Durbanville author Juanita Aggenbach never pictured herself writing. She and her husband followed their dreams to Cape Town from Mpumalanga without knowing where they would stay and without any future jobs lined up.
Novel writing was the furtherest thing from Ms Aggenbach’s mind at the time. But now, more than a dozen years later, the popular Afrikaans author has three books under her belt.
Ms Aggenbach joked that her Afrikaans creative writing at school was so bad that it dragged her whole aggregate down. She was telling the story of her writing career while in conversation with Kuils River librarian Marindie Maddison at the library on Friday March 24, where she was the guest author for Library Week.
Ms Aggenbach said she had given writing so little thought that she went to university to study psychology and later criminology instead. Luckily her talent didn’t go unnoticed. As part of her application for her Master’s degree, she needed to write a one-page essay about her life. Before submitting it, she showed it to a friend.
“She said, ‘This is wonderful. You should write novels.’ But I laughed it off,” Ms Aggenbach said.
She handed in the application to her lecturer, who was also blown away and called the essay “fantastic”. Her lecturer too encouraged her to take up creative writing.
But still Ms Aggenbach didn’t latch on to the idea. Instead, she opened her psychology practice, and while she was building up a client base, she found herself discomfited by her career and with a lot of time on her hands. Her brother-in-law recommended she write to fill the time and finally she did.
“I switched on the computer and thought ‘If I had to write about something, what would I write?’ And I felt the Lord saying to me: ‘You have a story for a reason. Write it.’”
So Ms Aggenbach started writing the story about her secret – her adoption. It was published in 2012 as Dis My Geheim.
Five years later, she has written two more novels, including a steamy romance, Op Die Horison Vêr and Toe Elvis Ophou Sing, which is a story about a woman who battles with her father’s alcohol abuse.
Ms Maddison said the books were so popular they were hardly ever on the shelf.
Although Dis My Geheim is somewhat biographical, it is told through the lives of characters.
“A full adoption story is about more than the story of just one person. It is also the story of the biological parents and the adoptive parents. It’s all their stories. It’s a story about pain and forgiveness and love. For this story, I had the privilege of speaking to my mother,” she said, pointing out her mother, Joanie Smit, in the audience. “And my biological mother.”
Ms Aggenbach described the writing of the book as an “honest road” that was painful but brought a lot of healing.
“I lived through it. I worked through it, and I found healing in writing it. You can feel the pain from page 1,” she said.
“I wanted this book to be honest. I didn’t want it to be a fairytale.”
Aggenbach is working on her fourth novel, which is due for publication in late September.