Monday, April 22, 2019

Interview with author KUTEESA FRANK (second interview) by Dave Wolff

Interview with author KUTEESA FRANK

For the readers who are just hearing of you and your work, what is the concept and storyline of your new novel “The Untouchables”?
Timo is a charming ghetto teenager whose life will never be the same when his girlfriend Yvvone, daughter to the Secretary of Defense gets pregnant by him in school. His only chance of survival will now depend on how far he can get away from all those he had ever loved, his family and friends. This will cost him more than he's ever meant; his education, peace and freedom. But there is one place he can find refuge. The ghetto! But not all doors to happiness shut at once. There is always hope if one looks under the right stone.
Timo is a twin brother to Henry, but their family is the total opposite of her family. When he finds adoption in an unlikely loving family, he discovers he must fasten to his deepest secret and identity. But for how long will this last especially when he is driven into meeting “The Untouchables”, led by his late father's partner in regional crime, Captain Key. When Captain Key reveals to him his father's most treasured secret, Timo must sacrifice all to discover his father's lost vault of diamonds. The struggle won't be easy because there are lots of limitations, especially from his father’s partner who has amassed great wealth through an organized system of robbery, and also the love he unintentionally but successfully earned between with Vanessa who is unfortunately a half-sister of Yvvone. This is the same multimillionaire diamond company from which Timo's late father robbed the lost diamonds. Timo must face the consequences of past crimes to reclaim this wealth, but what of his twin brother Henry? Where does love stand when blood must be spilled? Blood of those beloved to so many around him... as a struggle for revenge, power and wealth have become everyone's ambition and goal.
I came up with this idea five years back, like several others which I have yet to expand on. But I do take my time.

When did you begin expanding on the ideas you devised for “The Untouchables”? How much of it has been written until now?
I always looked forward to expanding my upcoming titles, “The Untouchables” included. “The Untouchables” has fairly a few chapters until its conclusion. The idea came to me in high school, senior four. I was struggling with my studies and needed to improve because time was against me and my family had high expectations. You know when you are your mother's only son. Haha! Normal classes had finally come to an end. Senior four students were all over the school library, past paper revisions, sitting under compound trees while others went to class. Everyone was busier than ever reading their books and consulting more than I’d ever done. Math was my problem and the best mark I ever got in O level was 56%.
I was thinking about a girl named Mercy. She sat just two rows ahead, on a desk next to a window. We knew each other but before I met her is what lingered in my mind before I wrote the first line of “The Untouchables”. Here I was reimagining this complicated life, where I would have been had I not been in school. I was good at daydreaming, and I imagined every day. I had another imagination about my class. Noise back benchers who talked and laughed every now and then irritating every one with mockery and jokes.
I was completely self-reserved and wasn't good at relationships. A girl always snuck up on me from behind, tapped your shoulder and disappeared. She had already spotted you on arrival and asked around which class you were from, as if you had been booked already but had no idea what school's motto was. That's part of what inspired my plot when I came to this school. It was late evening when I arrived. Students were done with supper and at 7:00 were headed for their prayers. It was drizzling outside and everyone had to go to the main hall for prayers. Three minutes after, loud thunder crossed the sky and the lights went out. There was total silence. Then I felt a hand touch my shoulder. But glancing back, I saw no one. I had no greater interest until it happened a second time. This time I saw a girl rush away into the standing crowd of students.
Despite being the cutest girl in class, she was also the craziest. But from her I derived my first character for this story. I had no great interest in knowing whether she and her family were well off. But I would snaffle all I knew with all I imagined influenced her lifestyle. If not I had to reconstruct it to feel more creative, artistic and original. We spent two terms together but I started to find her a distraction. I grew fond of us but still felt she was the one, even though at times I tried to avoid her. But she meant a lot to me and my friends. The whole school seemed to believe she had changed and only I saw her as normal. I had no idea what she was before I arrived. Even the teachers who knew her wondered. But no one would utter my name because relationships in school were prohibited.
As time passed I started to draw away from her and I started to see she was a crazy, stubborn girl. Bu she was the reason I started this story. And the second character is inspired by Mercy, who I met afterward. When I met Mercy, I was writing ideas about a story titled “Hill Of Spear” (this title may change with publication). I was already expanding this story during evening and morning preps. All of it was complete by the time I did my senior four examinations. However I did not rush. I stored away two 96 page notebooks while I started on ideas about “The Untouchables”. So from past love memories, the ideas for this story were born. It was like I had written a best seller. All I did that day was a plot summary of five pages. The title was inspired by actual events, exaggerated to fit my interests and beliefs. Half of it has been penned down in an expanded manner so far.
I plan to complete it this year. "The Asc3ndants" continues and I'm developing characters. It’s like when J.R.R Martin never stopped adding to “Game Of Thrones” but had time to write something else. Every writer gets too accustomed to their world. And all adventure writers get sick of living in one place for too long. This is the reason I write in phases. I’m not meaning to delay publication write without passion, but I cross worlds. You need not be surprised when I publish something besides what was expected. “Hill Of Spears” may fall between my publication plans.

