Vitabubooks Interview | Brian Rath

Email turned 40 this June. Like most electronic tools these days one wonders how the world ever did without it. Billions of stories have been shared by email since 1971 and over a period of three to four months one more digital story was added to the ever-growing number. My emails with Brian Rath, a South African writer, would fill up a huge folder. This week, Vitabu Books brings you the most recent exchanges.Tell me brother, have you heard from Johannesburg?

Vitabu Books: What are you working on?

Brian Rath: I'm working on the memoirs of a misspent youth. I've done some crazy, dangerous and really stupid things in my time. I think it's worth writing about. Rian Malan before me, and Mark Gevisser recently, have had some success with personal stories and some agents are actively seeking South African memoirs. So I might as well cash in. But seriously, I've had about five different incarnations in one lifetime so far (and another one beckons) so there's no shortage of material. The one chapter alone could probably be an entire book and I'm writing with that thought in mind. I already have about 20,000 words from a decade ago – material I might otherwise have forgotten – and the writing now is easy. If I can just settle my life a little, the memoir will follow soon.

Vitabu Books: What did you work on in 2010?

Brian Rath: I wrote tons of blog in 2009 but I didn't write much in 2010. I was just too busy managing my life in Nairobi. I wrote a few political blogs though and a music feature for The East African. On my return to South Africa, November last, I wrote an entire (low budget) travel guide for Nairobi, entitled "A Day and a Night in Nairobi" but Big Red Flowers [BRF] kept creeping in. Just before Christmas, I started writing BRF. I got the basics done in 16 weeks. I rushed to get it out, before it was ready. Now it's ready.

Vitabu Books: Tell us about your journey toward publishing. How many people/writers/readers have you had take a look at your book?

Brian Rath: I have had quite a few readers. Comments from more conservative quarters have been concerned about the sex while others have said things like: "Hectic!"; "an intriguing love story" and one, from a writer in Kenya, lauded "amazing insights into the Kenyan condition." I personally think it's a little genre-breaking. But that's just me. I like the notion of 'African realism' as a genre. I have submitted scripts to a few bigger publishers but these things seem to take a long time! No responses yet. It's just on three months now. But I think the book is only really ready now. I should probably be more proactive with online marketing and contacting an agent – I haven't approached even one yet! - but I feel a bit swamped by it all. I like to write. I'm not a great self marketer. Maybe I'm just getting old.

Vitabu Books: What chapter (or two) of your new book would you like to share on Vitabu?

Brian Rath: It's a very difficult choice that! Having worked closely with me, you know there are three parts to it, and several parts within those parts. The Prologue, long as it is, sets the whole story up. I am very pleased with how it turned out but maybe it's too long? The nine narrative chapters in the middle 'read' with the Prologue. Then, of course, the Epilogue throws the whole story back at you and asks you to start at page one again. I wouldn't want to inflict Chapter 9 nor the Epilogue on Vitabu members without the preceding prose; I'll probably get reported to the Facebook police. Eish! Chapter 3 is full of allusion. Gentle by contrast, but important too.

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