INTERVIEW WITH STANLEY GAZEMBA: AUTHOR OF ‘THE STONEHILLS OF MARAGOLI”


Written by Faith Oneya

1. Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that story idea?
Although fictitious, the story is informed by my childhood growing up in the village in Western Kenya. I was trying to capture life as I saw it then, and specifically December, which was the most exciting time of the year. The characters in the book borrow a lot from the villagers I interacted with.

2. How did you get interested in writing this particular genre? Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I’ve always liked stories ever since I was a kid. From a very early age I started experimenting with writing my own stories. I find writing naturally intriguing because you are creating a world of your own on the pages and peopling it. I guess the intrigue comes from trying to act God! Concerning genre, I never restrict myself. I write according to whatever has inspired me at the moment. I have written for kids, young adults and adults. Further still I have experimented with literary writing, adventure, crime and even horror. I am a chameleon of sorts, I guess.
3. What kind of research did you do for this book?
I didn’t quite research to write The Stone Hills, mostly because I was writing about a place I grew up in. Somehow the story just formed inside my head and I started writing. Mysterious, isn’t it?

4. What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
By day I work as a gardener. Lunch time and evenings I sit at the computer and bang away on the keyboard a bit- I think the ideas come as I work. Weekends I will be doing a bit of journalism….that’s basically it. I don’t have a specific writing regime- indeed I don’t believe in all that nonsense about disciplining yourself to write say 2 pages a day. You will easily turn yourself into a machine. I believe in writing when the story idea is abuzz in my head- period. I used to enjoy writing at night when all was dead quiet but that had to change when I got married and had kids! These days I just try to get by, jotting down a line or two whenever I can squeeze the time. All the same I know that I would get thoroughly edgy if I was put in a room with tons of food, a pot of coffee, a dictionary, thesaurus and computer and told to write…I experienced it when I once went to a Caine Prize workshop. In the end I had to submit a story I had carried along because I was so keyed up all I could think off was sneaking off to the bar! I guess I am a kind of chaotic writer.

5. What is the hardest part of writing for you?
I find the editing stage the hardest mostly because it is boring picking through a story that you have already completed, doing and redoing sections of it until the editor is satisfied. Although it is a crucial stage in the production of a book it is the least exciting for me because I like to create, and not to fill in cracks and move a brick here or tear down a section of the wall there! It gets even worse if you are dealing with an egoistic editor who studied literature at a typical Kenyan university…some of them can be very stiff and unyielding!

6. What’s the best thing about being an author?
The fact that people are reading you and enjoying what you did for them. It is more rewarding than the money. Also you get to enjoy lots of free drinks from ordinary folks at your local who believe you are a sort of sage!

7. What are you working on now? Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Currently I am mostly working on short stories and short books for children and Young Adults. I haven’t embarked on a novel for quite a while because of the frustrations I have faced lately trying to get my other novels published. Most of the short stories are set in Nairobi and have a touch of crime/ town trickery. The kids’ stories have been leaning towards technology- computers and stuff- and runaway adventure.

8. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Writing is tough and seldom profitable. Don’t get started if you are not in it for the long haul. Go and sell sukuma wiki instead.

9. Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books? If, so, which ones?
I read all sorts of writers. But some of the people I respect are John Steinbeck(To a God Unknown), Ben Okri(Dangerous Love), Wilbur Smith(Eagle in the sky), Achebe(Things Fall Apart) , Chimamanda Adichie(Half of a Yellow Sun) and Ken Follet(The Pillars of the Earth).

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Author: Faith Oneya

Lover of the written and spoken word.

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