• Amy's Bookshelf Reviews

Featured Author: Kally-Jay Mkwawa


Q: In one sentence, tell me something that describes you as a person?

A: Some would say I’m an introvert (reserved, enjoying my hermit-like demeanor most times), others would say I’m an extroverted -introvert, but I describe myself as any of these two, simply because I’m as ‘different’ as they come and also, at the end of the day it depends on who’s who.

Q: How many books have you written? How many of those are published?

A: I have written and published one book so far.

Q: Do you have an upcoming release? If yes, tell me the title and impending release date.

A: Yes, there’s an upcoming release I’m working on. However, I’m still brainstorming (with myself) on the perfect title and (God willing) I’m hoping to release it by/ in 2020. And when it’s ready, you’ll definitely be on the top list of people I’d like to have a look.

Q: Tell me about how you come up with your titles for your stories. Do you create the title before or after you write the book, and does it ever change from the initial title?

A: I come up with my title as I write my stories and because of this, chances are half the time the initial title does change (for the better). It’s sort of like looking at my entire manuscript and encompassing it in one title but at the same time leaving an essence of who I am in it.

Q: Out of all your characters in all of your books, who/what (sometimes a setting can also be an important “character”) do you think is the most interesting and why?

A: Seeing that all my characters are from real-life encounters, they’re all interesting in their own right. But the most interesting aspect of all of them is the way I script each one in such a way that if the actual person (who’s inspired the character) reads it, they wouldn’t believe I captured that particular memory or imprint of them in my memory. It’s all completely unexpected, the ability to notice and ‘save’ such details about people or moments but at the same time (whilst writing) not realizing it could be a story about anyone and everyone. Some people might read some chapters and think I might have made it up (that it didn’t happen) or is a figment of my imagination, but all the chapters are as real as life is, in us who are alive and as real as death for those who’ve departed.

Q: If you could “create” your own genre of what you write, what would you call your books?

A: I haven’t thought about it much, but I’d probably call it along the lines of ‘For Yourself, Us and I’.

Q: Without quoting your back cover synopsis, tell me about the last book you published.

A: Isidora is generally about life stages, epiphanies that one comes to whilst encountering different people and experiencing different situations/ places. It’s about love (in most of its facets), friends, family, memories one collects during one’s life and growth. It’s about seeing and reading an essence of myself, yourself and all of us in most parts of the story and thus making it a raw, heartfelt memoir.

Q: Tell me something about yourself that is separate from writing.

A: I’m quite observant and quiet and so I’ve developed quite an explicable memory capacity. I love music and it’s because I find it easier to express myself or feel something through singing or dancing (whether or not I’m great at these things are, just like beauty, in the eyes of the beholder). I also enjoy creativity ranging from image designing (in terms of outfits) and most types I like setting the trend instead of following numerous fashion trends. The idea is always to be unique in my ways. I love learning the old and new things (professionally and personally), but at the same time I’m quite the ‘creature’ of habit. In short basically I’ve always wanted and I’m working towards being more of a ‘Jill of all trades and master of most’.

Q: Who is your favorite Author?

A: My book shelf and past reading lists is full of books by Nora Roberts. I’m generally a fan on fiction romance novels and until the past 3 or 4 years, devotional books, than any other genre and it’s a bit strange since so far I’m focused on being a non-fiction author.

Q: What is the last book that you read? (Not counting anything you wrote)

A: The last book I finished reading is ‘The Thief by J.R. Ward’ and now I’m currently reading ‘Becoming by Michelle Obama’.

Q: When writing, do you have a system or something you plan, or do you just write?

A: No, I wouldn’t say I have a system. 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. Thus far, my writing is about things or people I’ve encountered or experienced or, I 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!). And this is where I draw my inspiration, be it listening, feeling, watching/ observing, breathing, seeing, touching (basically using all my five senses) or travelling, thinking etc.

Q: Why do you write?

A: Apart from always having wanted to somehow positively motivate or inspire people (sort of make a positive impact in people’s lives), 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.

