Leroy Mthulisi Ndlovu is a writer born and raised in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. He loves to write stories about his life and those around him. He has a degree in Computer Science but writing is his first love. I had the opportunity to talk to him and got the inside scoop about his book Sirens: Tales of Youth and Love and himself.
How would you describe Leroy Mthulisi Ndlovu?
Leroy is a polymath born in good old Bulawayo. I love stories and this is the reason I’m into both acting and writing. I actually started out writing rap lyrics but it lost its appeal years ago. I’ve been privileged enough to manage and direct a few productions and, being the son of a chicken farmer, I also dabble in agriculture. I’m also a highly skilled support technician currently employed by the ICT Department at a leading Pharmaceutical Company in the city. I love to learn new things so I’m not a big fan of formal education because I think it tends to box people in. Who says you have to do just one thing?
Where do you get the best ideas for your writing, who or what inspires you?
It sounds weird but I honestly have no idea where these things come from. I’ve been observing the world and people since I was a little boy and sometimes I’ll be watching a couple walking down the street and start wondering who they are and what they’re all about. Sometimes it’s a phrase or an idea I pick up in a TV show. I’ll give you an example. Sometime in 2010 I was talking to my sister and she read me the opening line in a brochure. It went along the lines of “When you were born you wept and the world rejoiced.” That line stuck in my mind and a couple of hours later I had the first draft of the story Victor’s Song (The first story in my book.)
Another one is how I came up with the story Layers (also in the book). My dad runs a chicken abattoir in Manningdale and growing up I often worked in there with my brothers. My wife often jokes that one day we’ll get to heaven and all the chickens I’ve dispatched to the afterlife will be waiting for me. Two years ago I was in a writers’ workshop and we were given a prompt to write a story with an unusual protagonist. I got home and my wife had cooked something with eggs in it. I found myself wondering how chickens felt when we robbed them of their young. The two ideas about chickens collided in my mind and BOOM! We had the beginnings of a story.
So there is no great repository of stories really, I guess it’s a product of an overactive imagination. My favourite writer is Stephen King. The man writes some of the weirdest stories you’ll ever read. He’s been called the Master of Horror but I think people get it mixed up. A lot of his stories aren’t even horror but they keep you wanting to know “WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?”
For me that is the primary reason for even beginning to write. The ideas form… the story has a beginning, and then I wonder what happens next and we work to find out.
A few minutes in his office and I was hooked
Limited copies available at the moment but he says a few more copies are in the pipeline
Just for USD 10.00 you can be hooked too @LeroyMthuNdlovu is the author pic.twitter.com/HAMZ9hZ9xn
— We need a revolution (@Muroyi) November 2, 2020
Being an author can’t be easy I’m sure there were plenty of nay sayers and some publishers who have been doubtful of your potential how did you over come the adversities?
I actually just know one or two publishers in Zimbabwe. None of them publish the kind of stuff I write so I always worried I might have to go off to some foreign land to get started. But then one day many years ago I had a conversation with a guy called Philani A Nyoni and the seeds of friendship were sown. When we finally started hanging out he had started publishing his own stuff and I knew I had found the answer to my problem. Sirens was published by none other than Leroy Mthulisi Ndlovu. I’m aware that I’m yet to meet a lot of adversity because generally Africa doesn’t like change. There aren’t a lot of writers going for horror or suspense and I’m prepared to chart the course alone if I have to.
Could you give us a brief summary of your new book Sirens Tales of Youth and Love?
Sirens is a collection of short stories designed to introduce not only the writer, but the city to the world. I made sure to keep most of my stories around my home town because through reading I’ve learnt about other parts of the world that I’ve never been to. Some of the stories explore the feelings and experiences of young men in love while others look at the dynamics of families in Africa. I have one or two that are purely shocking but all of them are written from the perspectives of young men facing certain issues in Africa. There’s a young alcoholic still grappling with daddy issues, an enterprising youngster in Harare trying to build a legacy for his children, and another one who walks into the light and back again.
The stories also look at women though not in a way that one might call conventional. All of the women in the book stand for something, even if it isn’t so readily apparent.
Ultimately the book poses the question ‘What comes next for Africa’s children?’
How hard was it to write, publish, market and sell the book?
Writing is grueling work. Even Stephen King, who at his peak could churn out about 2 to 3 thousand words a day will tell you that if you aren’t prepared to work hard then forget becoming a writer. It took me YEARS to work up the courage to actually complete the work and compile the book. It’s a solitary game and half the time the voice in your mind is taunting you, asking you why anyone would even want to read this book of yours. But I had encouragement from great writers, most notably PAN, Noluthando Leonorah and John Eppel. It got to a point where I couldn’t not write.
