Author Interview: Levi Cheruo

Today, I’d like to welcome author Levi Cheruo to my blog. He is a gifted, Kenyan, writer with some excellent advice for new authors!

kenya

 

  • Tell us a little about yourself:

I am a passionate writer, a gifted poet, an accomplished lyricist, a recorded singer, and above all a freelance journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya.

I have penned down FIVE titles, which are readily available and accessible both online and offline in Paperback and eBook formats via CreateSpace Publishers, Amazon, etc. They include:

[1] There is no Country Called Kenya: If you Must Steal, Just Steal a Little Please

[2] The UglyBeautiful Tale of a Stupid, Stupid Heart: When Mother Hen Eats her Grownup Chicks

[3] A Must-Have Guide for Every Aspiring Writer: Easy, Learnable, Realistic and Sure Ways to Earn Money as A Writer Online (Earning a Living as A Writer) (Volume 1)

[4] Please! Remember to Forget Me! And Other Short Stories

[5] Crawling to my Death and Other Poems: A Poetry Anthology

More so, I have two other works that will be hitting bookstores at the soonest opportune possible. These include a Swahili Riwaya titled Yajapo Yapokee, and an English Novella titled Married to my Shadow: Love is for the Dying and Weak in Spirit.

Additionally, I am an occasional Op-Ed contributor for major local dailies here in Kenya namely:

  1. The Daily Nation

http://www.nation.co.ke/oped/Letters/Ethnicity-Kenya-Politics/-/440806/2841514/-/fsy6my/-/index.html

http://www.nation.co.ke/oped/Letters/We-can-do-away-with-false-prophets-and-talk-directly-with-God/-/440806/2533486/-/bw5vng/-/index.html

  1. The Standard Group Media

http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2000083019/why-ex-pm-back-door-admission-to-11th-parliament-is-suicidal

https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/ureport/article/2000192085/lets-avoid-the-road-that-will-lead-the-nation-to-violence

  1. News24

http://www.news24.co.ke/MyNews24/raila-a-political-cheat-or-timely-saviour-for-kenyans-20160106

http://uganda.news24.com/Regional-News/1001-reasons-that-makes-kenya-both-a-curse-and-a-blessing-20151210-2

  1. Sido News Network

http://www.sabaots.com/Levi_Cheptora_Cheruo.html

  1. Kenya Yote

http://kenyayote.com/political-appeasement-killing-the-spirit-of-effective-devolution/

  1. Kenya-Today

http://www.kenya-today.com/opinion/police-reforms-in-kenya

  1. Kenya London News

http://www.kenyalondonnews.org/?p=3769

Some of my fiction writings have also been featured in reputable sites such as www.africanwriter.com and www.writeoutloud.com.

  • What Inspires you to Write?

Not long after my birth, my parents walked their separate ways after a not-so-happy marriage that I would come to learn many years later was characterized by violence, drunkenness and negligence.

Denied both motherly and fatherly love, it didn’t take long to realize I was on my own. I started asking why…then Papa died, closely followed by Isabel, my late girlfriend, and the only kind soul I ever knew.

For me, writing is not only a past-time hobby but a therapeutic undertaking that has helped me discover the real me.

What happens around me greatly inspires me…. It could be the sudden loss of a loved one, the runaway culture of impunity, and rampant corruption in my country, a heartbreak, and most important, solitude and loneliness.

  • How do you deal with writer’s block?

I take a breath, do some soul-searching with some soft background music…then take some time off from my writing; often, writer’s block is as a result of not being at peace with either oneself or with others, therefore it helps to make peace. More so, taking some time off creates a room for sharpening your creativity, and embracing fresh perspectives that might work for your piece of literary work.

  • What’s your favorite book?

Waste Not Your Tears by Violet Kala

  • Who are your favorite authors?

My favorite authors include:

  1. Violet Kala, Zimbabwe
  2. Ngugu Wa Thiong’o, Kenya
  3. Chinua Achebe, Nigeria
  • Tell us about your books

My books are mainly centered on the themes of relationships, justice, equality, good governance, and leadership accountability.

The UglyBeautiful Tale of a Stupid, Stupid Heart was inspired by the 2007/2008 Kenya’s Post Election Violence, and the subsequent victory to the alleged perpetrators; There is No Country Called Kenya is an answer to the current wave of perpetual state-sanctioned thieving that threatens to tear Kenya apart, and so are the rest of the titles.

