that you have chosen to support through the sale of your books. Please tell us about this organization.
Cotlands is a non-governmental organization that runs AIDS orphanages as well as a pediatric AIDS hospice. Please check out their web site at

When you consider God’s call on your life to write, what favorite scripture comes to mind?
"If you will extract the precious from the worthless, you will be My spokesman." ~ Jeremiah 15:19.


South African journalist Monica Brunetti had it all; career, family, marriage-minded boyfriend. When a brutal carjacking lands her in a hospital bed next to gregarious Ella Nkhoma, the two women begin a remarkable friendship that challenges Monica's worldview---and leads her far from her gated white suburbs as unexpected mother to two black sons.

Journalist Monica Brunetti has fallen in love with the picturesque South African village of Lady Helen. But when the beleaguered residents of her tranquil neighborhood are evicted, Monica packs up her laptop, her adopted sons, and her housekeeper and sets out on the journey of a lifetime! A triumphant story of the power of female friendship.

Settling into her role as a new wife and adoptive mother in the picture-perfect seaside village of Lady Helen, South Africa, Monica has the life of her dreams. Then a series of crimes rocks the village, and a young girl's resentment begins to threaten her world. Will the peace she knew ever return?

A loving husband, two beautiful adopted sons, an amiable stepdaughter and the possibility of an addition to the family-Monica Brunetti has it all. But suddenly her idyllic life in a picturesque South African village unravels. Her boys respond to the siren call of America, and her husband's daughter may be leaving as well. Change might be easier to bear if only a baby were on the way.
Then Monica's friend Francina, also threatened with an empty nest, sets off on what may be a fool's errand-or her household's salvation. Can Monica, too, find the faith and courage to reunite her family?

Vanessa will be giving away a signed copy of her debut novel, THE ROAD TO HOME and the sequel SANDPIPER DRIFT, and will post to anywhere in the world.
A random draw will be held within ten days from ALL comment submissions. To enter the draw, along with your comment, please tell me what your favorite setting would be for an African novel. You can spice up your choice by grabbing an Atlas. Just a few examples to get you going: Cape Winelands, Skeleton Coast, The Desert, Sandy White Beaches of the Wild Coast, Spice Islands, Mount Kilimanjaro, Safari.

Please supply your email address at the bottom of your comment, replacing @ with (at) so that I can contact the winner to obtain a postal address. I will also be posting two African Zulu beaded badges – an Aids Ribbon and a South African Flag – to the winner of Vanessa Del Fabbro’s books.

MARION UECKERMANN only discovered her writing talents later in life. Her passion for penning poetry was sparked in 2001 when she moved to Ireland with her husband and two sons. Since then Marion has been honing her skills and has published inspirational poetry online and in a poetry journal. She has recently authored her first full-length Christian Women’s novel, Prodigal, and is looking for a publisher. Ms. Ueckermann now lives in Pretoria East, South Africa. A member and moderator of the South African Christian Writers Group, Marion can be contacted via email to marionu(at) or through her website


  1. Marion, thanks for sharing your fascinating interview with Vanessa :-) My favourite setting for an African novel - a very hard decision! I love safari settings :-)

    narelle at narelleatkins dot com

  2. Thanks for a great post, Marion. I've never heard of Vanessa's books before but they've shot up to the top of my must-reads! They sound fabulous.

    My favourite setting for an African novel would be in a bush setting - thinking The God's Must be Crazy.

  3. Thanks for the fun interview, Marion and Vanessa. I'd choose Senegal, because my sister was a missionary there for years. Or Mozambique because that's where my nephew is now. (But I did love The Gods Must Be Crazy!)

  4. Many thanks for the interesting interview Marion and Vanessa, I enjoyed reading it.

    I live in South Africa and The Road to Home, which I thoroughly enjoyed, is readily available here. To my disappointment the other three books are nowhere to be found in our Bible book shops.

    God bless

    Ruth Ann

  5. I am very interested in reading Vanessa's books, so thank you for posting about them. I looked them up on Amazon and found that most are available for Kindle, but I would love to hold "real" copies in my hands. The covers are beautiful, by the way.

    I think a great setting would be the Cape Verde area. I'm drawn to ocean locales and the pictures I've seen are beautiful. It would be interesting to learn about the community there.

    I enjoyed Vanessa's interview and appreciate the giveaway.

    cjarvis [at] bellsouth [dot] net

  6. Would love to be entered:) Thanks!!!


  7. My favourite setting for an African novel would be the Western Cape - spent 2-1/2 years living in Cape Town and visited many places in that area, including Somerset West, Stellenbosch, Simons Town, Fish Hoek, Mossel Bay, George, etc. Hermanus during whale migration season is fantastic. The whales come in close enough that you feel as though you can touch them.


    My email address is: margh64 at gmail dot com

  8. Thanks all for the comments. I will be doing the draw tomorrow and will advise who the winner is. Winner will be contacted via email too.

    Marg, my youngest son now lives in Cape Town and he loves it. He just did a weekend camping at Hermanus. Think I'm going to have to spend some time with him for writing material.