Toni Kan: When did you become comfortable enough to describe yourself as a writer?
Nozizwe Cynthia Jele: I guess after my first novel, Happiness is a Four-Letter Word came out in 2010. Before then, I was someone interested in writing.
TKO: Before that novel, when did you realise you wanted to be a writer?
NCJ: Many years back I once attended a book reading by American Author, Elizabeth Berg. Someone in the audience asked her how to get started as a writer. Elizabeth read a short paragraph from her book and said we must go home and write the next paragraph. I did exactly that and I haven’t stopped. I don’t remember what I wrote though 😂
TKO: Lol. And then the novel happened right?
NCJ: There were a bunch of short stories before that (some good, others not so).
TKO: Happiness is a Four- Letter Word is such a beautiful title. How did it come about?
NCJ:: I would love to take credit for it, but my publisher, Kwela Books, came up with it. I had titled the book, Chasing Pavements, after hearing Adele. This was back in 2009!
TKO: Ahh. So, when you wanted to write, say “Happiness is a Four- Letter Word” what was the trigger? Was it a smell, an idea, a sentence, a conversation in your head?
NCJ: Observervations of my age group and what I was reading at the time, mainly women’s fiction. I had just turned 30, in the new South Africa, and we were experiencing life which was completely different to our parents. For once, we were educated and could make our own choices.
TKO: So, after the idea hits, what do you do next? Do you do plot outlines, character sketches, what’s your process?
NCJ: Outline plot for each character. I started Happiness with 3 characters and added the fourth later. I had a messy house as each storyline is like a book and I had to keep track of the journeys.
TKO: So when the writing starts, do you write best in the morning, afternoon or night. Do you have a set time, do you have a number of words that you have to achieve in a day?
NCJ: I can only squeeze in my writing some evenings and weekends or when I’m on leave as I hold a full time job not related to writing. I don’t have a proper routine nor targeted word count. I try to block off time from work to focus on writing but it isn’t always possible.
TKO: So, the final and annoying question – when is the next book coming?
NCJ: It is an annoying but necessary question. I don’t know. I haven’t started working on anything yet. Truth is I would like to enroll in a creating writing programme first before I attempt my next book. In the meantime, I really should start working on shorter pieces, shouldn’t I? I really want to invest in improving my craft.
TKO: Goodluck and thank you Nozizwe
NCJ: Thank you.
Nozizwe Cynthia Jele’s sophomore novel – The Ones With Purpose is out from NB Books.