Welcome to the TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome Kally-Jay Mkwawa, author of Isidora – The Life, Mind and Memories of an African Phoenix, for an author interview.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kally-Jay Mkwawa (a pseudonym), is a lady of 30 years living and working in
Tanzania and is the author of Isidora – The Life, Mind and Memories of an African
Phoenix. She gained her undergraduate degree in Bcom Law (majoring in law and
minor in business management) which she was awarded in South Africa and is
currently working for an NGO dealing with provision of medical assistance in the
country whilst pursuing her MBA with the University of South Wales, the latter
being via distance learning.
She’s always been a lover of reading and collecting books, a passion through
which (in addition to formal education) and, possessing a mind louder than words
she can actually utter, has enhanced and inspired her to start writing. Her writing
is more of a born talent since she’s never had classes in literature or the arts which
would have enabled her to grow further in the field. To her, writing is a form of
therapy and a way to tap into her imagination.
Besides her love of writing, Kally-Jay has a passion for lending an ear to people
who most of the times need someone to listen to, music and watching series or
She draws inspiration for writing from travelling, reading fiction novels and devotional books and conversations with close friends and family and, anything that is ‘out the box’ or living life not conforming to society’s normal set standards. She strives to write stories from real life experiences and thus, living an essence of herself in them and what she’s personally been through in life and epiphanies she’s come to in the process.
can you please tell my readers a little bit about yourself?
please tell us about your book?
how long did it take you to write it?
why did you choose this topic?
Wow (chuckles). This is definitely one of my favorite questions. I chose the topic/ title because ‘Isidora’ which ideally means ‘gift of isis’ or in other different stories, she was an empathetic woman always overlooking herself and putting others first whilst in history she is said to have been quite reserved as well. This is something which talks about Isidora’s character. The subtitle ‘Life, Mind and Memories’ is simply about her life, the way her mind works and the memories she’s kept instilled within her that’s somehow shaped and still shaping her character. ‘African Phoenix’- a phoenix is a mythological bird who at the end of its life, goes in flames and, out of the ashes it is reborn. This portrays the various stages and trials that Isidora goes through by experiencing different situations and encountering different people and in signifies that no matter how trying a scenario/ experience is for her, she lives to see another day. And, ‘African’ is just the fact that it represents the story being based in Africa – Isidora’s home. Having said that, I therefore chose this title for my debut book.
which writers in your field inspire you?
what inspired you to write?
I’ve personally grown up to have very few people I can speak to or confide in, and thus, there more times when my mind tends to be louder than my mouth or the number of times I speak. I also easily always find myself thinking a lot (most especially about deeper meaning of issues in and of life) and thus, writing is my way of emptying my mind. This is especially because most times not a lot of people would understand what I’m saying (thus appreciating my level of ‘weird’) or relate to what I’m saying. Writing is my type of therapeutic exercise. When a thought or an epiphany (be it spiritual/religious or general, comes to my mind, it even gets to a point of getting a headache. Thus, I’d grab my laptop or a pen and notebook and just pour it all out.
are you working on any other project(s) right now? if yes, what are they?
I’m currently working for an NGO dealing with provision of medical assistance in the country whilst at the same time, I’m pursuing my MBA with the University of South Wales, the latter being via distance learning. I also manage a vacation home on a part-time basis (this being a family venture). At the same time, I’m still writing and thus, in the process of writing my second book as well.
how do you prefer to write? on computer/laptop, typewriter, dictation or longhand with a pen?
I prefer writing with a pen in any notebook of mine I can find and when it’s something I feel I can include in a book, that’s when I use my laptop (or, my phone when the urgency to get a thought out of my head gets too overwhelming).
what are your 5 favourite books and 5 favourite authors?
- K. Rowling – All the Harry Potter Books (wouldn’t be fair to pick just one)
- Susan Cain – Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking
- Nora Roberts (definitely too many books of hers to mention as I’ve read (still reading) a lot of them and equally loved all of them),
- Stephen Covey – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
- Dan Brown – Angels and Demons
non-fiction deals with a lot of facts and real-life study. how do you deal with the all research work?
Honestly, it’s really not that much of a challenge for me at the moment and this is simply because debut book is about things or people I’ve encountered or experienced or, have in one way or another played a role in. This is be it through conversations with my close circle of friends or my family or, at times, through reading work from other non-fiction writers/ authors (something which isn’t at all hard for me since reading another form of relaxation for me. I’m a certified book junkie!). I also think non-fiction isn’t solely about research all times, it’s just the mere fact that it’s based on true or real life occurrence of events.
what advice would you give to new aspiring authors in your genre?
I reckon each person has a story to tell about oneself and it doesn’t matter if it’ll be a bestseller or not or, whether you’d be praised for your heroics or be laughed at. The point remains that you have a story which has somehow shaped their character and made you who you are today; it is your testimony. If you touch one person, one million or all 7 billion, you’re in a position to inspire, change or motivate someone. With your story, another person would grow and learn to do and be better, why not share it? I encourage aspiring authors to speak up and let them be heard. It’s one which through which you can definitely make a difference.
Most times it’s not easy to make your mark in this world, so even if you’ll eventually be writing for an audience or readers, initially, you can write for yourself. Do it for you! This piece of advice was hammered into me by one of my closest friends and she said ‘do it for yourself woman! Be your own fan’. It took a lot of debating and second guessing myself to have finally decided to publish (and self-publish at that, a field I was completely clueless about) but I did it for me. And it still amazes me that so many people praise the fact I published and that they appreciate my writing.
Thank you, Kally-Jay, for all your honest answers and for the insightful and exciting answers!
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Isidora – The Life, Mind and Memories of an African Phoenix
Spending the better part of your life being called a good listener, a weirdo, a hermit or a ‘mirror of ugly truths’ and a walking-talking memory machine isn’t at all that it’s cut out to be. To a large extent, it’s a lonely life. You arrive into this life without even meaning to and suddenly it seems that you carry the weight of the whole world on your shoulders. You get sucked into it quite easily and coming up for a breath of fresh air is not easy at all.
This is an account that will give the reader an idea of what Isidora has encountered this beautiful, yet twisted and noisy place called the world. It’s not a long story with a happy ending (at least not so far). Rather, it’s about the reason for her tears, worries, unending voices in her head, the blows that life threw at her, about those precious moments of sheer joy and last, but certainly not least, her encounter with Him. Hopefully, sharing her story will find others who can relate to it and make them feel they’re not alone. Writing this work has been like an ‘extension’ of herself whilst overcoming her fear of hurting people or being compelled to ‘walk on eggshells’. It’s one of her legacies and as always, has been her type of therapy. May it be a type of therapy or inspiring for you too.
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