In what ways, if any, did your life growing up inspire the storyline of “The Untouchables”?
I grew up in a humble extended family background. We were thirteen children born to different aunties and uncles who were around five to seven. My mother left for further studies in nursing when I was still a toddler and I would be raised by an auntie of mine who wasn't an auntie in actual sense but just a young cousin to my granny. Her names were Alice. For the time she carried me in her arms, bathed me and cleaned after me, I grew up to refer to her as "mama".
One uncle of mine already had four children ranging from the age of ten to fourteen bore his last child a year later when I had started crawling. His youngest son, whom he named Julius and I grew up to become an inseparable pair. Some (visitor) took us for twins. But it was the bond of love and trust we had that inspired me to create “The Untouchables” twin characters. Julius and I still are great brothers to this day and I honor the years we have achieved. However, unlike Julius, I never got to see my father.
My grandpa owned about seventeen acres of land on which we farmed and grew our own food.
And when school began for us the youngest ones, Julius and I were parted to different community schools, and returned home at around one to hectic chores our older cousins used to do but now stayed longer at school. Sure enough, as we grew older, responsibility increased until I started to feel uncomfortable. I was only seven years old. And when my mum returned, I had already thought of a quick escape plan and when I asked her that I wanted to go and stay at an Uncle's place neighboring our grandpa's, she let me but looked surprised!
This certain uncle of mine known as Uncle Musoke had just married a woman. And before they had any children, the woman's cousins came for holidays and much of the time did all the chores. Meanwhile I wasn't grown big yet! I hope I would stay young! Not until she gave birth and the cousins returned to their parents homes. Their first child became my responsibility at an early age! Every expectation turned out meaningless. And even worse when they got another and another child within the shortest period possible.
Soon enough bathing, cleaning after them and watching their kids became another of my chores whenever they were off in the garden each day. Who doesn't know children at that stage? As they started to walk, scream and play, I was held responsible for any of their messes. I would get yelled at, scowled at and caned even for stuff that didn't call for a beating.
I started admiring life at my granny's again and missed my other age mate cousins even though we were all busier these days. My uncle on the other hand was a compassionate one. He raised pigs and rabbits and it was my responsibility to visiting around seven homes in the neighborhood every evening on a bike to collect their food stuff peelings.
I had several school mates in the neighborhood. Two were boys and one a girl. For some reason, this girl became my friend because we took the same path while going and returning from school every day. And her home was last on the block whenever I made visits collecting food peelings. We were seven and eight years old. For the time I knew her, I learned a lot about her family, and how the father was a drunkard and a nuisance in the home. How he bartered her mother and how she was traumatized by his usual uncontrolled misbehavior. While back from school, she would narrate revealing to me the kind of life she went through at home. I imagined myself in her position and several times I felt grateful for where I was with all my mean auntie no matter the dissatisfaction and complaints.
When I started writing the Untouchables, I placed myself in her shoes and started rewriting her experiences. In a way, my uncle’s wife wore the boss figure in the home. I thought my uncle had so less balls to stand out like a man figure like it were elsewhere. My imaginations in her position brought me each and every sensation she felt from her father’s domestic violence over simple matters. In my imagination, I felt lonely, empty and so lonely, igniting a craving for deep consolation. But since mum wasn't gonna rush back to save me from this imagination as well I'll need a comrade to stand face strong to my uncles violence!
Julius became my last alternative. His presence in my imagination brought me comfort and inspired the twin characters in the story later. But still, as I created the story plot, his actual absence I kept significant.

