The genesis of great writing:Kwani? shortlisted author Timothy Kimutai

Written by Faith Oneya

I have had the good fortune of having this illustrious writer with voluptuously descriptive way of writing as a friend. Timothy also occasionally contributes to Literary Chronicles. His story ‘The Water Spirits’ was shortlisted in the recently completed Kwani Manuscript Project.


Synopsis of the Water Spirits: Kogi sees an alternate world when his mother points a knife at her chest ready to plunge it in. He finds a girl lying unconscious by the river, carries her home and lets her live in their chicken house – all the while thinking that she is a water spirit. He dreams of bringing back rare chicken breeds from the brink of extinction. The Water Spirits places the mysterious alongside the quotidian, exploring Kogi’s relationships with the water spirit, his newly-widowed mother Susanna and sister Chebet, and the pains of feeling powerless.(Source:


Timothy shared a little bit of himself with LC. Read on below.

LC:  What was the first thing that went through your mind when your name was announced in the shortlist?

TK: This is not happening. This is happening. I remember staring at my fingers and asking myself I need to cut my nails. I remember wondering if I had some guava juice left in my fridge. Then I remember this warm feeling in my gut and for a second I thought I would cry. Then I called my mum.

Author of The Water Spirits
Author of The Water Spirits

LC:  What was the weirdest thing you ever did as a child?

TK: I had a lemon tree for a best friend. I kept tortoises as pets. I nursed a pigeon with a broken wing till it could fly.

LC:  What inspired you to write The Water Spirits? What else?

TK: I looked at an aerial picture of my hometown Iten, and wondered about the souls of people who walked and toiled on its land, who found laughter and companionship there. Then a visit to my neighbor, who kept an empty chicken house, somehow grounded it all in and gave me the little lonely girl who is the water spirit.

LC:  Which authors would you compare yourself to?

TK: I have a harem of favorite authors and am not about to choose one or two as my queens.

LC:  What was the first thing you thought of when you woke up today morning?

TK: I should have woken up 3 hours earlier and that I should not switch on the television for another episode of Scandal as I ate my breakfast
LC:  What kind of reader are you? What are you currently reading?

TK: I am a promiscuous reader. I have an affair with countless of stories and novels. I am currently reading Rose of the World by Jude Fisher. It is part of the Fool’s Gold trilogy and it is all about high fantasy-fascinating kingdoms, languages, armies, girls who are good with swords-very otherworldly. I had to read it because previously I was reading Alison Pick‘s heart-rending novel, Far to Go, about a Jew family in Czechoslovakia trying to save their 8 year old child, after their province is given over to Hitler and swept over by Nazi propaganda. Talk about a tearjerker! I definitely needed some escapist fiction for my next read. Next, I will read House of Winds by Mia Yun which starts off with a girl standing in her mother’s garden in 1960s Korea
LC:  Have you ever fallen in love with a fictional character? If so which one and what did you like about them?

TK: I am currently in love with Katla Arensen, the heroine of Jude Fisher’s Fool’s Gold trilogy-she can climb cliffs, wield her sword better than those Istrian kidnappers (read the book to find out) and can wrestle. Then she has flaming red hair and can spit accurately at a target. What a girl!

LC:  What is your favorite line/quote from a book?

TK:You who play the zig-zag lightning of power over the world, with the grumbling thunder in your wake, think kindly of those who walk in the dust. And you who walk in humble places, think kindly too of others.” from Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston
LC:  Please complete this. The world would be a better place if……..

TK: The world would be a better place if we stopped and listened with total attention to each other’s stories and experiences
LC:  What question have you always wanted to be asked as an author and how would you answer it?

TK: Wow, you are a writer, I am Katla Aransen and have just come through a time portal but I need to go back now to go after those filthy Istrian raiders who have kidnapped my mother. Will you come with me? Yes


Author: Faith Oneya

Lover of the written and spoken word.

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