Interviewing Leroy Mthulisi Ndlovu

ZtBh: Who is Leroy Mthulisi Ndlovu?
A: I wish I knew the answer to that question. 10 years ago he was a guy who wanted to be a doctor. 5 years ago he was a guy who wanted to be an engineer. I guess the short answer is Leroy Ndlovu is a guy on a journey of self-discovery. Ask me again in ten years and I might have a better answer
for you.

ZtBh: Tell us about your childhood, teenage years did they have an impact on your writing?
A: I think my entire life, even this moment, has an effect on my writing. Every moment, and every thought inthat moment is a potential scene in a story. My childhood years definitely influenced my writing. I spent most of my life as an outsider. The kids in the “ghetto” called me a “salad” and picked on me because I went to “A”schools. The kids at the “A” schools looked at me as the guy from “the ghetto”. The only thing I could ever be was a watcher. And even now I watch. I see the things that other people take for granted. And that helps me to build characters out of dust and breathe life into them.

ZtBh: Did you have intentions of being a writer or do you have specific reasons
for writing these short stories?

A: I think deep down I always wanted to write. The first thing I remember writing was a poem about smoking in grade three or four. A few weeks after that we were told to write a dialogue and I got beaten for plagiarizing a story from I book I didn’t even know existed. I fumed about if for years until I realised that there truly is nothing new under the sun. There really isn’t a short answer to this question. When I was in O-level my English teacher was John Eppel. We had an open day that year where teachers of A-level subjects spoke to our parents and gave guidance on how to choose subjects.John Eppel told my father that he believed I shouldn’t stop writing, and that he knew students like me always wound up doing sciences. His last piece of advice to me was to always write… even if it meant keeping a journal or something. I followed his advice and I guess that helped improve my writing. Yet even then I had no notions of becoming a writer. In fact
back then I used to write Rap lyrics and thought I would grow up to be a rapper. I guess the final piece of the puzzle came when I met a man called Amadeus who told me “just write.” Do I have a specific reason for writing? To see how the story ends.

ZtBh: Are the names of your characters in your stories important?
A: Honestly? The names are irrelevant.I “eenie-meenie-miny-moe” with names until I find one that fits. I like writing in first person. Most of those stories start and end without the protagonist’s name ever being mentioned. In “birth” and “death” the name Victor was invented after Patrick
came to life at the hands of Amadeus.

ZtBh: What about titles of your work?
A: I’ve always hated giving things titles. I think my Facebook notes have five or six pieces called “untitled”. Titles are misleading, so I’m always extra careful about choosing what to call a particular story. As with character names I can write a whole story without ever thinking about the title, then maybe I’ll pick the most relevant word or phrase in the story, or a title that describes one of the characters. Ultimately I like titles that seem contradictory to the work, but make
sense on closer inspection.

ZtBh: What’s more important characters or plot?
A: I love my characters. All of them.Even the bad guys. Yes I said bad guys.I grew up on 90’s television where there was always a definite bad guy and good guy. But growing up on
those movies also taught me one important thing; you cannot mutilate the story just so the good guy can win.To me plot and characters are equally important. For the plot to be believable, the characters must feel real to the reader. I’ve always wanted to write characters that make people
ask “what ever happened to so-and-so?”

ZtBh: How do you react to bad reviews of your work?
A: I pour my heart and soul into everything I do. Bad reviews hurt. For a while I wrote performance poetry (or rather tried to), and whenever I had a cold crowd it felt like a body blow from a pro boxer. When people tell me to change things in my work I feel pain, which turns into anger, and then understanding. Criticism is hard to take, but I understand that it is always intended as a way of building you.

ZtBh: Are there any occupational hazards to being an author?
A: Long before I ever wanted to write professionally I had a distinct sense of being different. I still do. if I believed in defined roles I would say that I’m different because I’m a writer… but I think I’m a writer because I’m different.Are there side effects? None that I have seen yet.

ZtBh: Are there any Zimbabwean or African writers that have grasped your interests.

A: This looks like a yes or no question. My answer is maybe. I haven’t read as much African literature as I could have. Not because I don’t want to, but because I only read things that don’t feel like homework. I haven’t read a lot of the Heinemann books. I never even knew who Dambudzo Marechera was until I finished high school, but when I read Black Sunlight I liked it and I figured I should find out what else he wrote, then I stumbled upon House of Hunger and I loved it. I’ve read some great Zimbabwean books; for some I can remember neither the author nor the title. “The uncertainty of hope” was pretty good. Some woman who is a doctor wrote it. The greatest Ndebele novels I ever read were Kusempilweni by Joseph Sibanda, and Ukuthunjwa kukaSukuzukuduma, but I never write in vernac; some people get mad at me for saying this but English is more of a first language to me than anything in the world. If a boulder fell on my toe
the first word out of my mouth would definitely be “FUCK!” I’ve read a lot of Philani’s work too and I always lovereading that. A lot of other contemporaries too. I guess I just read what’s good.

ZtBh: Can you tell us about writers or novels that inspire your literature?
A: As soon as I could read a paragraph without tripping I was obsessed with words. I have read so many things that I honestly can’t say who had more influence. I guess the one writer who always comes to mind is Mr Stephen King. I can hear someone saying “but he is a Satanist”; that is your opinion. If Stephen King had written Harry Potter or Twilight I would have read them. To
me that man is a master of his craft. I find the fact that he writes horror fiction and still manages to bring believable characters to life amazing. The simplest way to put it is that he writes first person narratives in thethird person. My favourite Stephen King book is called The Stand, they
made the movie and it was so shit that I went back and read the book to
regain respect for Stu Redman (a character in it). Unlike most of my contemporaries I have not read much Shakespeare. If I had to give a number I would say probably 5 plays. I still get
a kick out of reading a certain writer’s unpublished Manuscript. Maybe one
day I’ll convince him to give it to the world.

ZtBh: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
A: I find the writing in itself to be a challenge. My girlfriend once said,”Wow, you really are a performer.” At the time we were discussing things I can’t repeat here. I have great respect for audiences. I believe they deserve my best or nothing at all. That makes me my own worst enemy. Sometimes so much so that, I can’t even write anything because at the time I don’t feel worthy of a reader’s attention. I told Lenny that writing should be treated like making love and he had a good laugh; but it is. Getting started is always a challenge, and getting it right is even harder.

ZtBh: Do you have anything specific that you would like to share with your readers?
A: Do I lose points if I say no?

ZtBh: Are you interested in anything that is not Literature?
A: If I told you about everything I’m interested in we would never finish. Basically I like to do what makes me feel good. That may change from time to time. Currently I’m really into music.
In fact I’ve been thinking about learning how to play the piano and maybe the guitar. Also, I’ve always had an interest in acting. I once auditioned for a movie that eventually didn’t happen. Maybe one day I’ll get my big break. Voice acting is another interest of mine. Ever heard of Don Lafontaine? He’s the guy that used to do the voice-overs for Movie trailers. But my real role model as far as voice acting goes is Mel Blanc, also known as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Marvin the Martian,Pepé Le Pew, Speedy Gonzales, the Tasmanian Devil, Captain Caveman, Barney Rubble, and Elmer Fudd. Some might call it ADD. I guess Leo DaVinci had it too.

ZtBh: What are your current projects?
A: Well, I’ve been promising people a book since 2008 and I feel it’s high time I actually wrote it. If all goes well it will be out by the end of this year. After that the gods will decide.

ZtBh: Any Last thoughts for our readers?
A: Most kids these days say they hate reading. I always chuckle. The fuck dothey do on whatsapp and Facebook all day?



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