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Writing in itself is therapeutic…it is a journey of self-discovery that arms you with a third eye and a third ear. And of course it comes with respect from others, it adds credibility to your ideas, opinions, views, etc.

  • Any advice for authors about book covers?

Do not judge a book by its cover it is said. However, I strongly believe that book covers still plays a major part as far as potential buyers are concerned. That said, authors should invest in their book covers, and ensure it is professionally designed to suit their title, and literary piece main theme.

  • What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Full-time job, pets, hobbies?

When I am not writing, I am reading. And when I am not reading, I am working on my Song Writing Skills, listening to all manner of music…. Currently, I do not have a full-time job, but I occasionally contribute articles for a number of local dailies here in Kenya, apart from updating posts on my blog.

  • How did you go about getting published?

Traditional Publishing is no longer appealing to amateur writers not yet established out there, and it is for this reason that I opted for Indie Publishing.

Not only does it give me freedom of determining the final product, but also saves me a lot of time that I would have wasted waiting for editorial reviews from a traditional publisher.

  • What is your writing process? Do you have a time, day or place you like to write?

Writing for me is not a linear process. I write as ideas come; sometimes, continuously, at other times, once in a while.

  • Any marketing tips you’d like to share with other authors?

There are many readers online nowadays, and as such, social media can prove quite helpful in marketing one’s books. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc., makes it quite easy to share links, info, previews, and sample texts.

There are also traditional advertising methods (which requires lots of cash), and can help improve your sales.

More so, there are dozens of sites out there dedicated for reviewing new books (mostly at an affordable fee). Reviews can add credibility, and an aura of social approval to your book, and thus attract potential buyers. Visit the sites below for a try:

http://bestthrillers.com/list-of-book-review-sites/

http://bestthrillers.com/list-of-book-review-sites/

  • What is the best advice you have ever heard?

When you are writing, you are just writing. You are not planning, you are not editing. You are writing. Once you have planned your story, it is time to sit down and write it.-JK.ROWLINGS, Harry Porter Series Author

  • What’s your advice for aspiring writers?

If you have an idea you strongly believe in, and that you know it will impact many a soul out there, do not sit on it…write your heart out…you deserve to be heard as soon as last year!

  • What are you currently working on?

A Swahili Riwaya titled Yajapo Yapokee, and an English Novella titled Married to my Shadow: Love is for the Dying and Weak in Spirit.

  • If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?

I will definitely bring along a Bible, a Church Hymnal Book, Violet Kala’s Waste Not Your Tears, and Nelson Mandela’s Abridged Autobiography A Long Walk to Freedom.

  • What are you reading now?

I am currently reading God Dies by Nile El-Saadawi, Nawal, and The Common: A Modern Sense of Place: Issue 06 by Owuor, Yvonne Adhiambo

  • Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?

The Ugly Beautiful Tale of a Stupid, Stupid Heart was inspired by the 2007/2008 Kenya’s Post Election Violence and the subsequent victory to the alleged perpetrators; There is No Country Called Kenya is an answer to the current wave of perpetual state-sanctioned thieving that threatens to tear Kenya apart; Please! Remember to Forget Me! And Other Stories was inspired by the untimely deaths of my girlfriend, father, grandfather, and grandmother.

  • What’s next for you as a writer?

As long as I am alive, I will continue uplifting souls, igniting dispirited hearts, cheering up sad faces, and restoring hope to the hopeless through my writings.

  • Where can my readers find you online?

Author Website/Blog: https://booksloverafrica.blogspot.co.ke/

Author Profile Page on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/levicheruo

Facebook Profile: http://www.facebook.com/cheptolevi

Twitter Profile: http://www.twitter.com/cheruo

Pinterest Profile: https://www.pinterest.com/cheptolevi/

Instagram Profile: https://www.instagram.com/levi_cheruo_cheptora/

Author Profile Page on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/levicheruo

 

‘How do I Edit my Own writing?’ 5 easy steps

editing21

I came across the following article in my weekly Pinterest email updates. I was intrigued by the title… as an author, I’m sure you can understand why I would be.

‘How do I edit my own writing?’ 5 easy steps

After reading the article, I have to admit… I mostly agree. I say ‘mostlyagree’ because I believe there is a 6th step to editing my own writing. So, let’s break it down right here, starting with the 5 listed in the original article. There is a link to the original article at the end of this post. 

Step 1: Take a break – I couldn’t agree more… You have to step away from your work in order to come back and see it with a fresh set of eyes.

