JoeyPinkney.com Exclusive Interview
5 Minutes, 5 Questions With…
Tracy Engelbrecht, author of The Girl Who Couldn’t Say No
(Oshun Books, South Africa 2007, Amazon Kindle 2011)
The Girl Who Couldn’t Say No is the autobiography of a South African teenage mom. It’s my story of unplanned pregnancy at 15, and the joys and challenges of life as a single mother since then.
Joey Pinkney: Where did you get the inspiration to write The Girl Who Couldn’t Say No?
Tracy Engelbrecht: Life. Me. The odd and sometimes bewildering wilderness between my ears. I’ve always wanted to write, and I always knew that this story would be the one I told first. For someone as introverted as me, it was a strange experience to spill my guts to the world – but exciting and well worth it.
JP: What sets The Girl Who Couldn’t Say No apart from other books in the same genre?
TE: The book was originally published in 2007, long before the “teen moms” became fashionable – before Bristol Palin, MTV and Juno, there was me. It doesn’t draw on any of those sensationalised influences, instead it’s honest and real. No sugar-coating, no horror stories – just real life.
Teen moms are tired of seeing themselves portrayed inaccurately, and I attempted to change that. Everybody’s story is different – this is simply mine. As I say in the book – “It’s not a cautionary tale of a Good Girl Gone Bad or even of a Bad Girl Made Good… It’s just a little story of changes and adjustment, of love and destiny”.
That’s good enough, I reckon.
JP: As an author, what are the keys to your success that led to The Girl Who Couldn’t Say No getting out to the public?
TE: Good luck! I was fortunate enough to be noticed by a publisher who requested I write my story for them.
The book was first published in South Africa in 2007 and is now out of print there. I decided to make it available to a wider audience via digital publishing and released it as an ebook through a number of outlets including Amazon Kindle.
JP: As an author, what is your writing process? How long did it take you to start and finish The Girl Who Couldn’t Say No?
TE: I used to write in the evenings after my children were in bed, sometimes into the early hours of the morning. It took about 8 months to write, before the editing process started with the publisher.
JP: What’s next for Tracy Engelbrecht?
TE: In 2010, I started Young Mom Support, a social support group for young and teenage moms in my area of Cape Town. Teenage pregnancy is rife in SA, but there is very little in the way of emotional or community support available for young mothers. We aim to provide a safe and non-judgmental environment for them to be themselves and find support.
I also still have my dayjob, and of course my 2 children (17 & 10) keep me busy!
The story is likely not what many people expect – no sepia-toned photos of sad little girls on swings clutching teddy bears symbolic of their lost youth and so on. It’s also not a hearts-and-flowers glorification of teenage pregnancy or motherhood in general.
The truth is somewhere in the middle, and I’ve tried to tell the story warts and all, even when it’s less than flattering to the old battered ego. Honesty, above all. Love. Fear, panic, joy and happiness. Just like real life, in other words.