Racy Reading

Cover of "Folly" by Jassy Mackenzie

The internet is a weird, wide and wonderful place. It has its downfalls, but it has helped me accumulate a rather wonderful core of horsey friends from all walks of life and all corners of the world. It is a fantastic experience as horses attract an incredibly diverse mix of people.

While we may argue world politics on one hand, we can find common ground in a training methodology or a horse from the same family on the other. Occasionally a few of us come out from behind our computers and meet up for lunch, drinks, or some sort of horsey gathering, but mostly we communicate electronically.

And so I came to meet Jassy Mackenzie in a horse forum.  A mutual taste in horses (we each own a Woodborough) led to a Facebook friendship and it turned out that Jassy is an extraordinarily talented woman.  She is a published author with no less than 4 crime fiction works to her name (the Jade de Jonge Investigation series) and has been making waves with her latest offering, Folly.

For those who haven’t yet noticed the racy cover gracing your local bookstore, the description on her website reads:  “Folly – a spanking good read.  Emma Caine is pushing forty and life is hitting her hard.  Her husband has been brain damaged, she’s lost her job, and she might lose her home.  Instead of giving up, Emma starts hitting back …. and sets herself up as a dominatrix.”

It is South Africa’s answer to Fifty Shades of Grey, with a horsey twist of course as Emma sets up her dungeon in her disused tack room.  As Jilly Cooper is getting a little long in the tooth, Molly Joyce’s July Fever is about 20 years old and the fact that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, I rang up to find out more.  The things I do to be topical!

Jassy Mackenzie

Jassy Mackenzie

Who is Jassy

Jassy Mackenzie was born in Harare when it was still called Salisbury and moved to Johannesburg when she was 8.  She was practically born with a book in her hand – mother Ann Mackenzie was a well-known short story writer in her day and Jassy’s sister Vicky Jones is a prize-winning author of children’s books in New Zealand.

Having finished school at St Mary’s she then did “a lot of different things from summer camp in the US to cross-pollinating tomatoes in Israel to chastising naughty boys on the phone lines in Birmingham.

Come again?

Jassy spent some time manning premium rate numbers in the UK at a time where “there wasn’t a lot of knowledge on the subject and the first I knew about it was when clients started asking for it.  It was amusing and intriguing to have someone demanding so much subjugated authority to you, but as the person on the end of the line I needed to learn – fast!”  She did and in turn ended up training some of her colleagues.  It gave her some interesting insights.   “Some quite enjoyed being able to boss a naughty man around, but some people simply can’t do it.  A lot of women are plainly uncomfortable exerting authority over a male – it’s quite an interesting comment on gender roles in society.”

I was curious as to who this sort of thing appeals to.  “Well, men of course.  And in particular, men who have very high pressured work environments where they have to make decisions all the time and are not allowed a huge amount of creativity.  All they want to do at the end of the day is relinquish their responsibilities and have someone else be in charge for a change.  In a funny way it restores their equilibrium.”

Writing Career

Eventually she came back to South Africa and started working as an editor on a hair and beauty trade magazine, which she still does today.  Winning a short story competition prompted her to attempt a book and she completed her first novel, Random Violence, about 6 years ago.  When I ask what it’s like to see your book on the shelf for the first time, Jassy says it’s an amazing thrill.  But what has been a huge project for you, is simply another book choice to the public and while you’re thrilled to have achieved something, you quickly realise you are a small fish in a very big pond.  It’s incredibly humbling.”

However, five thrillers later, Jassy says she was ready to try something different.  Erotic fiction is exploding as a genre and the subject has always intrigued and amused her.  After the phenomenon of Fifty Shades of Grey, she decided to give it a try and produced Folly.  Locally set and obviously locally written, her publishers gave it an immediate thumbs up and it has been available in most good bookshops for about a week now.

So where does she get her inspiration?

