An Interview with Tendai Huchu, Author of The Hairdresser of Harare
Last week I serialised debut literary works from authors from different countries on the continent. Comments from readers were very positive. For most readers, my posts were the first time they had heard of these authors. Thus, it would be important that readers get to know these authors very closely.
If the access to the other authors prove positive and if they accept an interview from me, I would again serialised interviews from all the authors I have talked about. I begin today with Tendai Huchu, author of The Hairdresser of Harare. Please leave comments stating what you would want to know from these authors.
Can you tell us something about yourself (place of birth, school)?
I was born in 1982 in a sleepy mining town north of Harare called Bindura. It was the sort of place where everyone knew your name. I attended the local primary school and then went to boarding school in Harare up to my A Levels
Why did you decided to become a writer and how did you become one?
Writing is a form of escape for me. My head is a very crowded place but its only when I write that I find calm and solace. For a time I can ignore the reality of my circumstances. I only have to put pen to paper and I'm away.
How did your family take it when you took to writing (support, disappointment)?
I live 10,000 miles away from my family so writing was never something we discussed much. I get occasional encouragement and plenty of indifference. There are however friends who have become like family to me, Martin Gotora and Tafadzwa Gidi, who took keen interest in my work and gave me moral support when I faltered.
Which books did you find yourself reading while growing up and which are you currently reading?
I never really read literature outside of the texts proscribed in my education curriculum. Reading would have meant less time for playing sport, which I was awful at and chasing girls, another endeavour for which I was a complete failure. But from my youth I have vague memories of The Hardy Boys, A Kiss from Little Bear, Animal Farm.
At the moment I am reading Tsitsi Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions, Henry Olonga's brilliant biography Blood, Sweat and Treason and my landlord's rent arrears letter.
Do you have favourite writers whose writing influenced yours?
Sarah Ladipo-Manyika, Dostoevsky, Kafka, Dumas; the list is endless because every writer I read influences me in some way.
Which genre of literature are you comfortable with and which did you begin with?
Like everyone else where I am from, I began with a mix of western fairy tales and oral African folktales. I am comfortable with all genres, I will not confine my taste to one genre: If a book is good you will enjoy it regardless.
What motivates you to write?
For me writing is a form of exorcism. An idea will spin round and round in my head and unless I cast it out I will go insane.
Which writing style are you comfortable with and which do you find challenging?
I don't know what you mean but I write simple linear narratives. Because of this though, I find it difficult to allow my characters the freedom of expressing themselves outside of preconstructed plots.I like to play God but in the end the characters rebel and do their own thing anyway.
It was very difficult simply because like everything else writing is a craft that requires practice and patience in order to become good at it. The Hairdresser of Harare is my first published novel.
Tell us something about your book, The Hairdresser of Harare.
It is the story of Vimbai, an ambitious young single mother navigating her life through Zimbabwe's social, political and economic decay whilst trying to create a better future for herself and her daughter. Along the way she meets Dumisani, a dashing man from a wealthy family who, unknown to her, carries a dark secret that will shatter her view of the world. It is a story about love, hope, despair and challenging prejudices.
What is more important to you: Theme, Plot or Style?
You can't pick one over the other. For a book to work all these must come together to form a harmonious whole.
How did you feel when you saw your name on the cover of the book?
I threw up then went numb. You see, to me the story was nothing more the a concept in my head, a keystroke on a laptop, an email in cyberspace to my publisher, a microsoft word document but when I saw the book, The Word became Flesh. It was now real, its own independent entity, living, breathing, solid.
Has being published changed your life? Improved your writing skills?
My life hasn't changed one bit but my writing has improved because I worked with a fantastic editor, an old hand who opened my eyes and who, bit by bit, drove me to take my writing to a point far beyond what I thought were my natural limits.
Do you intend to be a full time writer or is writing going to be a part time activity?
It would be lovely to be in a position where I could devote my life to my craft but the reality is that I too have to earn my daily bread, Monday-Friday 9am to 5 pm, just like everyone else.
Any work in progress?
Someone told me it's bad luck to talk about work in progress.