WORK/LIFE: Paige Nick

Paige Nick

Paige Nick’s novels include Dutch Courage, This Way Up and A Million Miles from Normal (which is also the name of her popular Sunday Times column). A copywriter who has worked on brands such as Santam, BMW and Nashua, over more than two decades, she’s also is one third of the Helena S. Paige trio, whose first choose your own adventure erotic novel, A Girl Walks into a Bar, launched in 2013.

What does “writing” mean?

Sitting down and beating off every other distraction to get your words down for the day, every day. Whether they’re for a book, column, or an ad for coffee beans.

Which book changed your life?

When I was 11, I took The Never Ending Story, by Michael Ende, out of my library. It was the first “proper” book I ever read, because it had so many pages. I was completely absorbed by it. That was when I first discovered that I had magical powers, and I could make the whole world disappear, and a new one form in front of my eyes. All I had to do was open a book.

Your favourite fictional character?

Ooh tough one, so many to choose from. It’s somewhere between Winnie-the-Pooh and Alice in Wonderland.

What are you working on at the moment?

I just finished my ninth novel, Unpresidented. It’s a political satire, set in the future. The president of South Africa, Jeremiah Gejeyishwebisa Muza, has just been released from prison early on medical parole for an ingrown toenail. Entirely fictional of course.

Describe your workspace.

Whereever I am at any given moment.

Paige Nick's Workspace

The most important instrument you use?

Easily my laptop, closely followed by my brain.

What’s your most productive time of day?

I think the best author preparation, has been spending the last twenty-three years with a full-time job as a copywriter in ad agencies. I’ve learnt mental toughness, a resilience to feedback and criticism, and most importantly, I’ve learnt how to be productive at any given moment, and how to squeeze in an hour of writing anywhere I get a gap in the day; whether it’s morning, noon, night, or later that same night.

What do you do when you’re stuck, or not feeling creative?

A run almost ALWAYS helps me untangle a plot knot. I also rely heavily on a handful of really amazing (and patient) writing friends. We discuss mental traffic jams, which often unloops me too.

How do you relax?

I don’t think I’ve been properly relaxed since my first novel came out in 2010. But to partially unwind, I run, travel, hang out with friends, have sex, and watch the most disgustingly brain-dead TV series, which I’d be too embarrassed to name in public.

Who and what has influenced your work?

Sarah Lotz, international author, and powerhouse of inspiration constantly influences my work, because I’m constantly picking her brain. There are others to add to the list too; my amazing editor Helen Moffet, and other writer friends, Edyth Bulbring, Rahla Xenopoulos and Yewande Omotoso. But I know that’s not what you’re asking.

I read widely, or rather, as widely as possible, given the time-drought we find ourselves in. But I don’t know who influences my work. Of course Sex & the City influenced my early colums, but my novels seem to be coming from so many different places right now that it’s hard to pinpoint any specific influence.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

“Nobody cares that you only had the weekend.”

It’s the headline from a print ad from the 70s or 80s for an advertising awards show, and I need to dig it out of my archives again. The copy went to talk about how excuses don’t matter. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is the work and how good it is.

This was reitterated by writing coach Sarah Bullen who once told me that you can watch a TV series/go out/sleep/read OR you can have a novel. It’s your choice.

These thoughts play over and over in my mind while I’m mired in a draft of a new novel.

Your favourite ritual?

Probably making tea, sharpening pencils and checking social media and my email obsessively. I do that several times, then get down to work.

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

Other than the self-hatred and angst when you’re in the middle of it? It’s got to be the market. It’s so freaking flat, I can’t stand it. You work yourself to death to sell a couple thousand books. For what? I can’t stop doing it, but I know I probably should.

What do you dislike most about yourself?

God, how long do you have? We may need a longer page.

What are you afraid of?

Again, I think I need more ink on this one. I have a lot of fear and anxiety. Mostly to do with failure and death, in that order.

What advice would you give to people starting out in a writing career?

It’s the most boring advice in the world. Write.

What’s the thing you’re proudest of doing?

Dutch Courage (Penguin SA, 2016) was the hardest book I’ve ever written, because it was so far out of my comfort zone and realm of reference. It took me four years and two overseas trips to research and write, while all my other books have come out of me in six months to a year. But more than that, I’m proud of where I am. I’ve worked really really hard for this life, and it’s one thousand per cent the one I want to live, and I think there is much merit and some luck in that.

THE READER: Reg Lascaris — ad man


Reg Lascaris co-founded advertising agency TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris in 1983; it has subsequently received a host of awards including Financial Mail’s Agency of the Century. The regional president of TBWA\Africa\Middle East, Lascaris has worked on many brands, including the ANC during the run-up to South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994. He has co-authored five books and has recently penned Lessons from the Boot of a Car.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson, but it’s taking me quite a while due to other pressures.

What book has had the greatest impact on you?

I think Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People is one of the best self-help books ever written.  A lot of people have pooh-poohed it, but I found it very informative when I read it a few years ago (a couple of times) and I’m sure a lot of that information has remained in my subconscious mind.

What is your favourite novel of all-time?

I don’t really read novels, so the closest thing I can get to “stories” is A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.

What were your favourite books as a child?

I remember as a child reading the Secret Seven series which of course are novels, and that was later followed by The Famous Five, which I enjoyed tremendously.

What’s the last book you gave as a gift?

This is pretty obvious — Lessons from the Boot of a Car which I wrote recently.

What’s the last thing you read that made you laugh?

Very definitely the first Spud by John van de Ruit, because a lot of it is based on a boarding school I went to many years ago.

Which book have you never been able to finish?

When I was at University for a “short time”, everybody was talking about the threat of communism, the Cold War etc. etc, so I attempted to read a very thick book on communism, which I never finished, but I can’t remember what it was called.

