Tuelo Gabonewe

The Writers Write Interview – Tuelo Gabonewe


Read our interview with Tuelo Gabonewe, a South African writer of English fiction.

The Author? Tuelo Gabonewe
Birthday? 2 January 1985
The Book? Planet Savage (Jacana)
The Venue? Ten Bompas Hotel Gardens, Dunkeld North, Johannesburg
The Date? 8 October 2011
The Interviewer? Vicki Cicoria

Tuelo Gabonewe is a South African writer of English fiction. He has a hectic day job because he’s got bills to pay but his passion is and will always be in writing. The man hopes to go on to become the world’s greatest writer of all time. He is the author of two novels: Planet Savage and Sarcophagus.

Essentially:  Tuelo Gabonewe

  1. If love were a colour, what colour would it be? Maroon
  2. What is the colour of anger? Red
  3. What is the colour of money?  Burgundy – not an everyday colour – not easily attainable.
  4. What is the colour of beauty? Yellow – bright and sunny.
  5. What is the colour of desire? Red
  6. If your life were a city, what city would it be? Maybe Springbok, in the Northern Cape?
  7. What is the number you associate with reading? 7
  8. What is the number you associate with writing? 7
  9. What is your favourite number? 7 – I used to play football and my shirt number was lucky 7.

Writing Sense

  1. Writing sounds like a busy city – with people from all walks of life – reticent characters, quiet characters, like me.
  2. Writing looks like a nondescript amoeba – always changing shape – never static.
  3. Writing tastes like greasy spoons – taken from a wide variety of dishes – it’s a mixture of all good food.
  4. Writing smells like a garden full of flowers – somewhere that is a retreat – a perfect combination of all plants and flowers – different aromas.
  5. Writing feels like solitude. I like to write with quiet around me. I even switch off my music. It’s a place I go to reflect on my thoughts.

In your novel… 

If the village outside Rustenburg, called Tlhabane, the setting of your novel, were a country, it would be South Africa, specifically Soweto – mixture of cultures. It would  shop at Spitz – a shoe store selling fancy imported, Italian items.

  • Tlhabane sounds like somewhere vibrant and busy – just like home.
  • Tlhabane looks like a sprawling hive – very hot – where I come from there are 3 sections – “Bester” is the suburb – “GG” is made up of shacks and homes altogether – “Oukasie” the old location is the slum area.  Mixture of all types.
  • Tlhabane smells different types of sweet and spicy aromas.
  • Tlhabane tastes hot and spicy
  • Tlhabane feels like home

Authors: Siphiwo Mahala, Tuelo Gabonewe, and Thando Mgqolozana

More About Tuelo

What is your favourite meal? I’m a “meat” guy – steak, wors, pap and half cooked eggs.

What are you reading?  Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell. It is a mystery, detective novel. I have just finished Boxwood by Camilo José Cela, a Spanish author. It’s a very strange book – a little long-winded without any paragraph breaks or even full stops. He is a controversial, intelligent writer.

Where do you live? Johannesburg City Centre

Why do you live there? I recently moved from Rustenburg to Johannesburg and was all over the city, but someone told me about the apartment where I am living now and so I took it.

How has living there affected your writing? I lived in Randburg before and enjoy the vibe of the city and the ability one has to disappear among the crowds. There is always something to do, and I love to walk around on my own, from place to place.

What is your favourite quality about yourself? I am level-headed and consistent. I work for client services at a bank and I am able to deal with irate customers and manage to calm them down.

What is your least favourite quality about yourself? I can be a little soft and I am open to being taken advantage of by others.

Do you have a favourite quote? Dreams are like clouds. Only their shadows belong to us. ~Mia Couto

What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life? I am most proud of my two-year-old daughter. I have also realised a dream in being able to have my book published.

The Book 

  1. How did you come up with the title of your book? I believe in a catchy, colourful title.
  2. If your hero were an animal, he would be a tiger. He prowls and skulks in the grass. Watching, analysing everything.  He’s tough.
  3. If he were a city, he would be Vanderbijlpark near the Vaal River.
  4. Why did you choose to write this particular book?  I wanted to write a funny story. I wasn’t sure if I could be comical enough.  I wanted to draw on my own experiences as a child growing up outside Rustenburg.
  5. What was the hardest part about writing this book? I was challenged by the idea of writing from the mind of a 9-year-old boy, even though I was 23 at the time. There are a lot of things that you have to think about and put yourself into a child’s shoes. You have to capture the honesty and vulnerability that only children can achieve. I had to balance the clumsiness of a 9-year-old with his cleverness, and not sound like an adult.

Mini-Bucket List? 

  1. I would like to be the greatest author that ever lived.
  2. I want to raise my daughter to be strong and successful.
  3. I want to travel through Africa – especially West Africa – love the culture, the chill out music ,and the food.

When you stop writing, and look back on your life, what thoughts would you like to have? 

I don’t ever want to stop.  I would like to drop dead in the middle of a manuscript.  I’d like many, many titles behind my name, not just five or six.  I want everything I say to be interesting to somebody.

Follow @Tuelo_Gabonewe

Vicki Cicoria and Tuelo Gabonewe

About the book…

Leungo, a nine-year old with a very interesting outlook on life. views his parents as good-for-nothing savages who care only for themselves; who drink themselves silly with friends who come round every day, leaving any concern for his education by the wayside.

When Leungo’s father, goaded by a piece of advice from a particularly inebriated friend, takes him into the bundus to meet and spend time with his grandparents who haven’t seen him since he was an infant, Leungo experiences a profound culture shock, and he begins to realize that what you have is better that what you can only dream about.

Planet Savage is a shining début novel, filled with humour, from Tuelo Gabonewe, who will leave you with some profound insights while you roll on the floor laughing.

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