Q&A with Busisekile Khumalo
Busisekile Khumalo_books

Author of The Harvard Wife and Nomaswazi.

by Ezekiel Kekana

Busisekile Khumalo is a Zimbabwean-born writer currently living in South Africa. She continues to make a major impact in South Africa’s literary space. Khumalo’s first novel titled The Harvard Wife dominated many book clubs in the country. She followed that up with yet another riveting book called Nomaswazi, which also gained appreciation from different quarters. In this week’s Q&A session with EW Blog editor, Ezekiel Kekana, Khumalo talks about what triggered her to write The Harvard Wife, the business of self-publishing, and dealing with criticism.

Question: From the voting poll we conducted with our readers, The Harvard Wife seems to be their favourite book. What really inspired the storyline in the book?

Answer:

 

I’m so grateful for the readers who voted for The Harvard Wife, it’s one of my favourite books too. What inspired the storyline was where I was at that point in my life and the woman I aspired to be. I was an unemployed graduate and I aspired to be an accomplished independent woman but I then asked myself, is life easy for the kind of woman I aspire to be in our current socio-economic environment as Africans? The answer to that inspired the storyline.

Question:

When writing The Harvard Wife, did you have a specific target audience that you were trying to reach out to?

Answer:

 

No. I was writing mostly for myself and then I shared it with a friend who loved it and since I had no knowledge at all of the publishing industry, another friend suggested I open a blog. My blog on WordPress didn’t get the desired engagement. A friend suggested I open a Facebook page and share a few chapters to get people’s reaction to the book. The response was amazing across the board, from young women still in school to the more matured women and even men.

Question: Rape is one of the themes in the book, with the assault of Oyama, do you believe that they have been enough literature on this subject which truly demands attention in South Africa?

Answer:

 

I don’t think there can ever be enough literature to unravel the complexity of rape in our society. It goes deeper than just the physical act of being violated, I don’t think even I did enough justice to it in The Harvard Wife. Hence I am working on the sequel which is Oyama’s story and hopefully, I can explore the theme further in how it shapes the woman she becomes. There is still a lot of room in the literary world to draw attention to rape in its many forms from paedophilia to corrective rape.

Question:

 

 

Many Zimbabwean-born writers continue to do well in South Africa in terms of circulation, sales, and branding themselves as reputable writers, what is it that the South African literary market has that the Zimbabwean market lacks?

Answer:

 

A better economy, in as much as book sales in South Africa, isn’t as high as the rest of the world they are still better than in Zimbabwe where basic commodities are hard to come by. Books then become a luxury that many can’t afford.

Question:

 

 

Many authors in South Africa still have their day jobs besides having established themselves as writers in the country, what do you think should be done to make the literary space more lucrative for writers?

Answer:

 

For literature to be recognized as the essential service that it is and many more literary spaces to be open to all authors, traditionally and self-published. For libraries to order books from local authors instead of prioritizing on International literature and for more active legislation against the piracy of books. For authors as well to learn how to effectively market their work.

Question: We have seen so many authors in SA going through the self-publishing route, would you advise start-up writers to also self-publish their books?

Answer:

 

I’m self-published myself so yes, I would but only if they are willing to put in the work. To do their research diligently and aim to produce work that is presentable and marketable. Self-publishing is a lot of work and there is also the issue of funding, be willing to start selling even from the boot of your car like Dudu Busani-Dube initially started with the Hlomu series. The hard work is worth having control over your own creative process.

Question: How do you respond to criticism about your work, especially with relation to negative reviews to some of your books?

Answer:

 

I’ve grown so much through criticism and negative reviews, I know there’s always room for improvement and if someone picks up some grammatical errors I usually ask them to point them out and I go back and fix them. I have edited my work numerous times and I will not hesitate to edit it again if someone picks up something I might have overlooked.

Question:

Which writer (s) inspired you to start writing?

Answer:

 

Dudu Busani-Dube. I remember reading Hlomu the wife and thinking how refreshing and an easy read it was. I’ve also always looked up to the work of Tsitsi Dangarembga, Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie, Danielle Steel and Sue Nyathi.

Question:

If you were to invite three African writers to a book club of your own, who will it be and why them?

Answer:

 

Lola Shoneyin, just to ask her what went through her mind when she was describing the character of Baba Segi.

Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie, I’m such a fan girl, I won’t even hide it, I was bummed when I couldn’t attend the Abantu Festival which she graced.

Fred Khumalo, to hear his thoughts on the genocide in Zimbabwe called Gukurahundi

Question:

Which book are you currently reading?

Answer:

 

I just finished reading The secret lives of Baba Segi’s wives by Lola Shoneyin last week and I want to reward myself with reading The wife between us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen after I finish writing my next book. Call it an incentive to write faster.

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