Luka Mwango is an idealistic realist with a panache for storytelling. He has a hate-love affair with poetry and an insolent obsession for the mastery of words. “I want to change the storytelling landscape in the world by showcasing African and Zambian stories, cultivate the youth through enterprise or otherwise, so they can claim the financial independence that alluded me for many years… and marry a passionate woman (ideally hopelessly romantic) and build a family.” He is also this week’s guest on Zambia Reads.
Which one did you get into first poetry or fiction?
Fiction. Earliest memories I have of myself are that of me telling stories. I loved fiction even before I knew it was an actual thing.
Is there anything in either of them that you don’t think you can find in the other?
I love poetry to death, but I’ve always found it limiting; granted you can tell a story in a poem, but not to the degree of that in a novel. A story is a psycho-social weapon that can transform the thinking and sentiment of a nation more efficiently than any religion, science or art form.
What book got you into reading?
Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’.
How old were you then?
Around 9 years old.
What about it got your attention?
The visuals; how he could capture the visuals of life with words. It was life-changing.
Did you know then that you would one day write your own novel?
Not at all. I hated reading before then. Primarily because I was given boring books to read, and I thought they represented all the books out there.
Both your books (Perdition and Twisted) are thriller/suspense novels. Why does this genre appeal to you?
I think the energy and tension. Thrillers tend to be larger than life, the stakes are always higher, the plots more intricate and the pacing, lightning fast. I like things that stretch me, and thrillers/suspense novels will do that.
Another notable thing about your writing is how unfiltered the language is. Is this something you did deliberately?
Yes. I think not only is the language unfiltered, the action can be gritty at times too. But I neither cuss in life nor am I violent in even the slightest. But that is what I see around me. My job as a writer is not to insulate my readers from the world, but to provide a lens through which to see it. Entertaining them as well, of course.
Do you have a favorite author?
I would struggle to choose among, Robert Ludlum, Chinua Achebe, and Dean Koontz
What is it about their work that you love?
Chinua Achebe introduced me to the world of novels and provided the much needed African context.
Robert Ludlum taught me how to write page-turning thrillers. I tore his work apart, page for page, line for line researching his style and technique.
Dean Koontz is arguably the best prose writer alive right now. Granted, he’s not the best storyteller, and some of his novels fall tragically short, but when in-form, few can hold a candle to the man.
How important is it to you to know about the storyteller?
Extremely important. I’m always studying, musing and researching the art form.
Have you ever read something that made you change the way you looked at life and yourself?
The Bible, and quite shamefully, James Hadley Chase’s “Mallory”.
What are you currently reading?
Zero to One by Peter Thiel. It gives rare insight into the mechanics of western startups, and how they can succeed in our complex world, through serial investor and PayPal founder, Peter Thiel’s non-conformist views.
What is the best book you read in 2017?
The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson.
Is there any book coming out this year you are excited about?
What is the best African book you have ever read?
The River Between by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
Who is your favourite Zambian writer?
Do you have any favorite characters?
Sherlock Holmes and Achilles.
Do you have a favorite book quote?
Not any I can think about at the moment.
What book did you find hardest to read?
It’s a tie between ‘Jelita and Mulenga’ and ‘Peter and Jane’. They almost made me hate books.
Any words of advice to someone out there wanting to become a better writer?
Read a lot, but write even more.
The Matarese Circle by Robert Ludlum.
The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson.
One Door Away from Heaven by Dean Knootz
You can get Luka Mwango’s books from Amazon:
Or Call/text/whatsapp: 0978549077 for a copy
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