Nov 15, 2010

Q&A with Theresa Lungu

As a follow up to my book review of Theresa Lungu’s book, Twilight in the Morning, I did a phone interview with her to acquaint myself and others with her life and work. I hope you find this informative as I did.

Theresa was a joy to talk to and I am even more excited to read her upcoming book when it is released. Stay tuned for more details.

When did you start writing and who/what inspired you?
I have had a lifelong interest in writing. Writing was always one of my favourite subjects in school, and I had a literature teacher who encouraged my efforts because he thought I had a talent for it.  

How did you come up with the idea for your first book Twilight in the Morning (TITM)? And why did you set it in Rwanda?
The idea for the book just came to me. I wanted to portray a romantic relationship between an African and a black American which is a theme not often found in modern literature. Furthermore, in the male character (Denver), I wanted to show a positive portrayal of a black man – a young successful and responsible professional. 

Which of your characters do you most relate with (please give a brief explanation of why you relate to him/her)?
I most relate to Denver. He’s a character who wants to do something meaningful with his life while he still can. Though he struggles, we see him grow and find redemption. That’s how I see myself too.

At the end of TITM you have bonus read titled “Born Again” was that a short story or full length novel you later released?
That was just a short story and it appears in its entirety.  

What are you working on right now?
I have completed my second novel, “Torment of an Angel”. I am currently in talks to get it published. I also plan to publish a collection of short stories once I have a deal negotiated and penned.

The story centres around two characters who have each lost a loved one to HIV/AIDS. They struggle with the emotional trauma and this impacts surviving relationships, work and other aspects of their lives. These are issues we haven't seen tackled in African literature and yet are very real in our lives.

What do you enjoy most about writing? 
Writing is cathartic for me. I write when I am happy or sad, and find it very soothing. I also enjoy sharing my writing with others.  

What do you do when you’re not writing?
I work in the school of Education at Boston College, and I’m also completing my degree work in Communications. I am also the founder of Books for Zambia – a non-profit started in 2003 to provide books for the struggling library in my hometown, Luanshya. I started the project after receiving word that the library was facing closure due to the lack of resources. To date we have received donations (encyclopaedias, children’s books, text books, and so forth) from various groups, including my current employer, in the New England area. This has helped sustain Helen Kaunda Memorial Library. I am looking at expanding our operations to help local area schools in Luanshya as well. More information can be found on our website:  
Do you have a favourite author?
My favourite author is Wilbur Smith. He was born in Zambia and a lot of his books are about old Africa. For anyone unfamiliar with his work, “”Men of Men” is a book I would recommend.

As an upcoming author, what are the unique challenges you face?
As you know “Twilight in the Morning” was self-published; this was a very difficult process because I had to do a lot of the work on my own (marketing, finding booksellers, etc). To have all that work rewarded with a tepid response from my intended audience(s) was a disappointment.

As I look at getting my second novel published, I want it to be well received because I believe it’s not only a good story but one that needs to be told and shared. I also feel that with a good reception my talents and hard work would have been validated.

Do you correspond with other Zambian or African authors to discuss marketing strategies, story ideas, writing challenges, etc?
I am indeed in contact with other Zambian writers. We act as support unit – encouraging each other, providing feedback on works in progress, etc.

Any last words, thoughts, ideas? 
As a Zambian writer I am very eager to see our community grow. Zambia is not short on talented writers – what we have is a stagnant publishing industry that doesn’t encourage new authors. There are many works that go unpublished because we cannot find willing publishers. This has to change.

Furthermore, it would also be nice to see more Zambians embrace our work and encourage others to do the same.   


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