Livumbazi Erick Ngoda is a lifelong devotee of the written word with an insatiably voracious appetite who is currently a full-time writer and freelance journalist.
His teen novel, A Name for Himself won The William Burt award for African Literature 2013, and its sequel The Wind Under His Wings was one of the nominees of The Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature youth category 2017.
Another teen novel Making the Team won the AMKA/Worldreader Anasoma award 2017. Apart from that that two other books Begwani The Beggar and TheLostHerdsboy have been approved as class readers by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development and two more books, ABurstofBirdsong and Livingwith Melisa are expected out by the end of 2017. He also has several other books- all targeted at a youthful audience, in earlier stages of publication.
Erick spoke toNation.co.keabout his literary favourites.
Which two books do you hold so dear that they can’t possibly be lent out?
Actually, I don’t hoard books. I could give out my entire collection and not expect them back because I love to interest people in reading. But two books in my collection that are very precious to me are Jean-Pierre Hallet’s CongoKitabu and Dan Brown’s AngelsandDemons.
As a writer of fiction for teens, how would you describe the market for teen fiction?
Very good at the moment and improving. I think more people are discovering the importance of cultivating a reading habit in their children early enough thus a steady and growing demand for good teen and young adult literature.
Also, publishers are rising up to their task by churning out more young adult literature than any other type. Needless to say, this puts writers of young adult literature in pretty good stead.
Do you think book reviews influence readers’ choices in Kenya, why or why not?
They definitely do. Potential readers do hang onto the word of a reviewer who comes across as authoritative.
What are you currently reading?
Flame and Song byPhilippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa. I got it as a present a couple of months back.
Your childhood favourite books?
I broke my teeth on the HardyBoys series, NancyDrew, The Secret Five, and a lot of Enid Blyton that my mother and older siblings plied me with.
I later developed a taste for Barbara Kimenye’s books, especially the Moses series.
This was probably because I could identify better with the characters but also because I fell in love with her style. I guess I was one of those weird, serious, bookworm kids with my nose ever stuck in a book.
My father and big brother sometimes chased me out of house to go and play like other children. By the time I was in Class Six, I must have gone through just about every book in what passed for a library in my primary school.
If you were to dine with three writers, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
Definitely Barbara Kimenye, Giovanni Guareschi, (author of the DonCamillo series which are my favourite reads) and Chinua Achebe. There is a similarity in their style.
They all write simple stories about simple, ordinary people and things but in an enticingly captivating style.
I strive to have such a style in my writing and I would like to learn from them how to perfect it.
Most unforgettable character from a book?
King Kong (Sebastian Mulutu) in Barbara Kimenye’s Moses series.
He is a rascal who gets himself into so much fun and adventurous trouble- the type that young people would like to get into but wouldn’t dare to. I think such characters are more interesting for young readers than good boy/girl types.
If you were sent off to Robben Island for a year, which three books would you take with you and why?
I think two of Gerald Durrel’s books, perhaps BaffutBeagles and MarryingOffMyMum, the sunny fun and humour in them will keep me in touch with the outdoors and cheer beyond the dreary prison walls the walls. Also, Madiba’s memoirs for inspiration.
Your thoughts on Ngugi missing the Nobel prize for literature again?
I don’t think he will ever get it. There’s something about his work, which I can’t quite put my finger on exactly, that deprives them of an international, multi-cultural appeal.
BY THE BOOK is a literary series that covers authors, bloggers, actors, academics and poets of note in the African continent. For comments or inquiries, e-mail: [email protected]