YOUNG Eastern Cape-born author Sinovuyo Nkonki has set a new standard for South African teenage fiction with the release of her debut book, Crooked Halo.
She will be in Port Elizabeth next week Wednesday November 21 for a book signing at Forgarty's Bookshop at the Walmer Park Shopping Centre from 12.30pm.
The BA degree graduate revealed that the biggest hurdle she had to overcome in her quest to get published was getting a foot in the door – something one achieves through experience.
"Being young means that people tend to be sceptical about your writing skills and whether your work is worth investing in. Some may also find a young writer promoting her book a bit presumptuous. I needed to find a way to remain motivated, keep believing in my work and make sure that I'd given it my all – so I could be proud of the end result.
"Also, I think not knowing how the publishing and literary world works, in terms of sending query letters, manuscript submissions and so forth, was a real problem. They don't teach you that stuff at tertiary. Getting my foot in the door has proven to be the most challenging thing to do,” Nkonki said.
Reach Publishers' Susan van Tonder, who contributed to editing Nkonki's text, said: "I really enjoyed reading this story. The author has created a wonderful world of teenage life and love. The dialogue among her characters is witty as well as fun. The relationships among its characters are also subtle, insightful”.
Crooked Halo is a story about teenager Petra who falls in love with a boy named Kevin, who ends up breaking her heart. Nkonki said her own heartbreak gave rise to the story.
"It really came from the heart because, at the time, I was going through the motions of heartbreak myself having just broken up with someone whom I thought was ‘The One',” she said.
"I would write poetry in my diary about what I felt and was going through. I realised that my story was one so many of us have experienced and would relate to. I decided to write the book during my gap year when I was 19. It took me about a year to write the first draft, which was Petra's side narrated in the first person.
"I then added Kevin's side of the story – narrated in third person. That took about six months to complete, including simultaneously editing and proofreading,” Nkonki revealed.
Her passion for crafting the written word began at 14 when she weaved her first book.
"I've always been drawn to books and writing from a young age. But it was only when I was 14 that I realised I could make a career out of it. I imagined becoming a writer ever since then. My parents always encouraged me to pursue a career that I'm passionate about. And, growing up, I aspired to be so many things like an IT programmer or a singer, without realising that writing was the only consistent thing that I loved to do and seemed to be good at,” Nkonki said.
She was eventually convinced by a friend to take her writing seriously and consider penning her first book.
"I remember in Grade 5 we were given an assignment to write a creative story about anything we wanted to and I was the random kid who skipped break time to carry on writing my story. But I didn't really take it seriously then.
"When a high school friend of mine, Anelisa Keke, encouraged me to write an entire manuscript, which remains unpublished and is in my room, when I was 14, I realised that, if I could spend my entire first year of high school writing and completing a manuscript – this is something I loved. It didn't feel like work, it always felt like an escape when I wrote,” she said.
Nkonki praises her family for their support throughout the difficult process of getting her book published.
"My family, including [my] aunts and cousins, made me feel like a real writer before I was even published. My parents supported me financially and helped me get self-published. My brother has been instrumental in the creative process as he is a talented graphic design student.
"Now that it's official, they are excited. They have supported me every step of the way and I feel like this isn't only my achievement, it's theirs as well.”