Zimbabwean occupational therapist, Sarudzai Mubvakure is the author of A Disappointing Truth (Grosvenor House Publishing, 2008) and Amelia’s Inheritance (the Lion Press Ltd, 2010).
In this interview, Sarudzai Mubvakure talks about her writing:
Do you write everyday?
When I am working on a project such as a book I write everyday even if it means writing one sentence.
I have a full time job. Therefore, I do my writing in the evenings.
My session actually starts in the morning and carries on throughout the day. The reason why it starts in the morning is because that is the time I take to create the progression of the story in my mind. Throughout the day, I just jot down points as a reminder of what I have imagined. When evening comes, it is just a matter of writing down what I imagined during the day.
How many books have you written so far?
I have written two books so far.
The first is A Disappointing Truth published by Grosvenor House Publishing in 2008. This is a suspense novel that chronicles the life of a mixed-race English woman called Sarah Witt who was born in 1972 to a black Zimbabwean house cleaner and a white English colonialist.
The death of her parents leads her to New York City where tragedy strikes again. She is raped by her music college mentor, Jentzen Smithe.
Years later she discovers a shocking connection between her dead parents and the rapist. This connection is too close for comfort. The revelation of who Jentzen is could lead to the disappointing truth concerning who her real father is; however, an old family friend is determined to stop this truth from being revealed.
My second and latest novel is Amelia’s Inheritance published by the Lion Press Ltd in January 2010. The novel is a 202 pages long and is set in 1960's and 70's Rhodesia.
The story is told through the voice of Amelia Gruber, a 20-year-old white woman who has been left to fend for herself following a series of tragedies in her family. She is left with a housemaid called Sisi and she becomes one of the hidden population of poor whites in the country.
Being an underachieving recluse, Amelia finds it hard to secure employment and this adds to the frustrations in her life. In one of the sub-plots of the novel, Amelia befriends a young black lawyer called Peter Mudondo and this adds more controversy to her life in the midst of a country where racial tension and segregation tangible.
Amelia eventually secures employment in the household of a wealthy landowner, Maxwell Stern. However, Maxwell Stern represents an organisation that Peter Mudondo is continuously fighting against in court. Amelia is faced with the dilemma of loyalty to her employer or loyalty to Peter with whom she has a strong relationship. At the end of the story, in the midst of the land struggle, more shocking secrets are revealed about Amelia's family and the strange connection between Maxwell Stern and the things that happened to Amelia's family.
How long did it take you to write Amelia’s Inheritance?
It took me three months to write and complete the novel.
Amelia’s Inheritance touches on contemporary Zimbabwean history and the complexities of Zimbabwean society in the 1960’s and 70’s.
It was published in the United Kingdom in January 2010 by the Lion Press Limited, which is a publishing house that mainly focuses on African Literature.
I felt that the Lion Press Ltd would be best suited to publish Amelia’s Inheritance because they would have the expertise to appropriately introduce the book to the right target audience.
Working with the Lion Press has been advantageous all round. The Lion Press has played a key role in identifying and promoting Amelia’s Inheritance as an educational resource for young people in Zimbabwe.
Which were the most difficult aspects of the work you put into the book?
Promoting your own work is a challenge in a sea of a million authors with millions of great books.
It is a challenge to get your voice heard; a challenge to get people to see that what you have to offer is indeed worth it if they take the time to listen and read.
There is the temptation to give up sometimes. However, I have learnt to turn criticism into ‘Growth Points’. These are things that can only make me a better author.
I believe that the key to being a successful author or creator is to believe in your product, believe in yourself and not giving up. The setbacks or knock backs are stepping stones to prominence. If you hang on the light will eventually break forth!
What sets Amelia’s Inheritance apart from other things you've written?
It is written in the first person and the main character narrates the story. All my other work has been in the third person.
When did you start writing?
I started writing my first book in 1998. I got as far as Chapter 2 and saved the work on a floppy computer disc. I did not go back to writing it until 2006 but by 2006 I had lost the floppy disc and had to rely on my memory.
I maintained the theme. However, the nature of Chapter 2 was completely different from the original.
I wrote everyday for a year between 2006 and 2007.
My first book was such a large volume, 718 pages in total. I thoroughly enjoyed creating the characters and constructing the plots. I had a strong desire to share what I had achieved and I began approaching literary agents. I hoped that if an agent was interested in my work, they would be able to present it to some of the large publishing houses that only accept proposals via an agent.
I also approached publishing houses that allowed authors to approach them directly.
However, after writing several query letters and sending several portions of my manuscript, I received a massive, disappointing rejection. It was disheartening. The feedback seemed to be the same throughout. No one felt that they could market my work enough for it to be a success. They could not identify the target audience that would push my work to prominence.
After some research I decided to follow the self-publishing route. I read all the negative reviews about self publishing, for example, how the writing world looks down upon self–published work as substandard. However, I was encouraged when I realised that John Grisham’s bestselling first novel, A Time To Kill, and The Shack by William Young, which have both sold millions of copies, were initially self published. The key to self publishing is the ability to market your work effectively. Marketing is incredibly expensive business. But with a great product, some intelligence, cash and good friends, you can make it work!
How would you describe your writing?
My novels are chiefly suspense. My most recent novel is in first person, which I thoroughly enjoy as it engrosses the reader into the world of the character that is narrating the story.
I don’t’ really target a particular audience when I write. I enjoy the moment of creating a story and then looking back to see who the story is targeting.
I have found that my stories appeal to those that enjoy suspense. My stories are a take on the interracial relationships in 1960’s and 70’s Rhodesia with a family secret or two in the midst of them!
Which authors influenced you most?
Jane Austen, because of her wit; the passionate way in which she writes and her ability to describe human emotions with such clarity. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Persuasion.
John Grisham, his writing makes the reader get lost in the world of the characters he creates. Absolutely brilliant. His plots are the work of a genius.
Charles Dickens, his stories take his characters from penury to prosperity. I like the idea of someone who has gone through hardship to come out shining in prosperity.
How have your personal experiences influence your writing?
I am a born again Christian. Christianity is all about leaving your old life and taking on a new one. The old life of poverty, illness and sickness is replaced by the new life of God which has hope, prosperity, health and wealth. Hence my stories are largely influenced by these themes of coming out of poverty, coming out of obscurity and coming from lies to truth.
In addition to that, I thoroughly enjoy the history of Zimbabwe; especially the political history. My father was a part-time politician who lived in exile in the United Kingdom for several years. Therefore, I got an insiders view of what took place to shape the Zimbabwe we have today. It was something that fascinated me from an early age.
What are the biggest challenges that you face?
I believe that the biggest challenge that I have faced as a writer is rejection. However, after four years of writing seriously, I have come to learn that you have to be strong enough to believe in your own writing; just keep doing it and learning how to get better.
It is difficult to please everyone. I believe that as I grow, my sphere of influence and readership will increase.
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