I’m still learning the ropes. Being a self-published author also comes with the added responsibility of marketing and selling so it’s fun because I have to learn all these tips and tricks to get the customer to part with their hard earned money. So far though it’s been rewarding. I’ll be happier if I could sell a million copies, but I’ve done well enough so far so I hope it’ll get better as I put out more work and learn how to sell.
Load up the Choppers!
It's Official! #SirensTalesofYouthandLove is out!!!
Get yours today! pic.twitter.com/cCfXj4tPFU
— #SirensTalesofYouthandLove (@LeroyMthuNdlovu) October 29, 2020
Who helped you to make this book a reality?
The list is endless. I’ve already named PAN, Thando and John Eppel. My wife wouldn’t let me forget that I can write and that the world needs to see it. Danny Rodrigues did a wonderful job with the cover and I had other people contribute ideas and critique. My friend James Arnett also gave me some great input that helped me make the book stronger in a lot of places.
I’m also part of a small group of writers who I met in a couple of workshops and they have given me invaluable input.
How long did it take you to complete your book and what was your creative process like?
I first got the urge to write a book in 2008. I had no idea what I would write about or how to do it but I guess sometimes all you have to do is make a decision and the universe begins to move to help you make that idea a reality, you know? I met PAN and he was always writing. Up to now I have not met anyone who spends as much time writing as he does. I’m still trying to get my productivity up to that level but I basically spent the years between then and now slowly working on the individual stories at different times. It was only around 2018 that I decided I could probably combine all the work I had into a book. Discipline was a problem, and I’ve been a full time employee since around 2014 so I had to squeeze in the writing in the mornings and on my days off. In the evening I’m as lazy as sin so I would spend maybe an hour or two on the mornings when I managed to get up early. By the time I finished it this year I was up to the point where I wake up at 4 am every day to work.
Olivia Butler has a book of short stories called Blood Child in which she also shares how she came up with the stories. After one story, I can’t remember if it was Positive Obsession or Furor Scribendi (both beautiful pieces!) but she said that habit is more dependable than talent. I’ve been told I’m a talented writer, most notably by John Eppel when I was in form four, but for years talent didn’t get me anywhere. It was only when I formed the habit of being in front of a blank notepad document every morning that the work really began.
Now I make sure I do that every day. Some of it makes it into the public eye. The rest I keep in folders that I go back to when I need to remind myself that not everything I write will be great.
— #SirensTalesofYouthandLove (@LeroyMthuNdlovu) October 11, 2020
Which one of your characters resonates with you the most?
All my characters contain a piece of me… But if I had to choose I would say Morris in Town Fellow. When I was younger I had an appetite for booze and a hunger for love that I thought would never be satisfied. At the same time I carried a lot of guilt over things I felt I should have done differently… situations where I wished I could have been braver. Ultimately I found love and I overcame my need to be drunk. That story is an ode to my younger self.
Where can people buy your book and how much does it cost?
The book will soon be available at The Orange Elephant in Bulawayo. It’s at River Estate along 3rd Street in Suburbs (Next to B.A.C). You can also buy it directly from me and I hope I’ll be able to put it in other stores around the city and the country soon. We’ve also made sure you can get it on Amazon. The hard copy is US$10 and the ebook is US$5.
— #SirensTalesofYouthandLove (@LeroyMthuNdlovu) October 9, 2020
Can we expect an audiobook version of Sirens Tales of Youth and Love?
The odds are very much in favour of that happening though we don’t have a date yet.
What’s the one thing you wish you had known about the literary arts industry before you started on Sirens Tales of Youth and Love?
Am I allowed to say I don’t know? This is my first published work and I’m still learning as I go along.
If there are young people out there with a book in their heart dying to be written, what’s your advice to them?
I was lucky enough to meet two great writers along my path.
The first was John Eppel. He told me to always write no matter what, and if I couldn’t write then I should at least keep a journal since that would help me hone my skills as a writer.
The second was PAN, his advice was similar but in fewer words: JUST WRITE.
We saw you dazzle on stage for Rumpelstiltskin, any other projects we should be looking forward to?
I miss that character! He was so much fun! COVID-19 put a pin in a lot of plans we had for this year but it’s slowly picking up again. I’m currently rehearsing for a play with Purple Brain Productions, hopefully we’ll be able to stage it next year. I’ve also been part of the cast of a movie called Missing Grace which is still being shot. I only have a few scenes to go and I’m hoping that will be done soon. I’m also excited to have made it into the cast of a popular local soapie but I can’t say much for now. Hopefully we’ll start shooting that soon so watch my social media. The story should unfold soon enough. Thanks!
Sirens on Amazon
Sirens on Amazon
Author page on Goodreads