Sue Nyathi’s “A Family Affair”

    Paula Marais finds out how A Family Affair author, Sue Nyathi, chooses to escape from reality and how being Zimbabwean has influenced her writing.

    Sue Nyathi’s most recent novel A Family Affair was released in October 2020 and is already in its second print run, which in South Africa is really phenomenal.  Sue describes herself as a writer by passion and an investment analyst by profession. Since her successful debut novel The Polygamist, she’s been able to move full time into writing, which has allowed her the opportunity to fine-tune her craft.

    Escapism is so important in times like we are currently experiencing. What do you think is most important in a novel to take you away from reality?

    Escapist fiction takes us away from the brutal reality of everyday life and the mundane. For a period, you’re transported away from the vagaries of #Covid19 and the political and socio-economic hardships we’re going through as a country. You can experience a normal and spectacular world far removed from your own reality. So, that novel should be able to reimagine a world very different from your own.

    Which other novel, would you recommend with this in mind?

    I would recommend The Earth Children Series by Jean M Auel.  It’s a series of books that takes you back to prehistoric times, an epic adventure with so much romance too…

    How else do you escape?

    By binge watching TV series. I just finished watching Bridgerton on Netflix. It was a great escape to the Victorian era! The elaborate costumes, lavish parties and decadent sex were an indulgent treat. The colour-blind casting makes it truly an escapist movie because it wasn’t true to the norms of the day.

    Your latest novel A Family Affair was released last year. How would you describe it?

    Like the title implies, it is a family saga set in middle-class suburbia. The book introduces you to the affluent Mafu family headed by its patriarch, Abraham and his long-suffering, supportive wife Phumla. Together, they pastor a church and use religion to rein in their family. They have three daughters: Xoliswa, Yandisa and Zandile. Like most families, they present a picture-perfect portrait. This book invites you inside their lives and as you inhabit this world you realise the horror behind the façade of perfection of fancy cars, manicured lawns, high walls and wrought-iron gates. It is said that blood is thicker than water until that blood is spilled carelessly one unfortunate night…

    Which of your characters would be most likely to read ASA and why?

    Xoliswa, the “head-girl” type character would certainly read it. She’s a chartered accountant by profession and heads her dad’s construction business, before starting her own events management company. She is a fashionable, goal-driven woman who loves to keep abreast of trends and lifestyle issues.

    Tell us about your writing journey…

    I started writing A Family Affair when I was 21, in my first year of university. What this taught me is that the first draft is not the final draft. The older, more experienced me brought a different perspective to the younger, naïve me. However, it’s also interesting to note that the more we think things change, the more they actually remain the same. I say this largely with reference to women’s attitude towards marriage.

    What are you working on at the moment?

    I am editing a non-fiction anthology which will be published in August 2021. I have also started writing the sequel to The Polygamist, which fans have been demanding for years. I have always been reluctant to write a sequel but the idea came to me during the lockdown so I ran with it.

    You grew up in Zimbabwe but are now based in South Africa. How do you think your background has influenced your point of view and your writing?

    I grew up in Zimbabwe so you will see a lot of that country in my writing, or at least Zimbabwe then and not now.  I write from a nostalgic point of view of what was. I think leaving Zimbabwe certainly changed my perspective in the sense that you grow up with agreed realities, which are influenced by your family, community and country. So, leaving a country will have you re-evaluating those realities. In some instances they may be reinforced or dismantled as untrue. This is especially important for me as a writer because I often write about people and lived realities.

    Tell us about a typical day in your life?

    I left corporate two years ago to focus on writing so it’s now fair to say I am living my passion, my purpose. In a nutshell, my day typically begins with carting my son off to school. Then, I try and run 5km before buckling down to some writing. When he comes home I switch up and do the whole desperate house-mom thing. On weekends I try to deviate from the script and do some fun stuff.