Retshepile is the fourth author in our launch collection. His short story is a surrealist adventure exploring addiction and how we navigate the ‘crossroads’ of life. In this interview, Retshepile talks about the motivations behind his writing and his ambitions as a writer.
THE JELI: Tell us about yourself (educational background, work background, where you’re from, etc.)
RETSHEPILE NONYANI: I was born in Katlehong but I became conscious of the world in which I live in the suburb of Leondale, just outside of Katlehong. I went to school in the province of Ekurhuleni wherein I still live. I received my basic education from St. Catherine’s Primary School and then I spent five years day-dreaming, especially during my history class, in Germiston High School. I never finished anything that I did in all the colleges that I attended because I what I really wanted, unbeknown to myself at the time, was to weave words into sentences and paragraphs and to then see said words bound into books.
THE JELI: When did you start writing?
RETSHEPILE NONYANI: I was always writing, especially in high school, but I took it seriously when six or seven years ago I was fired from a job and left with no prospects but to write the first of my collection of short stories, that I saw so vividly in my head.
THE JELI: Where & how do you write? Do you have a particular writing spot, a writing buddy or any writing rituals?
RETSHEPILE NONYANI: I like writing from ten in the morning until I reach the point in the story that I want to get to. I drink copious amounts of water during my writing periods and I like having a great view of my surroundings.
THE JELI: How do you create your characters?
RETSHEPILE NONYANI: Characterisation, I learned from the books that I used as guides. Writing –as most things in life- is learned and not inherited. However, I have come to believe that once one understands the central concept of the story, then most of the characters spring into action from it and it is only up to writer to guide them into fulfilling his vision.
THE JELI: Apart from this story/these poems, what other things have you written recently?
RETSHEPILE NONYANI: I self-published a novelette in 2015 and I am currently working on my novel that I plan to complete within the year.
THE JELI: What are your ambitions as a writer?
RETSHEPILE NONYANI: My ambition is to be read all over the world and to be identified as being one of the voices striving to tell the stories of the real social ills of the world and pointing to who and what is perpetuating them.
The idea is to contrast, biblically speaking, the wide gate and the broad way against the narrow gate and the hard path that leads to life, and to use this contrast to help people to find their way onto the narrow path and to guide them once they are there, to and through the narrow gate. This is why I write.
THE JELI: What are your thoughts about the writing publishing scene in your country?
RETSHEPILE NONYANI: Sadly I have yet to delve myself into the South African or African writing scene in the way that I would like to but what I have read thus far has made me realise that ours as Africans is to retain what we know what we inherently know to be true and that is the fact that stories are meant to be used to guide, motivate and or aid the journey and ultimately the exodus of the people onto righteousness.
THE JELI: Who is your favourite writer?
RETSHEPILE NONYANI: Steven King is my favourite writer. It was he that ultimately set me dreaming about the world as I knew it and all in it that was crooked and in serious need of correction.
THE JELI: What is your favourite piece of fiction?
RETSHEPILE NONYANI: My favourite piece of fiction is any story or book that challenges my perceptions and makes me re -evaluate all my convictions.