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An Interview with Zukiswa Wanner PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 25 January 2008 17:00
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains of The Madams (published by Oshun Books).

How do you feel about The Madams now that you’ve had a few months to get used to it being published?
I am still amused by it and annoy visitors to my house who have not bought a copy of it yet by egotistically reading quotes.

When did you first start writing?
Five. Isn’t that about the age that everyone starts?

What do you love most about writing?
With the medium of fiction, it’s the freedom it gives me to say things that are considered tactless by polite society.

Tell us a little about when and where you write?
In my bedroom, on my PC. I usually wake up around eleven at night and write until the early hours of the morning.

Do you edit as you go along, or write it all and then go back?
I edit all the time. In fact, I’m still editing The Madams.

What else do you do? Do you have a day job, and if so how do you juggle writing and work?
No. I’m lazy so I try to make a living doing the one thing that I love. Writing. Unfortunately it’s a broke profession.

Where do you get inspiration from?
Everywhere. I’ll be walking in the street and something that strikes me as amusing will happen and I’ll think ‘Hmm… What if?’ and work on from there.

Does place influence your writing? Do you see yourself tied to any specific city in your writing?
I am a Joburger at heart and I find myself setting most of my scenes there. I do however try to visit other locales like Cape Town, if only to mention how much I dislike them!

Which (if any) author first inspired you to start writing?
I wouldn’t say inspired per se. It was more like a challenge from Lewis Nkosi, who seemed to enjoy reading a few of my controversial essays. I told him I was too much of a realist to write fiction. I lied.

What was the first thing you wrote that you were proud of?
In June I wrote a short story which was an extension of Can Themba’s "The Suit". As you may be aware, Siphiwo Mahala wrote a follow up to that one called "The Suit Continued" two years ago from the perspective of the guy who jumps out of the window in The Suit. I then wrote mine from the perspective of the woman who was caught. I wrote it as a suicide note and called it "The Dress That Fed the Suit".

Still amuses me, and many who have read it I hear, to no end.

What are you reading at the moment?
These questions. And when I finish that I shall go back to rereading Vincent van Gogh’s autobiography (the painter). He was such a mad genius he makes me feel normal.

If you could switch professions without any repercussions, what would you want to be?
Finance Minister. Then I would increase the budget given to the Arts Department every year provided artists got a monthly salary from the funding.

Are there any specific South African authors you admire, or enjoy?
Yes. Love Imraan Coovadia. He has this marvelous dry wit. I also just enjoyed Angle Makholwa’s Red Ink and young Kopano Matlwa, if she doesn’t let her medical profession take precedence over her literary skills, is a force to reckon with.

Do you have plans to write a second novel? Do you feel pressure to put in elements you know critics liked, and leave out things they criticized?
I have in fact just finished my second novel. All being well it will be in the shops sometime next year.

No. I haven’t felt that pressure at all because the second book has a different feel to it. I was experimenting with my writing, so to start with it’s in the third person, and secondly, although I know there will be some who won’t thank me for this, I tried to bring in a male voice. He is not the most likeable male in the world but in my own masochistic way, I have fallen in love with him.

Was there a seed or an obsession that got you started writing The Madams?
No, not really. Just that challenge that was thrown at me by Lewis and then I thought, ‘why not?’ and I just started it as an essay and then couldn’t stop. I recall that I was walking around annoying anyone who would talk to me out of the blue by telling them what I would have my characters do.

How do you feel about your book being described as ‘chick lit’?
I find it quite interesting. What is chick lit? If it’s literature by a woman about a woman then yeah I suppose. But I think the chick lit tag results in some being dismissive of it and that sucks a bit because the people who have enjoyed it the most I find are guys. I get stopped all the time by guys who tell me what scenes they loved and later … “Well, so can I get your number because I really am not like any of those guys in the book.”

It’s cute.

Was there a lot of expectation around this being the first book of black South African chick lit?
Absolutely none. Not on my part, anyway. I wrote a book, I liked it and am glad others have enjoyed it too but no, no expectations. I don’t think it was even marketed as such.

Do you find recurring themes in your work?
Yes, I do. I write quite a bit about contemporary issues. I suppose I think of my writing, even though it’s fiction, as some sort of testament that someone forty years from now can pick up and get an idea of how South Africa was in these, our present times.

What surprised you most about writing The Madams?
The way it was like a baby, how I couldn’t stop once I started. I would sometimes forget to eat while writing and would go ages without sleep if an idea struck me.

Do you have a favourite character?
Lizwe is my favourite character but my favourite scene has got to be Nosizwe’s shooting scene. I think it’s what any woman who’s even been hurt has wanted to do, but never had the guts or the madness to do it.

Any advice for young aspiring authors?
The more you write, the better a writer you become so write on!

What’s the one question you haven’t been asked in an interview, that you wish you had?
Can we pay you for this interview? Ha!

What is the meaning of life, according to Zukiswa Wanner?
A smile looks so much nicer than crying so cheese a lot.

- interviewed by Bridget McNulty

Have you read Imraan Coovadia's work? Leave a comment at our blog ...