Vincent de Paul, author of Twisted Times, notes that for reading and writing cultures to be encouraged, schools have to make them fun.
You are on Memorila’s #WednesdayWritersWorld. May we meet you?
I am Vincent de Paul, Kenyan writer. Most people ask me if I am African; yes, I am; though all my given names are not African. However, I think my identity, whether African or not, depends on where one comes from. I have had a South African friend ask which part of South Africa I come from, that my Vincent de Paul is African.
Why do you write?
For me, writing is cathartic, and that’s why I write.
What is your best genre?
Fiction. Any category in fiction goes – flash fiction (my favourite), the short story, novel. I focus mainly on sociological thrillers, and I have thrown in a couple of tries on speculative fiction.
What inspired your first literary work?
To revoke vice in the society. Then love.
How many books have you written and how can one access them?
I have written 11 books, though only six are in print. The books are available on Mystery Books, Mystery eBooks, Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and a horde of other online bookstores.
The print books are available in a few bookshops in Kenya, viz Kenyatta University Bookshop on Haile Selassie Avenue in Nairobi; Ereto Bookshop in Nakuru; and Gohil Bookshop in Kakamega.
Why do you often make reviews on Goodreads?
Goodreads is the largest books and reviews social networking website. A reader worth their salt feel the need to tell other readers how they found the book they read; whether it’s worthy spending your money and time on it or not. Majorly for me I do it because I believe reviews give credibility to books; thus I do it hoping my readers would do the same for my books and help expose them to the public.
What are the best ways to encourage reading cultures in our societies?
I believe that the first and foremost way to promote reading culture is through the education system. Let the education system introduce reading for entertainment to kids during their formative years, not to focus on educational text which happens mostly in our schools. Other ways would emanate from the above: reading-out-loud events, open mic performances, slam poetry events, giving newspapers to schools at subsidized prices, and many other ways which I believe technocrats won’t fail to think of.
Where do you see African literary works in the next ten years?
African literary works would change dramatically, from the traditional thematic concerns of the yore to modernism, addressing issues affecting Africans in the 21st Century. The mood is that readers are tired of war stories, colonialism, Africa as the backdrop of backwardness, tribalism, and all that sells in the West because most writers portray Africa as the home of oppression, tyranny, and autocracy. It might be so, but we have to change the narrative and the people (politicians/leaders) who create that picture of Africa would have to live the narrative. So, the new-age African writer is changing that.
How can writers of today profit from their skills?
Writers need to be part of the process, especially book promotion and marketing.
How many of your stories have been adapted for movies?
None so far. I was approached two years ago by a director of production at United States International University (USIU) in Kenya to adapt Flashes of Vice series (my flash fiction stories) into short films. At that time the Kenya Film Classification Board was making it hard to produce in Kenya, with so much bureaucracy and exorbitant charges and fees. The producer went to South Africa instead, and that’s how the project died.
Is Amazon the ultimate online store for African stories or are there better alternatives?
No. Amazon is prestigious, yes, but not the ultimate. There are others, like Okada Books, Books of Africa, Rugano Books, Vidyabookstore, etc which are doing good. To sell on Amazon, one has to know the mechanics.
Who are your role models?
My number one model is myself. I am modelling myself to be the writer I want. Number two—Chinua Achebe, from when I first read A Man of the People in high school.
Among your contemporaries, which writers inspire you most?
Warsan Shire, a Kenyan-born Somali poet.
Apart from writing, what other work do you do?
Yes. Publishing other writers.
How do you joggle between writing and your main work?
By creating strict timetable; though sometimes the work is too demanding! For example, this year I have not written much as I used to, and my blogs can bear witness.
If you were to be a gathering of aspiring writers, what will be your advice to them?
Read widely, and wildly; especially fiction and newspapers. Do lots of market research before beginning to write and ultimately publishing. Be professional, most writers these days make the publishers reject their manuscript because of unprofessionalism.
How can writers become professionals?
By doing enough research, submitting their manuscripts in the right/required format, improving on grammar/written English (avoid text talk), and being official in their communication even if they know the publisher in person.
How do you wind up?
Writing is a vocation (in theological sense), and a career if you make it so. Given a choice, choose the vocation.
Thank for inspiring us today on #WednesdayWritersWorld.
Thank you too, for this interview.