Fred Khumalo’s novel Bitches’ Brew jointly won this year’s EU Literary Award with Gerald Kraak’s Ice in the Lungs. When not writing novels—Bitches’ Brew is a sequel to the unpublished The Oneness of Two In Three, being considered for publication next year—Khumalo pens columns for the Sunday Times.
Describe yourself in a sentence.
I am a sensitive, highly imaginative writer who enjoys writing serious stories, with a touch of humour and a sense of history.
Describe Bitches’ Brew in a sentence.
A brew of jazz, crime, magic, power, history, laughter, a rollicking tale of love found, lost and found again.
Describe your ideal reader.
An open-minded, imaginative lover of good fiction, a person who wants to laugh (and cry!), a sensitive appreciator of music and, above all, a person always searching for answers to questions that haunt the human race and its future.
What was the originating idea for the book?
Listening to Miles Davis’ controversial song Bitches’ Brew a couple of years ago, and suddenly thinking of a love story involving a jazz man and a shebeen queen, within the South African context.
Describe the process of writing and publishing the book (research, editing,et cetera). How long did it take?
It took me just over a year to research and write, (very little research indeed as this is a work of my imagination). I do a lot of editing as I write. Once the book is finished, I am reluctant to go back and edit. Before the book was finally published in April this year, I was asked to take a final look at the manuscript. An editor was assigned to tinker with it here and there, but there was very little editing done. This redolent brew was left relatively intact and fecund as I’d written it.
Name some writers who have inspired you, and (briefly) tell us why or how.
Toni Morrison, Amos Tutuola, Ben Okri and Gabriel Garcia MÃ¡rquez for their sense of wonder; Walter Mosley and Stephen King (yeah, you heard me right King) for their sense of pace; BW Vilakazi and Ngugi waThiongo for their sense of history; Mafika Gwala for his linguistic acrobatics; Dambudzo Marechera for his crazy logic.
What are you reading at the moment?
Just finished rereading James Baldwin’s Another Country and Tell Me How Long The Train’s Been Gone. Next on the line is Chris Abani’s Graceland (which I will be rereading for the third time) and, oh, a friend says I must finish, as I’ve been threatening to, Tolstoy’s War and Peace (groan).
Do you write by hand, or use a typewriter or computer?
Typewriter? Are you crazy? I use a very modern computer, which allows me the flexibility to chop and change. Because I’m a fast writer, I need this flexibility to change gears and continue to gallop at high speed.
What is the purpose of fiction?
It’s to keep our sense of wonder alive; to imaginatively seek answers to questions that confront us daily as we negotiate our way through this jungle called life.
Is there anything you wish to add?
Go get your fill of this potent brew, bru!