We speak to the author, Tshego Monaisa about her book “Three Sisters” and the creative process that it entails.
Three Sisters was launched in 2016 and was named one of the Top Six Books of 2016 by the digital media platform, OkayAfrica. A story based on Three women, Millicent, Lesego and Mpho who exist in parallel universes but are all in abusive relationships. The author and scriptwriter, Tshego Monaisa gives us an insight into her writing process and some of the challenges that play out.
What quote do you live by?
I don’t have one single quote that I live by. All I know is that to live an unfulfilled life would be devastating to me. That alone scares me.
Who comes first, Tshego the novelist or Tshego the scriptwriter?
Tshego the novelist, but unfortunately the scriptwriter is the one who pays the bills.
How do you switch between either?
it’s hard to do as it is essentially the same task. All three of my books, Poetry of Love, Three Dates and Three Sisters were written whilst I had a full-time job. Back then writing was an outlet, but as a full-time writer, writing pays the bills. I’m struggling to find the time to write my fourth novel, but I believe it will be done.
Is writing a talent or something that you can learn?
Creative writing, I believe is a talent that is harnessed by skill, but script-writing is a skill that is sharpened by talent.
What is your writing process?
I don’t have one, especially on Three Sisters. I wrote my first novel, Poetry of Love in three months, then I attempted to write Three Dates and Three Sisters in the same time-frame but that didn’t happen. Poetry of Love was released and in the excitement of my first book being published, also came the pressure to produce a second.
I realised later on that, that pressure was what kept me from being able to write. Three Dates took me two years to write, and Three Sisters took me four! And the only reason I finished Three Sisters was because I was seven months pregnant and knew that sleepless nights were imminent, and not for writing!
I trained as a Script Editor, but for a long time, I was scared to write as I would edit myself. I have since learned to let go and embrace the process. This allows me to write from the character’s authentic selves, and the pressure to not be stylistically perfect has been released. I write from a place of truth for the characters whose stories I’m writing, in order for the character’s journeys to be resonant with the reader.
Because the character’s journeys in Three Sisters are intertwined, I tried to plan each character’s journey but that failed. I wrote the book as my fingers fell on the keyboard, and I believe that this was the most authentic way I could have brought Millicent, Mpho and Lesego’s journeys to life.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
I don’t know. Perhaps work in radio or TV broadcasting?
What is different between Three Sisters and the other books you’ve written?
Three Sisters is a novel that is about three different women facing abuse in their relationships, whereas my first two books, Poetry of Love and Three Dates, published by Kwela Books’ Sapphire Press, are romance novels. Three Sisters is self-published and imprinted under Porcupine Press and was named one of the top six books of 2016 by the online platform, OkayAfrica.
Does your book have a lesson/moral?
The biggest takeaway from Three Sisters, in highlighting stories of abuse, is that women, if faced with abuse, should speak up about it to someone they trust in order to seek help as this could potentially save their lives.
What is something memorable you’ve heard from your readers/fans?
I’ve never been recognized for my body of work before, so when I was at a lodge recently and one of the staff members recognised me as the author of Three Sisters, I have pretty blown away and humbled by that. It was awesome to realise that my work is getting out there as when I create it, I am alone with my laptop, so it was wonderful to see the firsthand response. My hope is that since the book has now been reprinted, that it will reach more people, and have more impact. Three Sisters is now available at Xarra Bookstores , Bridge Books, Afro Kulcha and of course, All African books.