What book do you turn to for advice?

Like many other people, I’m a big admirer of Warren Buffet and one of my favourite Warren Buffet-related books is The Warren Buffett Way: Investment Strategies of the World’s Greatest Investor.

The greatest book you’ve read about advertising?

One of the funniest and true to life books on the advertising industry in the ’70s and ’80s and still a great book to read today is From those Wonderful Folks who Gave you Pearl Harbor by Jerry Della Femina.  It’s a real send-up of everything that happens in this business.

Your favourite magazine?

Fast Company – I find it a quick informative read of current happenings.

What book would you give to the President of South Africa to read?

Leadership for Dummies by John Marrin – this is self-explanatory.

Lessons from the Boot of a Car by Reg LascarisLessons from the Boot of a Car is published by Penguin and is available from

10 QUESTIONS: King Adz


King Adz is a veteran ad-man and the author of several books, including The Urban Cookbook. His journeys around the globe in search of youth culture — and the brands which embody it, resonate with it and are embraced by it — led him to produce The Stuff You Can’t Bottle, an inspirational guide to successful youth advertising that takes you from Moscow and New Delhi to Johannesburg and Rio — and far beyond.

How did the The Stuff You Can’t Bottle come about?

I have worked in and out of advertising for two decades and have always kept one eye on what works and what sucks. At the turn of the millennium I stopped working in the industry as it had become such a strange place. Mainly because the traditional agencies were in complete denial of the digital revolution that was coming over the hill. They stuck their heads in the sand and this reflected not only on the work but the environment in which it was produced.

How did you land up in advertising?

I studied advertising at St Martins School of Art in London. I always liked advertising, preferring the ads to the programs when I was a kid. I always wanted to be a writer and advertising seemed like a good route. You can’t just rock up at a publishers and say, “Here I am!” Working globally in the ad game has given me so much experience — the one thing you need to be a writer. That’s after having a bit of talent. Lol.

You’ve spent time working and living in SA. What brought you to this country, and what did you love most about working here?

I have lived and worked in SA since 1997. It is my adopted home and I love the place more than anywhere else, England included. I get more love back here which says it all. I came here after a relative who lived in Wynberg came to visit and painted a glorious picture of South Africa. Okay so he didn’t actually paint a picture that would have been messy, but afterwards I flew to Cape Town with my advertising portfolio under my arm and got a job. My next book out here — My Mzansi Heart — is a non-fiction novel about my whole journey through this amazing country.

What’s the most inspiring thing about SA?

It’s untapped street culture. Hands down the most exciting and fresh country in the world. The youth here are going to rule! They need mentoring and guidance and this is where I come in!

What was the greatest challenge about working on the book?

Finding good work! There is so much bad stuff being produced that when I put the call out I was bombarded with shit!

What was your most surprising discovery while you were working on it?

That the whole advertising model is broken, especially which anything that is targeted at the youth. End of story.

Are today’s young people harder to market to than previous generations?

The youth know instantly when they are being sold to and check out immediately — I don’t blame them! They have grown up with the digital skills that puts them streets ahead of the previous generation.

You profile a number of brands who have been amazingly successful in connecting with youth markets. Of these, which do you has had the most powerful campaign, and what was it about the campaign that made it so successful?

Stussy. It was and still is the most authentic brand out there. Globally. Even after it’s founder Shawn Stussy left continued to really represent the youth. Street culture personified!

As youth culture and commerce merge, is there a risk that artistic integrity and edginess is being undermined?

No. It just means that artists can survive by doing lekker work for brands, without having to survive by working some shit McJob! Brands have simply become the patrons of the arts.

Do you believe there’s more creativity in advertising in developing nations than developed ones?

This is true sometimes. There is still a ton of bad advertising being produced in developing countries.


The Stuff You Can’t Bottle is published in South Africa by Jacana, R295, and in the UK by Thames & Hudson, £19.95.



THE READER: Sylvester Chauke


Sylvester Chauke is the founder of DNA Brand Architects, a branding agency based in Johannesburg. The former head of marketing at Nando’s, his career has included stints at Draftfcb, Ogilgy and DDB. He has worked on some of the world’s biggest brands, including Sprite and MTV. Chauke attended the 2013 World Economic Forum in Davos as a member of the WEF’s prestigious Global Shapers Community.

What are you reading at the moment?

Endings and Beginnings by Redi Tlhabi.

What book has had the greatest impact on you?

Professionally it must be Buyology by Martin Lindstrom. Personally –  A Sprat to Catch a Mackerel by Raymond Ackerman.

What is your favourite novel of all-time?

Bling by Erika Kennedy. I was so engaged it was unreal. Endings and Beginnings by Redi Tlhabi was same.

What were your favourite books as a child?

The illustrated Bible was cool as a child. It was so much fun imagining Moses parting the sea and such. I also liked superhero stories such as Superman, Batman and Spiderman. The more colorful and dramatic, the better.

What’s the last book you gave as a gift?

Men of the South by Zukiswa Wanner. Such a beautiful read.

What book would you give to the President of South Africa to read?

The Art of the Idea by John Hunt. There’s more he can do to inspire the nation.

Which book have you never been able to finish?

The Towering World of Jimmy Choo. Got so bored along the way.

What book do you turn to for advice?

The Art of the Idea by John Hunt.

Do you read mostly paper books? On your iPad? Kindle? All three?

Paper. I like paging and making notes!

If you could be one fictional character, who would it be?
Mimi in Bling by Erica Kennedy. She had star power and yet she was so unaware of it at first. I appreciated how she overcame her personal challenges to really make her life tick. I love strong characters who see something that no one else sees nor believe and still soldier on.