My wife proposed to me on a leap year. At karaoke. On stage.   

Adam Alexander

Adam Alexander

I was an aspiring singer when I met Ann. We were both divorced, single, and decidedly miserable, so much so that I spent 2 hours a day at the gym, and was vehemently against relationships believing that love was a myth, and any form of intimacy was a precursor to more misery. Ann did too. We both reluctantly met each other on our first date with the intention of telling each other that this was a bad idea. Such a bad idea in fact that we hardly noticed the time go by and before we knew it they’d closed up the entire restaurant and there we were, still deep in conversation. We moved in together a few months later, both firmly convinced that marriage was never to be a topic of discussion.  With me still delusional about becoming the next undiscovered idol, we ended up at karaoke  on the 29th of Feb. Ann doesn’t sing. We’re polar opposites that way. I sing, she’s happy in the audience. I take the stage and do public speaking, she’s happy to support me from the front row. Anyway, there we are at Karaoke and Ann gets up on stage. The screen says she’s going to sing one of our favorite songs. I’m more surprised than anyone to see her on the stage. She calls me up to sing with her, and bam! Next thing she drops down one knee, and asks me to marry her.  I’m even more surprised than I was before. I dropped down on one knee and said yes. Here we are 5 years later and everyone who knows us comments on how beautiful our love is. I am very wary of invitations to go to karaoke though. 

I have 4 kids, 4 dogs and 4 cats. And a Pekingese. This coming from a guy who didn’t like dogs. 

Annie and I each have 2 kids from our first marriages, so when we married, we had to find a house with 5 bedrooms. It was more of a mammoth task as neither of us had money back then.  It’s true I used to hate dogs. Something to do with my dad, my childhood, and land mines bigger than me dropped by a ridgeback bigger than my dad. I can do cats. Cats don’t care if you’re home or out as long as they get fed. Cats will never come bounding up to you to say hello and leave muddy paw prints on your work clothes while you’re dashing out the house late for a meeting.  Cats wouldn’t care if you weren’t even at the meeting as long as they get fed. I wasn’t a big fan of dogs. The first one we owned together was a Pekingese whose sole function in life is to grunt and pee on anything important.  We eventually gave in to the persistent nagging of our teenage daughter, and the endless videos that she thrust in our faces day after day, and it was probably those videos that ate our bandwidth every month. We eventually got ourselves a black and white Boston terrier with blue eyes who, true to Boston terriers, is the wildest, maddest, most energetic adorable bundle of teeth, muscle, slobber and toxic gas on the planet. He doesn’t care what he gets fed. It all goes down the same way. And ends up converted to methane that can clear a room, obliterate human eyebrows and melt enamel paint. The cats don’t seem to care. As long as they get fed. 

I once hosted a morning radio show and quit because women said I had a sexy voice. 

I thought it was a great honour when the owner of a local radio station called me up after she interviewed me on her show, and told me I had a great face for radio. I joined the morning show team without really thinking. This meant I had to be up at 5:30am every day, get to a studio whose air conditioning was more unpredictable than a shopping trolley managed by a goat, and take control of a microphone, talking to people I’d never meet about topics I didn’t know. For no pay. I’ll confess I don’t keep up to date with the news most of the time, and I didn’t drop like a fish into water hosting a radio show that discussed current events every day. I did slip into doing mundane segments like traffic, and On This Day in History, which needed something unique, so I satirized my daily segment. It was doomed from the start.  Take a natural introvert who knows blow all about the news and put him in charge of a radio show that talks about current events. Great combination. On days where I was running the show solo (and there were several of these) there was an unexplained increase in the number of ads and songs that aired following those awkward silences when I developed stage fright and couldn’t remember what the name the thing that helps people walk through walls was. On the plus side, a number of listeners commented on my voice, described it as sexy, and asked if I was married. I gave up being a radio show host and slept longer in the mornings instead.  A door. The thing you use to walk through walls with. It’s called a door. 

I camped on the lawns of the business school where I did an MBA and walked into the wrong class the next morning. In my PJ’s. 

