Toni Kan in conversation with Zukiswa Wanner who says- “I don’t write when I have nothing to say.”
ZW: I’m Zukiswa Wanner and I’m the Deputy Mayor of Lagos.
TK: (Laughter) Run us through some of the stuff you have written?
ZW: Too much to mention. I have written emails, text and whatsapp messages. I’m prolific (laughs).
TK: (Laughs) Come on Zuks.
ZW: I have authored books like The Madams; Behind every Successful Man; Men of the South; London, Cape Town, Joburg; Hardly Working; Made in SA; 30 ways to leave your Madam; co-authored ‘8115-A Prisoners Home; edited Waterbirds on the Lake Shore; wrote the children books, Africa a true continent; Refilwe and Jama loves Bananas. Yeah, what else? I wrote quite a few columns. I’m a columnist for The Mail & Guardian or was I just stopped and I was a columnist for New African. I was also as a columnist for The Nation, in Kenya, and so on and so forth and stuff like that. And every now and again, I’ll do something for ‘This is Lagos’.
TK: When did you realize you were going to be a writer?
ZW: When I got published.
TK: And before then, where were you?
ZW: Before then, I studied journalism and I worked as a publicist.
TK: When did you realize you wanted to write something that would be published.
ZK: Oh, it must have been at the time that I sent out my manuscript of ‘The Madams’ to an old friend of mine, a mentor. He read my manuscript and he got so excited and said, I’m sending my driver back with a list of five publishers that you should send this to with a few edits. So, I did that. I did the few edits and sent it to the five publishers. Three of them accepted the manuscript and the other two have been regretting it ever since.
TK: So if you wanted to write a short story or novel, what is the spark; is it a quote, a conversation, a smell, you know, a sound, what is the spark?
ZW: It depends. Sometimes it’s just something that moves me like when something happens, the way I react to it or something I just learnt and I think this would be interesting for other people to know. And because I think reading is art, I think it should be entertaining and educational. It should give you something new when you read, even if it’s trivia.
TK: So, when you write, do you have like a process. Do you write in the mornings, afternoons, evenings, naked?
ZW: I write from two in the morning, up until six.
TK: Are you one of those who give themselves a word count or give some kind of direction or deadline?
ZK: No, no, no, I don’t say I need to do 1,000 words a day. I am not one of those people. What I actually do is I write in my head, and then I kind of like vomit it out. And so I do that in a very frantic way over like, maybe like a two, three week period. Yeah and generally, that’s how long it takes me to actually do the physical writing of the first draft.
TK: Two to three weeks?
ZK: Yeah, then I tend to to be all relaxed and stuff and everything. Like I don’t write when I have nothing to say. I read then.
TK: Which is harder for you to do, the writing or the rewrite?
ZW: Well, none of them really because I’ve generally worked with some really good editors. I’ve got a format of working. So, generally I submit, and then I get feedback from the editor. I read the feedback, and I get mad for about a week or two. Like what do they know about my work these idiots, these twats, stupid people. But I let it stew in my head for like a week or two. Then I see what I agree with and what I don’t agree with, then I rework after a week or two, after it has been stewing in my head. So, I allow myself to get angry, then I allow myself to then take good advice.