Lauri Kubuitsile is a full time writer from Botswana. She has thirteen published works of fiction. She has also written two television series for Botswana Television and her short stories have been published in anthologies and literary magazines around the world. She has won numerous writing prizes including the Golden Baobab Prize junior category (2008/2009) and senior category in 2010, the BTA/AngloPlatinum Short Story Contest (South Africa- 2007) and the Botswana Ministry of Youth, Sports, and Culture’s Orange Botswerere Prize for Creative Writing (2007). She was recently chosen to be a writer in residence in El Gouna Egypt for the month of May 2010. She blogs at ‘Thoughts from Botswana’.
Geosi Reads interviews Lauri Kubuitsile:
GR: I am fully impressed when I hear the words ‘full writer’ attributed to a writer’s name. Do you write everyday and at all times? What is your writing schedule like?
LK: It’s my job and I treat it like that. I usually get to my office, which is in the garden of my home, at about 10. I first attend to emails and other online duties such as my blog. I then get to work on the project for the day. I have lists of what must be accomplished each day, since I have numerous obligations. Besides my fiction, I also write a weekly column on writing and books for one of our national newspapers and I’m the vice chair of our writing association. (Writers Association of Botswana- WABO). I knock off most days between 5:30 and 6. I normally do not write on weekends unless there is something pressing that must be done.
GR: You have written and published about thirteen books. Tell us, briefly, about these books.
LK: I write for both children and adults. I started out writing a detective series, Detective Kate Gomolemo. They’re novellas and there are four books in that series, three have been published. I have six books for children published in Botswana and in South Africa. I’ve also recently started writing romance, which I’m really enjoying. I have two published romance novellas in South Africa. And I have two books that I’ve signed contracts for and will be coming out this year, Aunt Lulu, a book for young adults and The Curse of the Gold Coins, a children’s book, both to be published in South Africa; one with Tafelburg and one with Vivlia.
GR: You live and work from Botswana. How has Botswana as a country received your works (books)?
LK: In Botswana we don’t really have any trade publishers, all of our publishers are educational publishers. I’ve been lucky because five of my books (works of fiction) have been chosen as set books. The Fatal Payout, the first in my detective series, is a set book for junior secondary school. Mmele and the Magic Bones is a set book for standard 5. And there are three short story collections I wrote with two other Batswana women writers and all three of those are set books for primary school.
GR: You have won several writing prizes and awards as a writer. What is it about your writing that keeps you winning all these awards? And do prizes and awards affect the life of a writer in any particular way?
LK: Only the judges can say what they like about my writing. But I should make it clear I also enter many contests and win nothing, so every contest is different and I think we can all accept there is quite a large element of subjectivity. For me, and I’ve said this often, prizes are important for two reasons. First they tell you that you’re doing something right. And that is so important in the brutal world of writing where rejection is the norm. Second, for me as a writer living in Botswana, awards and prizes get my name out there and that’s also important.
GR: I personally admire what you are doing on your blog at Thoughts from Botswana. At what point in your life did you become a blogger? Were you a writer before you started blogging or otherwise? And how has the world of blogging affect your life as a writer?
LK: I had to go back and check that. According to my blog I started it in 2008, by then I was already writing for some time. I used to have a website but I was unable to update it myself and that became a problem. I like the freedom of a blog.
For how my blog has affected me, I guess the most important thing is I’ve met many writers through my blog, writers that have taught me all sorts of things. I also get people contacting me because of my blog- people like you.
GR: Have you always wanted to become a writer? At what point in your life did you decide that you wanted to be a writer?
LK: I am not one of those writers who “has to write”, I do it because I enjoy it. When I look back I see that writing is a thread that runs through my life but I never thought one day I’d be a writer. At various points in my life books have saved me, they gave me a refuge I didn’t have in my real world. I guess I wanted to find a way to be more a part of books, writing seemed to be a natural progression. I’ve only been writing for 7 years.
GR: As a writer, who are your audience?
LK: It really depends on the book I guess. Perhaps it sounds self-centered, but I mostly write books for me, they’re stories that I like.
GR: I want to take your thoughts about the reading culture in Botswana. Do Batswana read?