“Another reason to take a break is that you need the distance from the work. In a way, you need to forget about the book. On returning to it, you might be surprised to find passages that you don’t remember writing; passages that affect you emotionally as though someone else were the author.”

YES! I never thought this would be true, but it is. I recently  went back and reread my first novel, published in 2012, and it was like reading some of it for the first time. I LOVED being surprised by my own writing.

Step 2: Get organised – As someone who prides herself on being organized, I totally agree with this step. However, I don’t think it only applies to the editing portion of writing. When I’m writing I need an organized workplace so that I can feel free to create and comfortable enough to do the research necessary to complete my daily writing goals. YES… SETTING GOALS IS VERY IMPORTANT, both during the writing process and the editing process.

“Make a schedule for your revision just as you did for writing your novel. Set a goal and stick to it. Think about what other tools might help you with your revision. You’ll need some kind of system to take notes and keep track of things. The system that works best for you depends on you. You might choose to use multicoloured index cards or sticky notes, spreadsheets, a notebook with sections and multicoloured pens, or a physical filing drawer, for example.”

Multicoloured index cards, sticky notes, spreadsheets, a notebook with sections and multicoloured pens… I’m getting excited about organization already. This blogger sounds like she has been reading my mind or watching me through my office window. LOL

“Learning how to write a book is a rigorous exercise in focus and discipline.”

Take note, that is the most important piece of advice/knowledge/wisdom in this section. People quit things that are hard… it’s true! You might be thinking, no I can do this the story is already in my head. I can tell you, getting your story out of your head and onto the paper or computer screen is the easy part – AND STILL PEOPLE QUIT! The hard work comes when the story is written and you have to edit, market, publicise, sell, sell, sell.

Step 3: Develop a plan – I agree with the points of the blogger in this section. However, I feel that developing a plan is part of Step 2: Get Organised! I believe the two sections go hand in hand. However, you should ready both sections within the original article.

Step 4: Make multiple passes – YES! YES! YES! Like I said above, the hard work comes after the story is written. Editing isn’t as simple as reading your story and making sure you’ve used spell check. Do MULTIPLE passes when you edit, looking at different things each time: flow, plot, character development, grammar, punctuation, etc., etc., etc.

 

Step 5: Get feedback – Now, the author of the original article feels that feedback is your final step… and I don’t NOT agree (yes, I know that’s a double negative), but I want to take it one step further and say there are two steps to getting feedback. I will address the second step to getting feedback below, in step 6.

Ask your friends, family, writing groups, reading groups, teacher friends, etc. to read your manuscript. Find anyone you can you might be interested and ask them to read it.

“The value of having others look over your work is that they will spot mistakes or inconsistencies you might miss because you are so immersed in the text you’ve written.”

It doesn’t matter how many times you read your own manuscript… YOU WILL MISS THINGS!

Step 6: HIRE AN EDITOR – Yes, this article is called ‘How do I Edit my Own Writing’ but the best advice I can give you on how to edit your own writing is… DON’T. Yes, you should do everything listing above in steps 1-5, but you should never rely on yourself to be the only editor of your manuscript. As I said above in Step 5… It doesn’t matter how many times you read your own manuscript… YOU WILL MISS THINGS! 

I am not saying you have to spend thousands of dollars on an editor. You don’t need to go to the bookstore, sift through books within your genre, figure out who the most popular editors are and then attempt to contact them. NO!!! But, if you are serious about your novel, put a little time and money into making it the best novel it can be. Go to http://www.upwork.com and hire a freelance editor. Find someone who has experience and good reviews. Get a fresh set of eyes on your manuscript. It doesn’t have to be expensive to get good editing. What is costly, are the bad reviews you will receive for publishing a poorly edited novel. They will lead to pulling the book… rereading… revising…re-editing… again and again. TRUST ME, I KNOW!

Now, my process for steps 5 and 6 for each of my books are as follows:

  • I read, edit, read, edit, read, edit… my own manuscript multiple times.
  • Submit for edits to beta readers (at least 5 beta readers). After each beta reader… I read, edit, read, edit, etc.
  • Submit to a professional editor (3 – 5 rounds of edits)
  • Submit for final review to beta readers (2-3 beta readers)
  • One final read through – Just me.

Finishing your novel can be amazing, but remember editing is not an optional step in the process. It is part of writing, an essential part if you want to be successful. By taking the time to go through all the steps listed above, you save yourself time and heartache later on down the road.

Got any question? Ask below… I’m happy to answer.

Link to the original article: ‘How do I edit my own writing?’ 5 easy steps