Interview With Mbali Mbtha

~ Interview By Melina Kantor

Back in February, when I was searching for good chick lit related stories for our Friday posts, I came across a CNN story about Nollybooks, a new publishing house that has come out with a line of chick lit books targeted towards South African women.

I went to their Web site immediately, and one line caught my eye:

Nollybooks Bookazines ™ is a series of easy-to-read, chic-lit romance fiction titles with South African storylines and characters that reflect the lives and aspirations of the people who will read them.

The idea of a new community of chick lit fans thrilled me, so I contacted Nollybooks to see if any of their authors would be interested in visiting our blog.

Sure enough, three authors were kind enough to volunteer. For the next three Wednesdays, it will be an honor to have them as our guests.

First up is Mbali Mbatha, a Nollybooks author with a background in drama. She began writing novels at the age of 28 and is the mother of a four year old daughter.

Welcome! 🙂

You jumped at the chance to write for Nollybooks. In a newspaper article, you were quoted as saying, “I would have written for Nollybooks even if they were doing vampires and horror stories.” What inspired you to start writing?

I used to read a lot when I was growing up; and I did not realize it at the time that the urge to write was brewing inside me but in retrospect I believe that’s where the spark started because there I was  I was reading all the time and the next thing I knew; I was the one on the other end of the pen.

All Nollybook stories take place in South Africa. What must an author keep in mind when writing for a South African audience?

South Africa is very diverse culturally, which makes it difficult to cater for everyone. The belief systems, culture, individual choices as well as languages; are all of a very wide spectrum and I suppose a person has got to be tough skinned when writing for such a vast market. It sort of gives a new meaning to the saying “you can’t please everyone” so you have to be prepared for the fact that with the market being as broad as it is, you will be getting a million different types of responses. That’s not neccesarily a bad thing though, because it gives you a better understanding of your market’s expectations. Also, it opens your eyes to the fact that in trying to accommodate everyone, you don’t lose your own essence as a writer.

How autobiographical are your stories?

That’s a very uncomfortable question! Anyway, Thandeka Princess Shabangu is the name of my late best friend. the character in the book who loves writing but hasn’t got the proper training or experience is very personal for me, but sadly unlike the character in Working For the Enemy, I’m yet to find the Manual magazine in my own life. I suppose in a way Nollybooks is an opening towards that door for me; although it’s not a full time thing, it’s still a wonderful opportunity and just like the character in my novel I embrace it fully and hope that it’s received with just as much passion as I put into writing it.

How has your drama background influenced your writing?

In terms of my dramatic Arts work and training, I haven’t done any camera work. So when I was writing I used a lot of characterization. It was a bit funny though because I didn’t only characterize when writing, sometimes I’d actually act out my characters to ensure that my readers (as well as I myself) would be able to identify that the characters in Working For The Enemy are all different individuals.

What do you think makes your stories appealing to your readers?

Just the fact that South African readers are now allowed to enjoy romance stories from their own country; written by people that they can (hopefully) identify with. This is a first for us and I think it’s going to be really big because romance especially in Black families, is swept under the carpet, parents pretend as if their kids don’t date; and so this is going to be a platform in my openion, for South African young women to finally voice out EVERYTHING that they’ve always been dying to say about romance.

What are your writing goals? Would you mind telling us a bit about what you’re working on now?

I would love to run my own publication in the future. At the moment I’m trying to work on that. I’m collaborating with a friend of mine in terms of trying to set it up. She has the experience in terms of how to attain funding as well as marketing for what we are trying to do; I have leadership qualities, I’ve worked as assistant editor for a magazine previously, I’ve also done freelance work; which puts me in a position to run the creative side of things.

Thank you so much for visiting us today and telling us more about Nollybooks and your writing!

Mbali Mbatha was born in Soweto and grew up partly in Soweto and partly in a part of the country known as Kwazulu- Natal. Due to financial constraints, she unfortunately could not go to University after High School, which is how she ended up at Theatre school. Since then, she has been trying to get her big Media break, and has freelanced for magazines, newspapers, and has also worked in a radio newsroom. In addition to wanting to run her own publication, she would love to study law and qualify as an attorney.

2 thoughts on “Interview With Mbali Mbtha”

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