Are any of the other characters in “The Untouchables” based on other people you knew in high school?
There weren’t any names I have used from people I knew in high school but the experiences and behavior of certain individuals and lives in school did become a source of inspiration to “The Untouchables”. Of course when I joined high school, life changed as I met people from completely different walks of life. I wasn't from a wealth background but a middle class family while here, people's lives were admirable and beyond fascinating to me. Truth is that, at this point is when youths come to compare themselves with others because their minds have grown. You come to grow fond of certain characters, morals and life styles closely weighing them with your life and experiences.
The life I experienced in high school in other words is an inspiration to “The Untouchables”. I met kids from very wealthy families and in Africa, people brag a lot of you didn't know. They had cliques of class and lifestyle. I knew where I fell but I was a very observant one. These kids were daughters and sons to ministers in the government. And they did not only talk about how they had their holidays abroad, did this and that, but also acted like it. However, when it came to their grades, tables turned. But then you would find the parents cared less or not at all!
That's when I grew curious about how they went about with themselves and in some way comparing my life to theirs with wonder. Stuff I imagined, you will of course only find in “The Untouchables” when it’s done. I placed my cousin Julius in a lovely position as a student leader in this school even though he wasn't with me here.
And I only desired to know how they survived certain student cases they reflects sentenced them for. How and why they survived when cases they committed were transferred to the school disciplinary commit.
What if my brother isn't the chief judge (prefect) in my school, then what would happen to me? In case I broke rules the way the high class kids did. For example getting a girl pregnant at this stage. What would my auntie 'oh, my mad Uncle say or do to me!'
Of course I did not aspire to the life I anticipated would be in case I was the culprit but it built the story. In that case, I imagined how this girl's mother, a prominent top government official would react towards me. At some point I knew, it would be prison or quitting school because my uncle or mum wouldn't pay the ransom her intolerant and despicable mother would place for the damage of her daughter’s future.
I would be looking at a broken world every direction I looked around me. That's why the main character in “The Untouchables” quits school and runs away to the city to start a life for himself like a fugitive on the list of the most wanted! However this boy did not stop dreaming however rough his life would be from the day he leaves the village. But how was he to achieve without having fully evolved through school. How would he tackle the challenges he was up for now that he had to look after himself? What was his future and what are the chances that all people like him out there, people whose lives have been hit hard by all rough winds of life, survive the storms to stand tall?

If “The Untouchables” is going to be a series of novels, how many volumes do you anticipate releasing?
“The Untouchables” will be a one book story but still a large one to reckon with. I intend to produce "The Asc3ndants" alone into a series. But I fear expanded works because parts get mixed up when I do not do the typing. One story covered around three 65 page notebooks. Because I lacked a PC those days, I would have someone do the typing. Even if I intended to write enough parts of a story, a part gets displaced by a friend who borrowed it to read it. Or lent it to a friend who wasn't able to return it. When a portion of a story goes missing, the writer hardly ever gets time to return to it.
I once had a story I expanded into a full manuscript, but it was stolen from the typist cafe. The typist claimed that I actually never brought any of such a story besides the remaining parts of "The Asc3ndants". It was impossible to get him to recall because I used to bring my textbooks to one internet cafe typist. Half price for the typing. Then I would return to boarding school expecting to pick up the typed work next holidays. It didn’t happen.
The story was titled “Beyond The Boundary”. I crafted it from start to end until a part went missing! If each story I ever lost was still with me, I would have at least seven complete independent stories. I loved that story and it broke me so bad that I couldn't rewrite it. But I have learned to avoid giving away my manuscripts to friends until they are fully typed to soft copy.

