My favourite South African author of late has to be Vida Li Sik. I got to read her stories through beta-reads, and her work just gets stronger and stronger, often giving me new perspectives on situations and people. What I love about Vida’s stories are her striking characters, unusual settings, and an unflinching look at the harder aspects of lives and people’s weaknesses. Her characters are flawed, but they grow (and maybe you with them). You end up cheering them on, no matter what! Vida’s second book in her new series is out, so, naturally…You know how this goes by now 😀
Here’s how Vida responded to my questions…
Leenna: Your Hearts Series follows the personal stories of Hannah, Savanna and Daouda Dervain—mother, daughter and son/brother. The first in the series, Aching Heart, looks at healing the relationship between the estranged mother and daughter. What made you begin the series with the family drama instead of a romance?
Vida: I come from a big and very dysfunctional family and relationships between parents and children, and the relationships between siblings themselves are very complex. While there is love for one another, the capacity to misunderstand each other’s motives and decisions is very real. This fascinates me and it was almost a no-brainer to start the series with the family drama.
Leenna: Savanna is mixed race, while Daouda’s father was Ivorian. Was it a conscious decision to make the characters multi-cultural or did they kind of write that in themselves? How did that affect your story telling?
Vida: Yes, it was a very conscious decision to write about multi-cultural characters. I’ve always wanted to read stories about people like myself. I had a Chinese father and so-called Coloured mother and a few friends of mine also come from mixed-race families, so I have personal experience of what it’s like to not quite belong anywhere, and the insecurities and challenges that go with that. At the same time, coming from a multi-cultural family provides you with unique experiences.
I wanted to explore different aspects of those challenges in my writing in The Heart Series and going forward.
Leenna: What made ‘Aching Heart’ a stand out story for me was the unflinching look at Hannah’s weaknesses and her personal growth. Her battle with alcoholism, cancer and her decisions in raising her kids are all highlighted. Was it difficult for you to write about a mother with Hannah’s past and painful present?
Hannah has a lot on her plate and plenty of issues to deal with. As a mother, I felt empathy for her because I knew that deep down, she really just wanted to be the best mother she could be. Yes, she’s made mistakes in how she raised her children and it’s something we can all relate to. I really felt with her as I wrote her story, and yes, it was very difficult at times.
Leenna: Despite Hannah’s former decisions and reactions in life, in Aching Heart we get to see her strengths and go with her on an emotional journey of seeking redemption. Was this an important theme for you?
Definitely. I believe that no matter how bad our past was or how difficult life is right now, there is always hope, and I wanted to have Hannah grow and come out stronger at the end.
Leenna: Savanna is incarcerated when we first meet her. We get a glimpse of her harsh life in prison and of her desperation. As a reader, these scenes were unique to me as I haven’t come across a story set in a South African women’s prison before. Why did you choose that particular setting and how did you get to research it.
I was part of a Christian prison outreach programme and visited inmates who don’t receive regular visits from family and friends. I went once a month and visited two women for five years, and that’s where the inspiration for the story came from. I was so impacted by the mothers who go there year after year. I got to speak to some of them but also just listened and observed their interactions with their children. One thing that impressed me was that no matter what crimes their kids were serving time for, these women still loved and cared for their children.
Leenna: Savanna’s adapting to regular life and romance is the focus of Book 2 ‘Lonely Heart’. Tell us more about it.
Vida: Savanna starts life afresh in the Ivory Coast where she is helping her brother start a new business. She is very lonely and is finding it hard to build new relationships. She fears that people will reject her when they find out she’s spent time in prison. So she keeps her previous life a secret, and discovers that it is very difficult to build trust in relationships when you are not completely open.
Life after prison is a huge adjustment for Savanna and I wanted to explore how she coped with rebuilding her life. A few people have told me that Aching Heart was very intense, so while I still explore Savanna’s relationships, I wanted to write something lighter with a Happy Ever After, which explains the heavier focus on her romance with Alexander.
Leenna: I love that the story is set in Ivory Coast, as I’ve never traveled there. Tell us about some of your own trips to that region.
I was very fortunate to live in Ivory Coast for just over four years. My two sons were born there during the country’s two coup d’états (overthrows of the government), so those were very interesting times. I loved the greenery because it’s situated just above the Equator, has a tropical climate and is very hot. You literally sweat all the time like you’ve stepped into a steam bath. Although one plus was that my skin was at its softest ever because of the humidity [chuckles]. It was odd, but when you’re from South Africa, people there don’t think you’re from the “real Africa”, and it was quite an adjustment. I learnt to speak French and loved learning about a very different culture from my own, not to mention the clothes, food, crafts and having to bargain at the market, which I must admit I wasn’t very good at. The Ivory Coast is a melting pot of humanity. I got to know people from the rest of west Africa (the English speakers from Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria) and meeting others from the other surrounding French-speaking countries like Senegal, Burkina Faso and Mali. I loved it.
Leenna: So, next in line to have their story told is Daouda or ‘Yoda’ as Sav calls him. Can you give us a sneak peek at what Savanna’s little brother may get up to in the next book?
After years of dealing with women with issues (his mother and sister), Daouda, or Yoda, is ready to seek his own HEA and wants to get married and settle down. However, the woman he’s set his eyes on comes with her own baggage and secrets. The question is, will Daouda be patient enough to ride out yet another storm to find his pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?
I really want Yoda to have an easy time, but shame, it looks like he too is in for a challenging time [chuckles].
Leenna: Poor Yoda. I feel for him 😀
Leenna: As one of your beta-readers, I got a look at a story you have incomplete, but which I love, so I’ve just got to ask: will we get to see your romantic suspense story someday soonish? Maybe after Daouda’s story is explored? 😀
Absolutely! I started that story, that’s set in the Bushveld, in 2016 and I’m planning to publish it this year, even before Daouda’s story. I need a break from the Dervain family and all their problems: )
Leenna: Yay! You just made my day:-D
About Vida Li Sik
Vida Li Sik is a wife, mother, award-winning journalist and multi-genre author. She grew up in a small town, Nigel, in sunny South Africa. She now lives with her family in Johannesburg, the City of Gold. She has no pets and has yet to find a weird and wonderful hobby. In the meantime, she loves to write about people, real ones and imagined.
Find Vida online
Find her books online
Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo: https://books2read.com/u/mlwrzq
Link to Chapter in book? Download an excerpt of Savanna’s story in Lonely Heart, http://bit.ly/36PEggz