An Interview with Deborah Kalb

Washington writer Deborah Kalb publishes a website with daily historical factoids as well as interviews with authors. Many thanks to Deborah for posting an interview with me on January 15. She asked all sorts of questions about my writing such as how I chose my biography subjects and what I'm working on now. She also made me think why I do what I do.

When asked why I wanted to write about Mandela, I said,

"What is it about Mandela? The generosity of spirit, the dogged pursuit of truth and reconciliation, the willingness, or rather the ability, to forgive?

All of this drew me to Mandela, but there was also the puzzle of his imperfections and the details of his personal journey—a father who was a village chief and husband to four wives, an early childhood spent herding cattle and sheep, a facility for debate and an affinity for ballroom dancing. Then too it was the winning smile, his wisdom in supporting the (almost) all-white Springboks rugby team, and his command of language: 'There is no time to pause. The long walk is not yet over. The prize of a better life has yet to be won.'”

For other questions and answers see or