Nozuko Siyotula on writing her debut novel
Nozuko Siyotula's debut novel Christopher was the second runner-up of the Dinaane Fiction Award.
Christopher is my debut novel. I poured into it as much as I knew and loved about writing at the time. I finished writing it in 2014 and with so much time lapsed since then that to speak of it as a published work is a nebulous space in which dreams exist.
I wrote it as a reply to the supposed notion of being “young, wild and free” in your 20s, which was rather an asphyxiating time, riddled with confusion and disappointment. It was the love letter with no lover. I committed to writing the novel after a notoriously difficult professor at law school gave me a distinction for my final-year dissertation. Feeling emboldened by the shallow validation of high marks, I naively pursued the behemoth task.
The main themes of the book are travelling towards self and redemption, which I think are the pillars of healing. Healing is the place of transformative power and in Christopher the concept is explored intergenerationally by the characters. I am as “Rainbow Nation” as they come, which might be endearing or a turn-off depending on your politics, but I care about the narratives of contemporary SA and the voice of the “ordinary”. I know there are many of us out there so I think in the coming years I will have several peers who are similarly aligned, who will want to write fiction from this perspective of reconciliation. It is a complicated, loaded concept of which I am more than aware, but it was the staple diet of my formative years. I love the complicated ways in which we, as a people, come to decide on a simple life.
I was unaware that when you write a book you must also edit it. Or perhaps, to be more precise, I was vaguely aware but thought editing was two days worth of work prior to submission for printing.
For my sins, I was rewarded with a benevolent, firm editor who missed nothing — not in sentiment, grammar, tense, plot, nor errors. I was back in English class again, with red markings all over my words. She knows I have the highest regard for her — the problem was with me seeing the finish line of a submitted manuscript. Not only was it a manuscript, but it was also the second runner-up of the Dinaane Fiction Award. The process, though grounding, assisted my creativity.
My hope for Christopher is that it will read as an old tale told by a young voice, one still warming her fingers by a long burning fire in order to curl them around a pen.
Christopher by Nozuko Siyotula is published by Jacana Media.