Jassy has always loved horses.  She currently owns two Thbs and used to write a newsletter for a local racing trainer.  “He used to take me to breakfast at Randjies and I loved watching the horses work.”  The plot has been in the back of her mind for some time and she says she was glad to get it out on paper.  “Of course the horsey environment and equipment lends itself very well for my purposes.  In my book, the heroine owns two retired thoroughbreds and her concern for them is partly responsible for her choosing to do what she does. Luckily she has a well-equipped tack room with a lot of whips, spurs and useful leather items!  While it seems more accepted to regard the woman as the submissive, I didn’t want to go that route.  When I decided that I wanted to write a domination book with the woman in charge I knew I was going to have to approach the subject sensitively.”

When you’re dealing with a subject like that, you need a likeable heroine to make it more approachable as a subject.  The book has a deliberately playful, Jilly Cooper-esque feel (reflected in the cover) and she’s tried to inject a lot of humour.  Obviously the very nature of the subject matter provides endless potential.  As Emma goes about her project in her hapless way she gets into all sorts of potentially funny situations as she needs to be strict and stern with clients who turn out to be a lot more experienced than her in certain things.

The other difference is that the heroine and love interest are in their late 30’s / early 40’s.  “That’s a time of life when you don’t have as many options as you do when you’re in your 20s.  Of course despite being older and wiser, one realises that all those awkward emotions and insecurities about falling in love remain the same and makes it all the more funny that she is 10 years down the line and having to start again.  I think a lot of us can relate.”

“The book has some very funny scenes.  It’s about a woman, who falls in love with someone, but because of how they meet, things are complicated and it’s about how they strive to overcome these problems.  It’s dirty without pushing the boundaries too far.  It will definitely open your eyes but basically at its heart it is a love story.

How have her friends and family felt about her taking on this new and rather controversial genre?  “My family are great and have been very supportive”.  Her sister is her ‘alpha’ proof reader and partner Dion also gives his input.  He has enjoyed the romance and says that as a male reader he’s got quite a lot out of the book.  “I gave my dad his copy last weekend.  It’s a bit difficult–it has erotic passages which can make one quite self-conscious, but my dad is 85 and I’m sure will have a giggle about it and won’t be too shocked!”


She was recently interviewed by Sam on Morning Live and was gratified when Sam said he’d not only read the book, but that it had kept him up all night.  He really enjoyed the book and thought it would be great for couples.  The other nice thing was how much he liked the heroine and said she came across as a really likeable person.

“I gave her a similar background to me in having some experience on the phone.  In a way I put myself in her situation and I thought that if my life went drastically wrong, how would I get myself out of it.  Thinking creatively this is something that came to mind.  How appealing and how crazy!”

As well as being entertaining and fun and lifting the veil on domination from a female perspective, Jassy says a lot of readers have laughed and cried their way through the book.  “Feedback has been excellent.  People who’ve read it have liked the erotic scenes, which there are enough of in the book to make it a proper juicy read, but they have also said that the humour is what has made it different and more fun than a traditional erotic novel.”

A good read

Jassy was practically born with a book in her hand and good writing is very important to her.  With the genre growing the way it is, it is an area that offers a lot of room for new authors as well as a lot of room for bad authors and readers will need to distinguish between the two.

I ask who the book is aimed at and whether she’s found it more popular in specific demographics.  “Well, it’s primarily written for a female audience, but it has a lot of crossover appeal.  Because it deals with empowering women, it is something that I think people are looking for.  In a recent article by the City Press (which has a nearly 100% black readership) they interviewed Sharon Gordon, owner of Johannesburg sex shop Lola Montez who says “When I started in this industry 10 years ago our clients were mainly Afrikaans women.  Last year for the first time we had black men coming into the store.”

Jassy agrees.  “It’s a demographic that has increased hugely, there is more awareness and it is becoming more acceptable.  Obviously that is quite pertinent given our current local situation.  It shows that attitudes are changing.  Women want to know how to be empowered and learn that it’s Ok to take control.  It is important to give women a voice and a more importantly a choice.  If erotic fiction is playing a role in doing that in a good way then that is a good thing.”

So there you have it.  If you’re looking for something racy this Thursday, other than a good thing at the Vaal, Folly is available at all good bookshops and retails at R170.00.  It is also available as an ebook priced at around R40.

Jassy has already started working on her next thriller but says she’d love to write a sequel to Folly if there is enough demand.  To keep up with her latest news, you can follow her at www.jassymackenzie.com

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