Who is Charles Chanchori?

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Charles Chanchori is a lawyer, writer, poet, and a biking enthusiast.

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Interview with Charles Ndegwa

What is your writing process?
It all starts with a daydream. An occasional nightmare sometimes, but mostly a daydream. Then I develop characters in this daydream in my head, give them a little dialogue here and there and feel their emotions as they wade their way through challenges.

I am careful nowadays not to dream too much because the more I daydream a particular story, the higher the likelihood that I will not write it. Simply because it will have become too familiar and no longer exciting.

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I was five years old when I started primary school. In Standard One, my father gave me an anthology of short stories written in Kikuyu. My mother-tongue. The first story was about this kid who went to visit relatives and on the first night, they fed him ugali and stew made of houseflies.

He never forgot that dinner. The relatives tried to bribe him with chicken stew, beef stew and other sumptuous meals in subsequent dinners, but whenever they asked him “what meals will you say we fed you when you go back home?” his answer would be, “the first night I arrived, I was fed Ugali and houseflies stew.”

The impact the story had on me, well I enjoyed the diagrams in the story. I just found the story to be weird. I mean, couldn’t he have just told them he doesn’t think houseflies make for great dinner?

Unfortunately, I lost the book and my father was still reminding me about it even when I left high school eleven years later. The story had no impact on me, but the loss of the book did. I have never lost another book since.

How do you approach cover design?
I don’t. Ask me how I approach a story and I will have a couple of answers. I am a writer after all. Ask me how I approach cover design and I will point to a designer to answer that.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Jeffrey Archer’s “The Prodigal Daughter”. It shows me that consistency will lead to the achievement of your dreams. But never in the way you expect.

Buchi Echemeta’s “Second Class Citizen”. The main character pisses me the hell off! I would NEVER want my daughter to be like her.

Michela Wrong’s “It’s Our Turn to Eat”. It gave me an insight on Kenyan past that I didn’t know, and I’m Kenyan.

Paulo Coelho’s “The Zahir” – It just really enriched my life. Made me a better human being and helped me deal with a few insecuritites here and there.

…and so did Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck”.

Paulo Coelho’s “Eleven Minutes” – Who wouldn’t enjoy a story about a really philosophical prostitute? It also gave me insights on a few things about sex

Kezilahabi’s “Rosa Mistika” – I was eleven when I read this Kiswahili book. I’m a decade and a half older now and I still remember everything about it. Maybe that’s why it is a favorite.

What is your e-reading device of choice?
My tablet
What do you read for pleasure?
Books that are simply written. They are written more to entertain than to educate. Like Charles Bukowski’s “Post Office” and “Factotum”, everything I have read from Sidney Sheldon and Ernst Hemingway and anything that reads like NoViolet Bulawayo’s “We Need New Names”
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I have just published my first book literally an hour ago. But I’m guessing that social media will really help in this whole marketing gig
Describe your desk
I don’t have one. I just sit on my couch in the house, place my laptop on my lap and type away. Or maybe I didn’t understand the question.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in fourplaces described here-under as “Place A” “Place B” “Place C” and “Place D”

Place A – From ages 0-7, I was an upcountry boy in the Central parts of Kenya. Growing up in the Moi era, Central province was an opposition area and in the early and mid 90’s, that meant that we had no electricity, no roads, old schools, the whole poor upcountry folk shebang. Not so poor as to go without food or clothes or shelter, but poor enough to lack electricity and to only wear shoes on Sunday.

This hasn’t really impacted my writing because I haven’t utilized this stage of growing up in my stories yet. But maybe I will. However, I feel like I am in touch with upcountry life mainly thanks to this stage.

Place B – From ages 8-12, I was in boarding school. This is when I learned to read, write and speak English and Kiswahili. Before this, I could only speak Kikuyu, my mother tongue. By the time I was leaving Primary School in Standard eight, I was one of the best pupils in languages.

This was a Catholic School and the Father in Charge ensured that we read at least one novel a week and wrote a summary about it. This honed my interest in widespread reading and sparked a writing interest in me. I could write a mean composition!

Place C – From ages 13-16, I was in a Boys only Boarding High School. It wasn’t much different from the boarding primary school.

Place D – 17-Date. After high school I moved to Nairobi and instead of reading now, I started living. This impacted my writing in a way that I now stopped basing my characters on movies I had watched and books i had read and started basing them on real life people and places and experiences. Best times of my life.

When did you first start writing?
Primary School. We had to write English compositions and Kiswahili Insha. But I wrote mainly because I enjoyed it.

During and after high school, I ‘handwrote’ novels in exercise books. Just reading some of them these days embarrasses me. Other got lost. I didn’t start serious writing until I joined University in 2009 and my writing didn’t pay off until 2017

What’s the story behind your latest book?
I wanted to write about random people within one city whose lives are interconnected in one way or another. I saw sex as an interesting connection and I went for it.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I didn’t even know I was an Indie author until I read this question. So that’s what I am, huh? Alright, that’s good. The story I wrote “The Realm of Humanity” couldn’t be published any other way due to its sexual subject matter
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
It has helped me publish my first novel. That in itself is a huge success
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Finishing a story. Creating characters and worlds, giving them life and finally being with them to the very end of their story. It is always a satisfying journey
What do your fans mean to you?
Everything. They motivate me to keep going even when my muse takes a nap.
What are you working on next?
Remember how I said I grew up in four places and Place Two was a boarding primary school? Well, I am writing a book about that because it was the most violent stage of my life. The disciplinary measures in that school bordered on child abuse. My novel about this stage of my life will be called “Zoo”. I plan on finishing it by December 30, 2017 and having it published sometime in 2018

I am also a part of the film production team working to adopt “Around Nairobi in One Night” aka Confessions of a Kenyan Uber Driver into a movie. I’m very excited about this

Who are your favorite authors?
No favorite. I like them all the same. But I like Paulo Coelho a little more than most
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
This is a tough one. Let me think about it for a minute.

Alright. The fact that I have no idea what the day will bring has something to do with me wanting to leave the bed every morning. I don’t have a 9 to 5 job, so every day comes with new experiences. Even if those experiences sometimes are as limited as me spending the whole day in the house reading yet another book or writing yet another story for my website http://www.chanchori.com

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
Reading. I am reading a lot these days. Watching movies. I travel a little too. And what’s life without the occasional drinking…
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
The internet
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes. I don’t remember the title but I wrote it when I was fourteen and in high school. I gave it to my English teacher to mark and she said, “Charles, wait until you’re done with high school to write such lengthy stories. Right now, they will just waste your time because you have other units to study for including Math which you constantly score an E.”

I did not listen to her. My Math score didn’t improve either. And I have no regrets on my action or consequence

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