Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE


@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

A Phoenix Rises from the Ashes: Joanne Hichens’ Sweet Paradise Launched in Muizenberg

Joanne Hichens

The Empire Cafe in Muizenberg was filled to capacity at the launch of Joanne Hichens’ latest book, Sweet Paradise. The novel, the latest in the Rae Valentine PI series, had a special send-off as Robin Auld shared his music in memory of the author’s late husband, Robert Hichens.

Robin AuldSweet Paradise“On 5 January, 2014, I handed the manuscript over to Tim Richman of Two Dogs, and five days later, Robert died. My book couldn’t happen at that stage. I couldn’t think of producing the book,” she said.

She recalled looking at photos taken while she was finishing the manuscript. “I was sitting in a tent, typing in the strange orange light. It was a special time, those last days with Robert,” she said. Various delays led to the bold step of self publishing. “Now, 22 months on, I am thrilled to be putting Sweet Paradise out under my own imprint,” she continued.

In the wake of her husband’s death, Hichens got a tattoo as a memorial garden. “After I’d scattered his ashes and they had floated out to sea, there was nowhere to go,” she said. When she decided to self-publish, she opted to call the imprint Tattoo Press. That’s when another layer of meaning entered the equation. Her wonderful designer, Adam Hill, had very different ideas. If you look at the book you’ll see it has nothing to do with ink but it’s a little person beating a drum,” she said.

The origins of the word are Dutch, relating to the sound of the drum used to call the troops back from the pub every day. “For a long time, watching other people’s tragedies on Sky News and my bottle of wine became my best friend! Part of me could connect with those tragedies, but at some point the sound of the tattoo called me back to the desk, back to work, back to the writing.

“Turning to fiction was a respite from my own life. I could go into Rae’s life and forget about my own. I loved writing the ‘baddies’,” Hichens said. Once the book was finally ready for publication she faced the option of waiting until 2016 or taking the bold step of publishing it herself. Spurred on by her friend, Ros Haden, she decided that this new venture would be a testimony to her survival.

The author thanked Tim Richman for his support and encouragement and announced that the next book to be published by Tattoo Press will be the Short Sharp Stories anthology, containing the winning stories from the “Die Laughing” contest.

Writer Karina Magdalena Szczurek was in attendance at the launch and wrote a touching testimony to Joanne Hichen’s courage. As the sun went down, the gentle sea breeze cooled the night air while guests danced and mingled, aware in no small measure that they had seen a phoenix rise from the ashes.

* * * * * * * *

Liesl Jobson (@LieslJobson) tweeted from the launch using #livebooks:


* * * * *

Facebook album

Sweet Paradise will be distributed by Jacana Media

Book details


Recent comments:

  • Maire
    November 30th, 2015 @18:13 #

    Lovely article (and pics!), Liesl. It was such a great launch, and you've captured the spirit of it perfectly.


Please register or log in to comment

» View comments as a forum thread and add tags in BOOK Chat