Billy Kahora

kahora from kwaniInterviewed by Ngwatilo Mawiyoo.

Billy Kahora is the author of The True Story of David Munyakei, a non-fiction novella about Kenya’s biggest whistleblower, and the screenwriter for Soul Boy, a Kenyan film that was nominated for five African Movie Academy Awards. His short story “Treadmill Love” was highly commended by the judges for the 2007 Caine Prize (the Caine Prize is the preeminent prize for African fiction) and in 2012 his short story “Urban Zoning” was shortlisted for the same. Billy’s writing has appeared in Granta, Kwani?, Chimurenga and Vanity Fair US. He was a Regional judge for the 2009 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.

Billy is also the Managing Editor of Kwani?, a leading African literary magazine based in Kenya. Kwani? is Kiswahili for “So what?”

In 2008 I interned at Kwani Trust, the Nairobi-based literary network that develops, publishes and distributes contemporary African writing, and worked as Billy’s Editorial Assistant. I’ve since done some editorial work for Kwani?, their flagship publication. I reached out to Billy for this interview both because I wanted to share one of my literary forbearers with my new space in Canada, but also because I haven’t been able to have much of this kind of conversation with him, and was grateful for the excuse.

Did you always know you would be a writer growing up?

No, I didn’t know I wanted to write when I was a kid, I just read a lot ‘til I was in my teens. When I couldn’t find anything to read that satisfied my curiosity, anger, and admiration for all the things I was seeing and experiencing around me, that’s when I thought about recreating my immediate conditions. I did it for fun until things seemed to get worse around me like they do for all teens. I realized then that I had to take this “replication” of my surroundings a bit more seriously. After that writing became my default way of trying to explain the world, life and all else. The denial that this is what I wanted to do went on for a long time and still goes on. [Read more…]