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8 Questions with Author Futhi Ntshingila

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8 Questions with Author Futhi Ntshingila

8 Questions with Author Futhi Ntshingila

Futhi Ntshingila hails from Pietermaritzburg and is a journalist turned writer who holds a Master’s degree in conflict resolution. Her novels, now numbering three, all tell the stories of the marginal corners of society – the stories that fall through the cracks.

 

Her third book, They Got to You Too is now out, and we spoke to Futhi about her latest historical novel, the writing process and her favorite books.

8 Questions with Author Futhi Ntshingila

 

Q

What inspired your latest book They Got To You Too?

A

Initially I wanted to explore the lives of black women who were in the Anglo Boer War period, looking into how they managed to survive, but the plot wasn’t coming along nicely.  Then I remembered a strange war vet who was a maintenance man in a youth camp I attended years back.  I had to link him to the women of the war and trace his life from prime to frailty, having him reflect on his actions during apartheid with the benefit of hindsight and the Covid-19 lockdown to disarm him into raw honesty.

 

Q

What made you decide to include the current Covid-19 pandemic as part of the plot in the book?

A

It was during the time that I was writing, and it fell into a story almost naturally allowing Zoe and Hans to reflect.  A lot was happening in the world during the hard lockdown and we suddenly were not sure of anything, which I think forced everyone to take a hard looking into their lives.  The death of George Floyd in the US prompted some of the most honest and raw discussions around the issues of race so I guess I was stimulated to go there in my writing and explore.

 

Q

How are you able to tap into characters that are so different from each other (and also from your own background) and give them a voice and story that feels authentic? In They Got To You Too, the main characters are a former white police general and a young black nurse – people from the opposite spectrum of SA life, and yet each ones story and voice comes through.

A

Getting into the head of Hans was to explore emotions more than anything, because I think as much as we are different we have an idea of how certain emotions make us feel. I also used creative license since it is fiction; although I had to make sure that he is not a caricature. Keeping a balance, which is very important so that the story is authentic, based on acute curiosity and earnest storytelling. I think the idea of people being so different that they cannot accurately get each other unintentionally serves the purpose of keeping people separate in their corners as per the ideas of Verwoerd.

 

Q

This book as well as your others all have storylines that are uniquely South African and deal with the troubled history as well as current issues. Is it important to you as a South African writer to write stories that tackle issues faced here? And why?

A

I think I look for stories that can easily fall into cracks because they are uncomfortable and unglamorous or boarder on being labelled as stereotypical.  Especially Shameless and Do Not Go Gentle. The current story is complex in an awkward political way especially now that we are governed by idea of political correctness, which in turn poses a dangerous self-censorship and impoverishes the art of storytelling.

 

Q

What is the message you hope readers take out of They Got to You Too?

A

To be honest I try to let readers go where their initial reactions take them without me imposing my thoughts into them.   I simply just explored the mind of a man who once thought he was powerful until he wasn’t.

 

Q

How do you deal with writer’s block?

A

YouTube cooking and baking recipes have come in handy.  I did a bit of cooking during lockdown.

 

Q

What is your ideal writing environment and where did you write They Got to You Too?

A

Night time writing is still my favourite time. The stillness of it helps me feel like I am on to something until doubt comes knocking in the morning.   With lockdown though, I wrote from 8:00am until late.

 

Q

What are you currently reading and what is your all-time favourite book?

A

I am currently reading The Lost Language of the Soul by Mr Mandla Langa. I love many books but Bluest Eyes by Toni Morrison and Colour Purple by Alice Walker remain some of my favourite books.

 

They Got to You to by Futhi Ntshingila is published by Pan Macmillan and is available here.

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