Yurika Kotzé is a fantasy author and wildlife researcher. She loves history and combines the inspiration she gleans from living in Africa with medieval swords and water nymphs – because, well, why not? Her first novel, The Unsheathed Key is now available as an ebook from Barnes&Noble, Kobo and others. Check out her website for info; or to read an excerpt.
————————————————————————————————————- So there we were, sitting next to the fire on our farm, right on the border of Zimbabwe. We were happily nibbling away at our chops and tossing the bones into the fire, when another sound suddenly rose above the rushing waters of the river. A deep sawing noise.
Steady and rhythmic, it grew in volume and started to move around our campfire, just out of sight. If there had been any doubt, the sour feline smell confirmed it: we were being stalked by a leopard.
Nervously, we jumped up and put our backs to each other. My husband, his friend and I formed a little tripod of comfort as we steadily made our way to the car, eyes peeled for movement. The leopard sawed and barked and growled as it circled us, completely focussed on its prey. My hand finally found the car door’s handle, but it was locked. Laughing nervously, my husband fumbled for the keys as our friend loaded the .375 rifle.
At last, I managed to unlock the car with my shaky hands and the three of us piled into the front seat. We hastily shut the door and finally caught a glimpse of the leopard as he made his way back into the bush. We burst out laughing.
I am proudly South African. Moments like these make me fall in love with this beautiful country. Growing up just outside of the Kruger National Park and later living on an elephant farm, I have had my share of encounters.
Being exposed to raw, unbridled Africa changes you. There is an atmosphere here that can only be understood by those who have experienced it. It’s the perfect place for any fantasy author to become inspired.
South Africa is the birth-place of Tolkien and his Middle Earth, and there is nothing like hiking the Hogsback Mountains and seeing the world through his eyes. It’s also the perfect place to read The Hobbit. Except when your dog comes running out at you out of nowhere while your head is filled with orcs… I have never screamed so loud.
As a writer, I need to draw upon my surroundings, write what I know; and I am spoiled for choice. ‘Upside-down trees’ (baobabs), magnificent animals, folklore, and mighty rivers… I have been stalked, chased and burnt to shreds by the African sun enough for me to have writing material for years to come.
I love this continent.