Firstly, I just have to add that I did an MBA entirely by mistake. A friend dragged me to the open day at a business school because he wanted to do an MBA, and being a good friend I went with him. It was pre-divorce and I thought it would be a good excuse to spend a day out with the boys. Also, I swore I’d never enter a classroom as long as I lived after the end of my undergrad degree 20 years before. To cut a long story short, we both signed up. I chalk it down to peer pressure, the frenzy of the day, and the free food. A few weeks later I was accepted onto the program and my friend, the one who I was helping out by accompanying to the open day, wasn’t. I made a name for myself at business school by writing and singing parody songs for my class after every module, and being the only person in the history of the business school to camp on the lawns. This was in the name of responsible drinking, and it was before Uber became a global synonym for a wild night out, and it happened on the night of our very last day of 18 months of mind-blowing, sometimes cerebral numbing lectures. We had a party. I spearheaded the move to camp on campus. Why call it a campus if you can’t pitch a tent, right? They insisted on giving us a research methodology lecture the following morning so we had to be back in class the next day. In protest I walked into class in my pj’s, towel over my shoulder, toiletry bag in my hand, toothbrush in my mouth only to discover it was the wrong class. I made a name for myself on campus. You just can’t repeat that name in front of the children. 

I’ve never jumped out of a moving airplane or off a bridge, but I do enjoy red wine, a good whiskey, and coffee.  

Call me a sissy, but I’m not a thrill seeking adrenaline junkie. I once went up in a hot air balloon and the “pilot” (what do you call a balloon operator??) shared her views on parachuting, with which I wholeheartedly agreed. If the propeller is still spinning there’s no reason to jump out of a perfectly functional airplane.  Likewise, if the bridge isn’t burning, there’s no reason to tie a rope around your ankles and plunge headlong into the abyss. I get my thrills from my cappuccino machine, my wine cellar, and my whiskey collection.  No day starts without coffee.  No day is free from regular interruptions to get more coffee. And life is too short to endure a bad coffee.  The same goes for whiskey and wine, except not while I’m at work. While I’m writing, definitely. No great story ever began with a salad. 

I’m a serial entrepreneur, but I hate working. So I work hard not to. 

I used to own a coffee shop, a stationery business, a virtual computer shop, a network installation service, a popup bookshop, and a lot of other unsuccessful businesses, even one that made vinyl stickers for wheely bins.  I did learn more at business school than how to write parody songs and camp. Ok – the truth is I went to business school learn what I’d been doing wrong for the last 20 years, because my businesses weren’t doing well.  At that stage I had about 20 customers and the number was dwindling, and I worked 25 hours a day to keep things afloat. I used to have hair back then too. I now run a very successful business called Imagin8, which looks after hundreds of customers, and I work a lot less than I used to.  The things I work on are fun, mostly, and I spend most of my time doing what I love – being creative. I had to think of a tag line for Imagin8, and it wasn’t easy considering the many things Imagin8 does. Eventually I settled on this one: Creative Genius at Work. My wife thinks I have an amazing mind. I think my wife is amazing. We should get a room. 

I used to sing, play guitar, write songs and gig but ran out of time, so now I write books

One thing I’m often asked is, “where do you find the time?” People usually ask me this question when I tell them all the things I do. Run the business, lecture, (there used to me many more items here), and write books. I’m currently working on my 6th novel. When I met Ann, I was a budding solo musician. I play guitar, and was doing a lot of open-mic nights, and looking for gigs. I wrote songs, because I had given up on writing books so many times over the years. To write a book, you have to write about 300 pages, about 80,000 words, and it takes a long time.  To write a song, you only have to write a few hundred words, 2 pages, and you can do it over just one bottle of wine. It’s so much easier to write songs! But something profound happened after I met Ann. I stopped trying to impress drunk people I didn’t even know in seedy bars, and I started writing stories for my favorite audience.  Ann was the inspiration behind my first ever completed novel, because she was so excited to hear the concept, which I was reluctant to share with her because of a fear of criticism born from previous experience, and she cheered me on to write the first chapter.  After the first chapter it was more like Ben Hur riding on the chariot spurring his horse on. Annie demanded the next and the next chapter and didn’t let me drop the story for a minute. I had wanted to write novels since I left school, and I finally finished my first novel with the encouragement of my wife, after losing so much time inbetween. My advice to budding authors is to follow your heart, write from the heart, and write because you want to say something you believe in. Close out the negative people in your life, and allow in the positive ones. Of course there’s a down side. As I wrote more and more, Annie would always be my first audience, and I loved more than anything to watch her reading the stories I’d written. She’d laugh. She’d take the manuscript with her on a Sunday afternoon to read before having an afternoon nap, and emerge an hour later, nerves frayed, and tell me the book was too exciting to fall asleep to. She even phoned my mother to complain about the way I ended Masters of the City. How did I get here talking about guitar and gigs?  We’re blessed with music in the family. The kids have taken on the legacy. Our kids are singers, drummers, guitarists, and producers.  While they’re doing all that, I try to spend weekends writing. And to answer the question “where do you find the time,” I always say this: “You don’t find the time. You make it.”

