How autobiographical are your writings?
A lot of what I have written is, to some degree, autobiographical. They are things I have experienced, things I have rubbed shoulders with. I believe I am writing better because of this first-hand experience. Also, it is not too difficult for me to figure out how other people I work with, people I live with, people who were in my childhood, feel. I use them as ingredients in many cases. It is going to be difficult for me to write something totally fictitious.
When did you start writing?
I was writing when I was at school. When I gave what I wrote to other people to read, they enjoyed it. One or two people were shocked by what they read. I remember a composition I wrote once, when I was at secondary school. I went to a girls' school. At the bottom of my composition the teacher wrote, "See me."
When I went to see her, she pointed out some paragraphs which she said were indecent. I remember she told me, "Nice girls don't write like that."
Did you deliberately try to be shocking?
No, not at all. In my composition I had said something about gonads. I didn't realize the impact it would have on the white nun who took us for English. At that time I thought I could write about anything, especially when you write in English — things don't appear as rude or as shocking as when you write them in Shona.
Why do you think this is so?
I suppose it has to do with the place of certain words in culture. You find that in Shona we do not have any words on the reproductive system that can be spoken. You don't refer to certain parts of the anatomy, even to breasts, without causing embarrassment, but in English when I came across them it was in the context of Biology where you draw diagrams and labelled them. Also, some people who use English as their mother language casually throw sexual swear words in their association with people who use English as their second language. So we have learnt them as things which are not vulgar.
What would you say compels you to write?
There are many reasons. I want to share my experiences with others. I want people who read my books to know that what they go through is also experienced by others. I want others to experience the same joy I experienced when I read other people's books, and yes — writing is a compulsion, an addiction.