LK: You know the line said over and over – “Africans don’t read” Like so many things, just because something is said many times it does not mean it is true. Batswana are ravenous about newspapers, they will be read cover to cover. Do they buy books? No. But now the question is why? Could it be books are too expensive? Yes, outrageously so. Could it be that the books written don’t talk about their lives? Yes again. I think there is a revolution happening though. African writers are beginning to push out of the box that dictated the only story that could be told was the sad African tale or a political one. Now we can write anything and we are. At the same time African publishers are trying to connect. That’s important. And there are ways to produce books cheaply without killing the writers and people are looking for that. I also think ebooks and ebook readers may be the most important thing that could happen to literature in Africa. I’m excited for the future.
GR: How did you land your first publishing contract? Was it difficult getting your first book published?
LK: At the time I owned a very small printing and publishing company that published a free newspaper for the Central District of Botswana. We had changed the format of the paper and I feared we’d lose readers and decided to write a fast paced novel that could be included in the newspaper in 1000 word installments. This is how the entire Kate Gomolemo detective series was written. Anyway, when the first book (The Fatal Payout) finished in the paper, some readers called asking if they could get the entire book as they’d missed a few installments. So on a fluke I sent the manuscript off to Macmillan. They liked it and now it’s a set book in all junior secondary schools in Botswana. So it was quite easy actually
GR: Share with us your thoughts about the publishing industry in Botswana? Are there many publishing companies in Botswana? Are your books published in Botswana?
LK: I think I’ve answered this already. There are no trade publishers , they’re all educational publishers. The bulk of that market is taken up by the big international guys who basically have a bit more than a storefront in the country. There are a handful of locally owned publishing houses. Though my first book was published by Macmillan- Botswana, since then all of my books published in Botswana have been published by a locally owned publisher, Pentagon Publishers, by design. Six of my books are published in Botswana. The big problem is distribution, books published in Botswana, stay in Botswana. Like a steel gate is keeping us locked in. This is why I’ve tried to slowly move into South Africa and this year I am making an effort to get an adult novel published overseas.
GR: Tell us about your reading life? When and where do you read?
LK: I read every evening and on weekends. I read at home. I love to own books and spend a large amount of my income on books.
GR: What is/are your favorite book(s)?
LK: This is a difficult question as it changes all of the time. And too I read different books for different moods. For example right now I’m re-reading six JD Robbs. I’m preparing my mind for a book I want to write. A book I really loved recently was The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. I also loved Home Away, a collection of short stories written by South Africans. But the list of my favourite books is long and varied. I read romance, and literary and detective- actually just about anything.
GR: You have a rich resume as you have worked for television companies aside producing books. Is there any relationship or otherwise between scriptwriting and bookwriting?
LK: It’s all storytelling. I think scriptwriting has been good for my book writing. I learned methods that I’ve carried over to make my book writing more efficient. For example preparing character bibles and doing quite extensive plotting beforehand.
GR: Where do you get your inspirations to write? Do you have any person(s) who have influenced your career as a writer?
LK: Inspiration comes from anywhere, everywhere. Plenty of people have assisted me, writers are a very generous lot.
GR: What do you seek to achieve with your writings?
LK: My goal this year is to try and have a full length adult novel published. Up until now I’ve had only novella length books published. Also I’m trying my best right now to get an agent overseas. I’m also looking into trying to sell a collection of some of my short stories as an ebook on my blog.
GR: What are you reading now? And what is on your writing desk at the moment?
LK: Well, for reading like I said I’m reading the JD Robbs in preparation for writing a thriller/ romance set in northern Botswana. As for writing, I’m working on a YA book called Thato Lekoko: Superhero. It’s humorous but with a bit of an environmental message.
LK: Like I’ve said it is a bit difficult for anyone outside of Botswana to get my books that are published here. In South Africa I have books published with Vivlia, an educational publisher, and with Sapphire Books. The Sapphire Books were being sold only through True Love Magazine, though very soon they will be sold in bookstores. I’m hoping with my book coming out this year, Aunt Lulu, published by a big publisher in South Africa, Tafelburg, it will be available online as well as in bookstores. However, readers can get copies of my romance novel, Can he be the One? here.
GR: In just a sentence, what would be your advice to upcoming writers?
LK: Read, and write; and then re-write and re-write, and then repeat.