/ 18 February 2016

Khaya Dlanga: “Who the hell do I think I am”

Author Khaya Dlanga.
By late afternoon on Wednesday firefighters had been fighting the blaze for almost eight hours (Renata Larroyd/MG)

Describe yourself in a sentence.
I cannot be described in one sentence. Yes, that counts. And I am aware that it’s now three sentences.

Describe your ideal reading matter.
Something that makes me feel or think, ideally both.

What was the originating idea for the book?
There wasn’t one. I was asked to write a book about my life. Naturally I was terrified of exposing myself out there. The idea for me was to just talk about an experience that I knew many other people had too.

Were the years you spent in advertising and as a stand-up comedian significant?
Absolutely. For one thing advertising teaches you to see things differently. Although I don’t know if one gets into advertising because they see things differently or they see things differently because they are in advertising.

Stand-up comedy really taught me to do the things that really scare me. Stand-up is terrifying. And the most terrifying moment is the few minutes before your name is announced, when it is being announced, after it’s been announced and as you are walking towards the mic, when the crowd is cheering as you approach the moment. At that moment, you are terrified that will be the biggest and only cheer you get.

Describe the process of writing the work. How long did it take?
It was not great. It’s deadlines and self-doubt that plagued me. Why would I even think about writing about my life? Who the hell do I think I am? Those were the thoughts. I even wanted to quit but then I remembered I had signed a contract.

Name some writers who have inspired you and tell us briefly why or how.
Ernest Hemingway for his simplicity and honesty, and the openness in his work. I loved how he made me feel for a fish in The Old Man and the Sea.

Do you write by hand, or use a typewriter or computer?
Computer. Is there any other way?

What is the purpose of storytelling?
I think it is for connection and to make sure that we preserve our past. There is something futuristic about storytelling because stories happen in the past but they get carried into the future. That sounds super-fake deep, but I know what I mean and I just don’t know how to simplify it.