I used to be a lot more active, but realized me and life have one important thing in common. We’re both short. Now I have a great relationship with my couch. 

Life and priorities change over time. When I was 30-something, I looked in the mirror one day and realized I’d grown very wide, and looked very wobbly without a shirt on. So I began to hit the gym. A lot. At one stage, in my early forties, I looked pretty good. I had the six-pack, I was doing 2 hours of gym a day. I even went back to karate to finish what I’d started when I was eighteen, and get my black belt. But then I met Annie, and the two of us found something we never expected to find. Happiness. We decided life was too short to waste a single moment on inconsequential things. Now that we’re in our fifties, we love life and every moment we spend together. Those moments are always a cause for celebration. Celebrations don’t work with water and celery sticks. So we eat, we drink, and we celebrate life. Every day. I’ve stopped feeling guilty about not going to the gym, and I’ve stopped trying to lose the same 10lbs I’ve been trying to lose for years. The six-pack is gathering dust in a closet somewhere along with my black belt and a lot of songs I wrote about people I hardly know before I met Ann and found happiness and purpose. 

I lecture for 3 of SA’s leading business schools where I teach people how to not work just like me.

After I finished my MBA, I wanted to run back to the people who were suffering just like I had suffered trying to make a success of their businesses but not knowing how. Lecturing for me is my way of giving back. In the classroom, I get to share my experiences, successes and failures, my learning and ideas, and change lives.  I love these sessions because there I am, having worked mainly only for myself, telling people how to run big companies the way I run mine. I didn’t realize how many people want to be like me and not work.  

I write because I love to write, and I’m not the guy in any of my stories. 

I can’t speak for other authors, but my heroes are not alter egos of myself. When I write, I some up with a premise first, and then construct a story around that with characters that enrich the story. When I need to add colour to a scene, or make characters and experiences more real, I bring in snippets from people I know and stories I’ve heard. Some of my kids have had cameo roles in some of my scenes. People have shared experiences that end up in some of my stories. Characters are a mosaic, born of different experiences and moments, parts of personalities I’ve seen or encountered. Lanthus, in Garage Band, for example, had to be the total opposite of a hero, because he starts off the story being a complete loser that you just want to slap around the ears and scream “Get a backbone!!” I don’t personally know anyone like that, but I’ve met characters that are parts of Lanthus. He also had to have a cutting and witty, dry sense of humour, and for that he has me to thank.  So I’m not Lanthus. In the Porter’s rule series, the hero is a good looking, slim and tall cop who is doomed in relationships. I’m not him either, although he’s a martial arts expert, and I used my own experience with Karate to craft that side of him. He’s cynical and dark, so I had to find other tiles in his character mosaic to make him credible and real.  I have to tread carefully in telling stories because they can’t be about me.  In my very early author days, when I was working on book -1 which will never be completed or published, I approached an author mentor who read the first 10 pages, sent them back to be with more red and margin notes than the words I had submitted, and an article called “Common Mistakes all first time writers make”. I was guilty of very one of them, most notably that since I’m not Bill Gates, Elon Musk or anybody famous or interesting, nobody wants to read my life story, interesting as I may think it might be in some misguided, delusional hallucination.  Hence I started writing pure fiction, with a little bit of personal colour.  I try to keep my plots unpredictable, and my characters real. The plot for Garage Band is original, plausible, and every time you think you know what’s going to happen, something else smacks you from left field. I try to think of the predictable outcome, and then turn everything upside down more than once as you read. If a book makes you laugh out loud, root for the hero, and stay up all night reading because you just have to get to the end of the next chapter, then it’s done the job of entertaining you. That’s the kind of book I aim for each time I think up a new plot over a salad with a good bottle of wine while the Boston terrier is tearing up the house.  The cats don’t mind as long as they get fed. 

About the author: Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, Adam Alexander founded the technology company, Imagin8. He also is regular lecturer on business and entrepreneurship at University of Stellenbosch and other business schools. In his spare time he enjoys playing the guitar, trying his hand at wood carving and drinking red wine and fine whisky. He lives with his wife Anne, their four children and an eccentric troupe of pets. His previous books include Lost Soul (Imagin8 Publishing 2014) and Slave to the City (Imagin8 Publishing 2015). Garage Band by Adam Alexander (published by Imagin8 Publishing RRP £10.99 paperback and £2.99 ebook) is available to purchase from Amazon retailers. For more information please visit