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Goretti Kyomuhendo on books and Maddox

Goretti Kyomuhendo, author of the The First Daughter, asks that Quick Talk meets her at Endiro Coffee at Kisementi.

When Quick Talk gets there, she finds Kyomuhendo talking to African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME)’s Bernard Tabaire.

He warns her that Quick Talk is going to ask her funny questions.

The interview gets underway and first, Quick Talk asks about books and then some “funny” questions

What books are you currently reading?

I’m reading [pause] let me see. Right now I am not reading but I have books that are lined up. I bought three anthologies from Femrite. I also have Binyavanga [Wainaina]’s One Day I’ll Write About This Place. I just finished [NoViolet] Bulawayo’s We Need New Names.

What is the best novel you have read?

Oh, I can’t answer that question.  They all speak to you.

What do you look out for when choosing a book?

For me it is always the story. It is not about the brilliant technique, language or plot; it is about the story. If I can remember a story 10 to 15 years after reading a book, I consider that a good book.

[Kyomuhendo says stories with a human touch interest her. In writing about an IDP camp, she will forgo macro concerns such as people having no medicine, food or shelter and instead look at what a woman in her menstrual period is using.]

Tell me about your writing process. Do you lock yourself in a room and write?

The process of writing starts with thinking about an idea. I then do research and sit back and wait for that opening line to come. I could be walking or on the train and then my opening line comes to me.

Is writing difficult?

I find it very, very hard. The novel I have just completed took me six years.

But is it paying?

[Giving Quick Talk a tough look] Do I look like a poor woman to you? [Laughs after asking]

Uhhm, some rich people look poor, not that you look poor.

We don’t earn much money. The author earns ten per cent and the rest goes to production, storage and discounts. Imagine a book costs (Shs) 20,000, the author gets (Shs) 2,000. But writing brings you other opportunities.

There are writing workshops, writers’ grants, fellowships and consultancies. I have met writers in Europe and America who live off their writing, though. Their turnover is high.

Ok, who would you want to write your biography and what title would you want for it?

Ah! I haven’t thought about that.

Away from reading and writing, do you know about Uganda’s politicians? [Kyomuhendo lives in both Europe and Uganda.]

Yes, of course.

I can now ask you who you consider the most handsome MP.

Hahahaha. No. [Pause] I don’t know. Hahaha. But that is not politics.

It actually isn’t politics but is politicians. Who do you rate as the best-performing MP?

[Following some thought] They don’t do their job. For me, they shouldn’t go promising to build a road; that is outside their remit. My MP is my representative on the policy-making body of my country. A good MP is one who sits in the House to know what is going on there.

When a bill is presented, he or she comes back to the constituency to explain in a language I understand how the bill will impact us. They should not be showing me a road they built. I pay tax; so, that is not a favour.

So, does any MP meet your expectations?

No. Not those that represent me. [Honourables Nabilah Naggayi Ssempala, Muhammad Nsereko and Hoima representatives; you are mbu doing uhmmm a not-so-good job according to this voter.]

Who is your type of man?

[Silence … then:] The alright man. [Kyomuhendo, after some convincing, allows Quick Talk to write that she is married. She will, however, not say whether she has children and we say peace to that.]

I hear the alright man. But you have actually summed it up rather well. If you were allowed just one memory, which one would you keep?

The one when I was at my most happy.

When were you most happy?

I don’t know.

Ah, I am surprised you haven’t mentioned your wedding day!

Happiness is an illusion. You don’t live it, you remember it.

I am confused.

When living happiness, one is unaware they are happy. For instance, on the wedding day, you are worrying whether the decorator for the reception did her job or it will rain. It is when you are watching the video that you enjoy yourself.

Oooh. That is a funny way to live but we actually live that way. Anyway, back to that one memory, can’t you single out one?

[Giving Quick Talk a tough-soft side look. It is the look a loving mother gives a child she is trying to be tough with] Do you know how old I am?

Yes. Forty-eight, at least that is what Wikipedia said…

I can’t choose one because things happened when I was six, 15 and when I was 42!

Ok, what would you take to a desert island?

These are hard questions! No wonder Bernard said you ask funny questions.

That is not a funny question …

[Silence and then:] For me I think the most important things in life are food and love.

Aww, love!

Food and love would solve the world’s problems. [And Quick Talk thought austere Kyomuhendo was softening on love. Oh well, let’s talk music.]

Are there Ugandan musicians you enjoy?

[Brightening up] Juliana and there is this Ugandan musician that was at that time living in Sweden. [Trying to recall his name] He sang Namigadde. [Quick Talk figures she is talking about Maddox Ssemanda Ssematimba who sang Namagembe, not Namigadde, and tells her and she happily replies:] Yes, that one.

What is your favourite colour?

Huh! I would have to think about that. I don’t stop to think about some of those things. [Oh well...]


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