Interview with HDN Bopape

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in a small farming community. My parents had livestock but also ploughed fields for crops. I had two options when I was not in school: help my parents with the crops in the field or look after the livestock. I chose to look after the livestock, setting free my younger brothers to help parents on the fields. Herding livestock allowed me plenty of time to read. Being a teacher by profession, my father had a lot of books for reading. I also borrowed books from neighbours and spent a lot of time reading while looking after livestock.
When did you first start writing?
I started writing when I was about 15 years old at the start of high school.
What motivated you to become an author?
At high school, I was exposed to more literary works including poetry, drama and prose. I read more literary works in Northern Sotho, English and Afrikaans. I also listened to radio. I started writing poetry. There was a poetry programme on my radio station where listeners would write and submit poems on a postcard. Listeners had to guess what the poem was about to earn prize money of R3.00 in 1974. A poem I wrote for the programme when I was 17 years old was selected and earned me R3.00. I then started writing in earnest. I wrote a short radio drama that was accepted for broadcast in my final matric year (Form 5) in 1976 and was subsequently broadcast the following year. My first book, Makgale, was accepted for publication in my first year as a teacher trainee and was subsequently published the following year in 1978.
What is your writing process?
Ideas are triggered by a number of things - a book, newspaper or magazine article, a musical song or something someone says. If the idea is good and excites me, I would take days thinking of how to spin a story around the idea. I would then jot down a few, perhaps 4 or 5 key ideas around which I can write the story. Then I would come up with characters, maybe 4 or 5 that I could use to tell the story. The next greatest thing I think about is the introduction - that I want to have a big impact on a reader to pull them towards my story. Once I have written the introduction, I can then hook it to the next point on the story line and then the next ... Other points would develop as the story unfolds and developed points may be discarded, changed or developed further as the story unfolds.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? What was it about?
After the broadcast of the poem that earned me R3.00 in 1974, I wrote an article that was published in the only magazine there was in my language, Tšwelopele. Because Tšwelopele was freely supplied to community members and schools, it was relatively widely read. The publication of that article created a lot of excitement and joy among my peers and teachers. This motivated me to write even more. The title of the story was something like 'Don't reject them'. This was a story about the rejection of convicts on return to the community after they would have served their time. I noticed that for many convicts, reintegration into the community was always a challenge. The stigma of being an 'ex-convict' stays with many for a long time. The message in the story was that when people are arrested and convicted, that did not necessarily mean that they were terrible people. Situations and circumstances in life can at times land people ... anyone in jail. That should not mean that they are necessarily bad people - everyone deserves to be given a second chance in life.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Writing is in many ways a therapeutic exercise. When I start writing, a lot of ideas run through my head. The challenge and the joy comes in selecting which ideas to include or exclude from the work. The sense of power in decision-making regarding which ideas to include or exclude from the work, that's what gives me aesthetic pleasure and a sense of satisfaction. As the first reader of my work, when I crack a joke in my writing, it has to make me laugh (or it runs a risk of being no joke to anyone else). When a character is angry, I need to feel the anger when I write. In the end, the book product would be a series of emotional 'hills' and 'valleys' where I go through an emotional journey as the story unfolds. And if this is not therapeutic enough, then nothing else is.
What are your five favourite books, and why?
This is a tough question. In my days I liked what was a series of Hardly Chace titles - The Guilty are afraid, Lay her among the lilies, One bright summer day, etc. But I also enjoyed books like 'The Day of the Jackal' and 'The Odessa files'. I also enjoyed books written in my language - Phorohlo Mamogobo's 'Kgamphuphu', HZ Motuku's 'Morweši', OK Matsepe's novels - Lešitaphiri, Tša ka Mafuri, Mahlatse a madimabe, etc. So, I would not know what my 5 favourite books are.
What do you read for pleasure?
These days I am mostly reading academic works and business books.
Who are your favourite authors?
The same answer as 'my favourite books' applies.
What do your readers mean to you?
Readers mean everything to me. Because of this, readers are the first thing I think about when I plan to write a book. As recipients / audience for message(s) contained in a book, readers serve as the guiding light for both the content and style the book assumes. Readers influence the theme and the language that an author uses in his / her writing. Naturally a book for youth is likely to be interesting to them if the theme is 'youth-like', characters are youth and the language used resembles in some ways how youth communicate. The same would apply to adults. Any literary work, therefore, should start with readers as an end towards which the book is directed.
Published 2017-10-17.
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Books by This Author

Lenong La Gauta
Price: $3.39 USD. Words: 92,010. Language: Northern Sotho. Published: September 20, 2017 by Via Afrika. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General
Adi ya "Lenong la Gauta" ke mohuta wa padi ye e bitšwago padi ya botseka. E bitšwa bjalo ka ge e ithekgile godimo ga dinyakišišo tšeo di nepilwego go kgoboketša bohlatse bjo ka bjona yo mongwe a kago begwa goba go latofatšwa ka bosenyi.