Published in the Sunday Times
Which book changed your life?
Changed is a bit rich. I’m still a work-in-progress. As you’d imagine a million books “changed” me a million times. One of those that struck a chord was James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room – that is, apart from all the Enid Blytons that snaked and sneaked into my life and never really left.
Where do you write best?
I can concentrate just about anywhere, although I’ve always imagined how it would feel to have a writing desk inside an early 20th century French brothel, or an Arab King’s quarters where he keeps his revolving harem. To be fair: I do almost 90 percent of my everything ie writing, revising, eating, reading, listening to music, etc on my bed. Poor bed.
Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with?
I wouldn’t love to be stuck in a lift with anyone at all. I’m terribly claustrophobic.
What are you most proud of writing?
I never get proud of my writing, almost none.
What keeps you awake at night?
Stories. Looking at my three year old daughter sleep. Unfinished books. Joni Mitchell’s album Blue playing in my head.
Do you keep a diary?
Not any more. I keep a million small notebooks, Moleskines, journalist’s pads. You know, I still have my stash of Lion Brand Shorthand Notebooks.
What novel would you give a child to introduce them to literature?
Maybe Enid Blyton? Or any cartoon illustration of Steve Biko’s I Write What I Like. No one raged with such lyrical beauty about such a painful question as inequality. Well, not since James Baldwin.
What is the last thing that you read that made you laugh out loud?
Paige Nick’s Sunday Times column.
Which current book will you remember in 10 years’ time?
I rarely read “current” books. But maybe Binyavanga Wainaina’s One Day I Will Write About This Place.
What is the best piece of writerly advice you’ve received?
Recently an editor coaxed something quite intensely personal out of me, saying, “You need to deal with your fears, betray your family if you have to.” And I thought, “Mhhh? True.” That’s what we do as writers. Betray those closest to us.
What music helps you write?
Seeing visuals in my head gets me going.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“Beautiful”, “Punk”, “Motherfucker” … I got life-long, James Ellroy-like Oedipal issues.
I’m Not Your Weekend Special (Pan Macmillan) a collection on the life of Brenda Fassie, edited by Bongani Madondo