Interview with Stanley Gazemba, shortlisted for his novel Ghettoboy

Where and when did the idea for Ghettoboy come from?

As to where and when the idea for Ghettoboy came from, really I don't know. For one the book was written quite some time back, during the years just after the ouster of Moi by Narc when Raila Odinga, then Roads Minister, was reclaiming road reserves from people who had grabbed and constructed on them--2003 or thereabouts. The days of the overloaded Kenya Buses before Michuki came on the scene with his 'michuki rules'. I think I was sitting in a cheap drinking place in Kangemi hanging out with my hood guys drinking the infamous 'Sapphire' sachet gins, when the idea for the characters started taking shape. Some of the young guys I hung out with at the time - mostly touts, college-students and job-seekers who happened to turn out for football practice at the local playground at Kangemi market - and the stories they told about their daily escapades shaped the characters in this book. The storyline came later.

Can you tell us a bit about place or places you wrote Ghettoboy from?

Ghettoboy was partly written in Kangemi and Lavington.

What inspires you to write?

I am inspired by the things I see around me. Most of the characters in my stories are influenced by the people I hang out with in the evenings at my local, the stories they tell after they've had a drink or two to loosen their tongues. Often I eavesdrop on strangers' conversations too!

Tell us about 3 writers you admire and why?

Locally it is Meja Mwangi. No other writer captures the urban scene quite the way he does.

Beyond Kenya is Chimamanda Adichie. Her authorial voice is pure and authentic. There is nothing pretentious about her writing, it is easily identifiable as 'African' despite the length of time she has spent abroad.

Outside the continent is British writer Ken Follet. He makes medieval England come to life in a way that makes you long to see the film version of the book. His characters and scenes are masterfully created.

How did you hear about the Kwani? Manuscript Project?

I think I first heard about this project through the Googlegroup 'Concerned Kenyan Writers'.

If you had to describe Ghettoboy as a cross between two other novels, what would they be?

Now, this one is a difficult one. I'll have to think about it. I rarely think about other books when writing. Perhaps someone else who has read it can make the comparison?

Project Partners

Kwani? Manuscript Project
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