Q: Do you read your own work a lot? If so, what does it do for you?

A: I read my work as often as I can and half (if not most times) I always second guess myself on if it’s any good. At times I get nervous about ‘pouring my heart out’ on paper and in words for the world to see and thus leaving be exposed. At the end of the day the result is always the same (surprising even myself), that it still pours out from me. Every thought, emotion or word, it is my own.

Q: What is your favorite type of music? Is there one genre (or song, band etc...) that brings out your creativeness more than others?

A: I love way too many genres (even in other languages, and even if I don’t understand what’s being sung) to name just one. I’m almost as much of a music junkie as I am a book junkie. So, from R n’ B to Rock to Alcapella, to Indian to Spanish, to Pop to Hip hop, to Rap to Jazz to Swahili to South African (house music), from oldies to contemporary (including Christmas carols and gospel) I’m there.

Q: As an author, I find that the hardest thing to write (for me) is the synopsis that will be on the back cover or book’s description. When you write, what is the hardest line to write, the first line, the last line or the synopsis for the book?

A: I’d have to definitely say the synopsis (especially if I want to publish). It’s not only about encompassing the entire script in 250 words, while at the same time not giving spoilers but it’s also about who’s your target audience and thinking whether it’s going to attract readers.

Q: If you could sit down and have a coffee (or whatever beverage) with anyone, living or dead, from any era, any time, who would it be and why? (You can pick up to 3 persons).

A: 1. My late grandfather (maternal) – the man saw beyond his years on earth and always managed to make me smile (even I don’t remember how or why)

2. Michelle Obama – from reading her story (the few pages I’ve read so far) I saw and see myself in her memories, her story is mine just like it is the case for many others who’ve read it. And, although she’s a former first lady of the U.S. (almost seemingly a super woman) her story reminds me how much of a human being she is.

3. God – simply for the reason of Him being who He is.

Q: What does it mean to be a “successful” writer?

A: Being successful as a writer means being able to draw readers into ‘your’ world while at the same time making them see how so much alike, we all are. It’s about making them not be able to put down your book as they read it. Being successful is about thinking strategically, positioning your work in readers’ minds and, being your own fan before anyone else as well.

Q: What do you want to accomplish, so when you look back at your life, you can say “I did that”?

A: Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they won’t forget how you made them feel.” I suppose I want to accomplish what most people want to accomplish: leaving a legacy to my existence (even thereafter when I’m not alive). I don’t have to be remembered by people thinking ‘oh she wrote this or that book’ but rather, ‘she tried and never gave up trying to put herself in my shoes and managed to always somehow mix intelligence, wisdom, motivation, inspiration, sympathy and empathy, all in one pot’, or ‘she made me smile’ or ‘lightened my load’ or ‘we don’t know how she does or did it, but she always got back up even after falling’.

Q: Any final thoughts that you want to give to your fans or even future authors?

A: 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 each person has a story which has somehow shaped their character and made that person they are today; it is one’s 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 understand that there’s a ‘norm’ where ‘Tell All’s’ should be done when one is old and grey (and most probably with nothing to lose should one’s particular shenanigans be too scandalous) but I chose to write Isidora now especially because although we hope for a tomorrow, we have yet to set foot there yet. There’s as much as a high probability that we might grow old and wiser etc as it is a probability that we won’t wake up the next morning, so why not write one’s story today? It’s certainly will be not only yours but many others’ as well.

One thing to keep in mind is that half the time (if not most times) it’s not easy to make your mark in this world, so even if one’ll eventually be writing for an audience or readers, initially, one can write for oneself. ‘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 the fact that I’m continuously growing, and inspiring others is just a big bonus. It still amazes me that so many people praise the fact I published and that they appreciate my writing. And lastly it’s okay to be different, weird and ‘living in your own world’ as some might see you, at the end of the day when you set foot out of this world you’ll be ‘sleeping’ by yourself in your eternal resting place and so why not live by your own rules/ mantra and be in league of your own choosing your own players (if any as you go)?

#Mkwawa

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