Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

The Interview


As a journalist, I spend a good deal of my time interviewing people. I have been interviewing people for 15 years. Last week I interviewed two people, one in India and one in Germany. So when Kit did the interview meme, and offered to interview someone, I was shamelessly jumping up and down, going “Me! Me!” like the most eager kid in class. Finally, I can say, “And now let’s talk about me.”

Without further ado, here is Kit’s interview with me.

Kit: How did you come to make your home in Germany? Is any one of the countries you’ve lived in your spiritual home or are you a natural nomad?

Charlotte: We moved to Germany in 1996 because my husband was offered the chance to work at the head-office of his company, SAP. I had never been to Germany, and like most Anglo-Saxons, I imagined that it was a horrible industrial complex beset with neo-Nazis and beer-swilling, yodelling sausage eaters dressed in Lederhosen. We came to look at Heidelberg one January. I had never been so cold in my life, but I was stunned by how beautiful it was. I knew straight away that I wanted to come and live here, for a while. Now, 11 years later (with a four-year hiatus in England), I have three children who speak perfect German and are deeply attached to this land.

Germany isn’t my spiritual home. I think South Africa is, though the longer I spend in Europe, the harder it gets for me to go home. A few months ago, the 100-year-old grandfather of a schoolfriend of mine was senselessly murdered, and I began to think it would not be possible for me to live in a country where life is taken so lightly. My children are also used to a certain amount of freedom, and it would be hard for me to take that away from them. So while my heart lies in Africa, I will probably always be a nomad. I love travel, I love new places and I like to keep moving.

Kit: If you could make a cocktail of all the best elements of South Africa and Europe, for your children to grow up with, what would you put in it?

I would take South African weather, landscape and spontaneity, and mix it with the relative freedom, the travel and the old, wise cultures of Europe. I would like them to grow up with a German sense of independence and disregard of status, a South African warmth and hospitality, and a European appreciation of art, literature and culture.

Kit: Where do you look for inspiration for your writing? Has blogging changed the way you approach your writing?

Charlotte: I am fascinated by people and what motivates them. I like to understand what makes people tick. I believe that life presents us with opportunities to grow into better versions of ourselves, so I tend to be intolerant of people who refuse those opportunities, who choose to stay the same, locked into old mindsets and prejudices. I like to write about the clash between people who grow and people who stay the same. Those who stay the same get short shrift. Growing up in apartheid South Africa helped to forge such a mindset, because the old Nationalist government tried in every way, legal and illegal, to restrict and contain people, but the positive energy of growth was so powerful and compelling that the society had to change. I love the idea of change and growth that is irresistible.

Blogging has taught me that I can write every day. However, with all the other things I try to cram into my day, I leave myself with little time or energy to write creatively. I am stuck with one story, and one set of characters, and anything I write seems to be about or around them. They are a novel waiting to happen. They are hovering in the stratosphere waiting for me to call them down. I have no doubt that I will finish writing about them and move on to the next story, but this story has to get written first.

Kit: What are the favourite books from your childhood that you still enjoy reading today?

Charlotte: I adored the Narnia books with a passion and have recently started reading them to my daughters. It has been wonderful rediscovering their magic.

Kit: What is your best comfort food?

Charlotte: There are different kinds of comfort food. Chocolate is my anti-depressant. When my husband is out of town and I’ve got a girly DVD to watch, I like popcorn. Soup is good on a cold day, or a salad on a hot one. A cup of tea made by someone else always tastes better than a cup of tea made by myself. For a hangover, I like white bread, thick pieces of cheese, salami and mustard. Because, you know, being a journalist, I get a lot of hangovers.

1. Leave a comment saying, “Interview me.”
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. Please make sure I have your email address.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment, asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.


I have also been tagged by Emily for the 10 Best Compliments meme and by Ms Magic Hands for the Five Things I Do To Raise My Vibe meme. I shall interview myself and report back later. Watch this space.

Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

21 thoughts on “The Interview

  1. Somehow, learning about people through their biographies is always the most fascinating thing for me. For a moment I thought: this is the essence of blogging — narcissism! But then I slapped that cynical thought down and remembered how meaningful it is to really share parts of ourselves, how much it helps people feel connected. So interview me, please!

  2. Henitserk, you’re right, narcissism is the essence of blogging, which is probably why it’s such fun. I will think up some questions and mail them to you later today.

  3. The same thing happens in my country. Life has no value…my parents have gone back to live there and it is a constant worry.

    I’ve never been interviewed…can I do it, please???

  4. Wonderful interview, Charlotte! I do love getting to know more about you. I think the essence of blogging is curiosity.

  5. Thanks for those great answers, Charlotte. I love the getting to know people through their blogs and the unlimited licence to write about myself and my life on mine, the way you can’t in normal conversation.

    It’s interesting that we traded in London for a South African farm and gained a lot more freedom for our kids here and it worked in the other direction for you. I guess small town Germany must be one of the safest places there is to grow up in.

    Narnia is also one of my childhoof favourites that I am thrilled that my son has taken to.

  6. i can’t believe i’ve missed your blog until now, charlotte.
    though i’ve never been to south africa, your cocktail of all the best elements of south africa and europe sounds perfect to me.
    and i, too, am amazed by the clash between people who choose growth and change and those who prefer the seeming “security” of old mindsets.
    i’ve been reading some of your older posts and i enjoy your writing very much, i’m adding you to my feed reader now.
    i’d venture to be interviewed, but i see somebody already asked above. a nice idea for a meme, i think, because you not only have to write something about yourself but you also have to look into someone elses blogs to make up the questions for your interview partner.

    viele grüsse von köln nach heidelberg!

  7. Oooh, I’m a supreme narcissist. Interview me, please.

  8. I always like reading what you have to say about South Africa. I remember that Nationalist Government, always an aura of oppression around PW Botha. I also want to visit Germany now.

  9. Oh, I want to raise the exact same kind of children! HOw wonderful. I guess though I would have to add just the slightest dose of Americana…perhaps an adoration for friday night football or the fourth of july or something…

  10. I’ve already been interviewed with this meme, and I’m sorry to say I dropped the ball and never got around to interviewing the people who requested it in my comments. 😦

  11. This is great!

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  13. Me! Me! Interview me please Charlotte!

    OOops. Manners, Aphra. Manners.

    I hadn’t realised you’d been in Germany so long. For some reason I thought it was only a couple of years – I guess I hadn’t picked up on the hiatus.

    This is a really creative meme – I like the fact it’s not just copycat stuff but is actually really interactive and transactional.


  14. Ooh, can you interview me too, please? I read your interview with Henitsirk and it was cool!

    Man, I know what you mean about chocolate being an anti-depressant. I seem to have a fridge full of it right now (Lindt!!) Not that I’m seriously depressed or anything, just the past few weeks have been draining. Three cheers for chocolate!

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