Riaan Grobler’s Debut Novel Published

Riaan Grobler with his editor from Luca, Amanda de Witt

In the competitive arena of arts and entertainment, not many can boast a repertoire as diverse as Riaan Grobler’s. Already a successful radio announcer and chart-topping singer, Riaan is about to score a hat-trick with the upcoming release of his debut Afrikaans novel, Geheime op Philadelphia (Secrets in Philadelphia), published by Luca, an imprint of Penguin Random House publishers.

An influential figure for Riaan on his path as a budding novelist was Elsa Winckler – his tutor on the Write a Novel Course (Skryf ’n roman kursus) at the South African Writers College. We caught up with Riaan to get updates on his new book and to find out more about his journey to becoming a published author.

Firstly, congratulations on having your novel chosen for publication! How did you react when you discovered that Penguin Random House was interested in publishing your novel?

When I got the email from the editor that my manuscript had made the first round of the pitch, I couldn’t believe it. Many writers warned me it seldom happens that a first manuscript is approved for publishing. I worked hard with Elsa Winckler to get my manuscript to be the best it could be. It’s amazing to think that the story in my head is coming to life on paper. The book will be released in April 2024.

Could you provide a brief overview of the book’s premise? What inspired you to embark on this theme, and how did you develop the initial idea into a fully-fledged novel?

The book is about a well-known Afrikaans singer who loses part of his hearing at the peak of his career and can’t sing anymore. He relocates to Philadelphia, a small town in the Western Cape, to begin a new life out of the spotlight. Little does he know, he can’t run away from his past.

I’m an Afrikaans singer myself and am very proud of my seven albums released nationally in the past 15 years. I’ve been on many stages throughout the country, which is where I got the idea for the story.

I began the manuscript when I started the Write a Novel Course at the Writers College, and it took me a year and a half to write. I always knew I could write, but I had to get to know the finer details of novel writing.

Geheime op Philadelphia

Writing a novel is a challenging endeavour. What aspect of the writing process presented the greatest difficulty for you, and how did you overcome it?

At first, I thought it was as simple as opening up my laptop and typing away, but I soon learned that it takes much more than that! I wrote the whole story and sent it to another writer to read. She gave me several notes and suggested that I do the Write a Novel Course at the Writers College. For me, writing from one person’s perspective was a challenge to overcome, but I had a brilliant tutor, and that helped a lot.

In what ways did the Write a Novel Course affect your approach to writing a novel? How did your experience at the Writers College contribute to your growth as a writer?

The course opened up a whole new world to me. I learnt so much! I was like a sponge, and Elsa was just brilliant. She had so much patience and really went out of her way to help me, showing me what to concentrate on and how it’s done. She’s a brilliant writer herself, and I read a lot of her books before I got to know her, so working with her was such an honour.

The course changed my whole perspective on novel writing. If I hadn’t done the course, my manuscript wouldn’t have been approved for publishing – it’s as simple as that. Reading a novel is one thing; writing one is a whole different story. You live, eat and drink your characters for the time you’re writing your story. It was amazing to develop my characters and ‘make’ them do what I want.

What are your hopes and expectations for your novel’s reception? Is there a particular message or theme you wish readers to take away from your work?

Oh, I hope they will enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the idea of what it could be! I’m a sucker for a good romance, as I’m very romantic myself. So, I had to challenge myself not to allow my characters and storyline to become soppy. I hope that when they finish the book, the readers will feel good about life and know that everything happens for a reason.

Given your experience, what advice would you offer aspiring writers who dream of achieving publication? What should they prioritise?

Believe in yourself and your story! I believed in mine so much that I decided not to take ‘no’ for an answer. Your heart will tell you if you have something good going. But be open-minded. I knew I had to fine-tune my writing skills, and luckily, somebody told me about the Writers College. Do the course! Even if you think your writing is good. Believe me, you will learn a lot about writing and about yourself!

Looking ahead, do you have any new writing projects in mind? Are you planning to continue writing within the same genre or explore different ones?

I started writing at a very early age. I liked to put stories down on paper, and I was good at it in school. I had two great Afrikaans teachers, one in primary school (Ms Snijders) and one in high school (Ms Van der Merwe), who planted in me a love of Afrikaans and writing in Afrikaans. They saw my talent, and they boosted me.

I would like to keep on writing till the day I die; hopefully, this book is the first of many. I’ve always been a go-getter, and I didn’t have it easy. I had to create opportunities when there were none, and I had the will and the power to make it happen.

I’m so excited about my writing and learning more about the craft so I can write better every time. Who knows? It would be awesome to become a household name like Elsa Winckler or Helene de Kock or Deon Meyer. Now, that’s my goal.

More about Riaan:

Riaan Grobler is a multi-talented artist. His passion for music has led him to great heights as a celebrated singer, entertaining audiences nationwide with seven chart-topping albums over the past 15 years. Riaan has also conquered the airwaves as a full-time radio announcer at PretoriaFM for nearly two decades. His artistic journey has now expanded to the realm of literature, with his debut novel set to be published by the prestigious Penguin Random House. You can catch glimpses of his vibrant life on his public Facebook profile ‘Riaan Grobler’ or @RiaanGrobler on Twitter and Instagram.

You can find Geheime op Philadelphia in bookstores from 5 February or online here:


Main image: Riaan Grobler is with his editor, Amanda de Witt, from Luca, an imprint of Penguin Random House Publishers.

SAWC Write a Novel Course


On Key

Related Posts

Our Refund Policy

If within seven days of starting your course you are not happy on your course, we can either transfer you to a different course or provide a full refund.

If you request a refund after seven days and before 30 days we will charge a 5% administrative fee, as well as any bank fees and tutor fees already incurred.

We do not offer a refund after 30 days on the course.