Describe the new ideas you are developing for "The Asc3ndants". How do you intend to continue the storyline?
I began birthing these ideas about "The Asc3ndants" after the production of season one of “Game Of Thrones”. At first I wanted to make one book with everything compressed in one volume titled *Dark Scales.” But then I realized there was a challenge of creativity with “Game Of Thrones”. I don't know if you would refer to it’s a sort of African “Game Of Thrones” after Marlon James' title, Seven Killings. But I'm only inspired to do a deeper excavation of ideas for "The Asc3ndants". There will be six volumes, each comprised of two parts.
So far the anthology is still under construction; I continue to add to it when I get a new idea for any of the six parts. I keep updating the anthology with every new plot change.
The newest idea about "The Asc3ndants" I won't disclose in detail. But I shall let you know this one... the rise of the first mortal man empire upon the dry lands has a tale of its own. And how the empire came to its collapse has a major plot following the struggle among the gods for the loss of the so called Black Seed Of Creation. How mortal man gets tangled up into this required a separate story which sinks down into the emperor’s very household. An unintended mistake which shouldn't have been but was a violation of a royal tradition. The emperor's mistake led the whole empire tangling up with non-human deities. I came to think giving the Vulko Guardians a chance to own a story would mean a lot when the third and final Volume comes.
The Vulko Guardians are a people reserved to themselves with due respect for the realms. They are knowledgeable about the foundation of all things in their intelligent and graceful nature, and understand the powers that control nature more than any other being (compare them to the Elves of J.R.R Tolkien's “Middle Earth” stories). They live under a respectful order and are twice capable of anything more than any other species or beast of any realm in their half-immortal state. Their existence as the first offspring of creation among all beings. They are a lot closer to the gods than any other. This is the reason I would refer to them as mediators.
The third book will bring in the most powerful and unexpected characters. Compare them to Game Of Thrones’ White Walkers, though they won't be zombi-like but a complete rebranding of such an unacceptable invasion. The rest of my ideas are deeply incorporated with the “Vulkrion” (an anthology of “The Asc3ndants”).

How well have your previously published editions of “The Asc3ndants” been selling since I last interviewed you?
I have sold a few hundred copies online, mainly on Lulu. A month later when I joined Amazon, I saw fit to keep my book free for the first three months, allowing free downloads for all interested. Later I added a price tag but that limited my profits from falling in as I expected them to when I joined. I was recently able to add a price tag and this has lasted for a while now. On Wattpad the story has been free for four years now. But Wattpad added levels of publication whereby authors with high reads and votes can upgrade their position to a premium sales position or a stage to be able to earn from their work. I have not yet upgraded my account though it's currently eligible with the readers the story already has. I have made a few sales on Amazon so far. Though those are countable sales. This has kept me focused on completing the second half of the volume. I have not minded about the sales on Amazon so much because readers have asked me to improve my English, which I take to be good advice. I need a great editor and I have yet to deal with that this coming month. Trust me, the next update of The Asc3ndants on Amazon you would not need to scroll past. I plan to change the cover for several reasons. Immediately afterward, part two will follow from Wattpad to Amazon and Lulu. On Amazon I tried to link a PayPal account; it was denied as illegible. I hence placed a free price tag that lasted until recently. That was a similar challenge that limited me from following up on any of my sales. I hope to earn well from Wattpad because I have over 8400 readers, 6500 votes and hundreds of positive inbox comments from friends and unknown fans. I won’t upgrade on any of my sites until I graduate from University because I'm in my final year of study.

Are you making contact with readers from the U.S. who could possibly help you hook up with a publishing company?
Connecting to anyone in the U.S. has been kind of complicated. But I have reached out to a few literary agents trying to have my book represented to any good publishing company out there. I have not yet had any good luck but J.K Rawlings once said she sent her book out to about a hundred publishers and was declined each time. These days literary agents are a go-between linking authors to publishers. So I took to finding a literary agent from England or the U.S. I have not had any luck but I haven't sent query letters to even twenty agents yet. I have been declined several times whereas some did not respond at all. However, I believe I shall get there sooner or later.

Has your search in the U.S. and England included independent publishing companies or self-publishing companies?
My searches in the U.S. and England have not yet bred for me anything in line with publishing my works the way I have earned a large reader base with self-publishing sites. I have continued to search for reviews from lecturers even at my school level. The dean of my faculty read a manuscript I printed of my story prologues (of "The Asc3ndants"). He liked it and believed the story worth publishing. And being that he is a well-connected man, could earn me a chance to get a great agent, editorial support and of course a big publisher out there.

Are there other countries besides the U.S. and England actively publishing fantasy novels, where you may have more of a chance?
It's common that all big publishing companies out there, U.S. or England have a category of books and genres they deal with. And I do love to land the best of them as I publish more of my works. I don't know how long it will take before I land a major independent publishing company.
And when exactly I may get that chance, to publish with a major company, I don't know but I'm anxious and patient all at the same time. I have received a few reviews requesting I get a proof read. I still have a few things to organize first to shoot up the ladder with my story publications.
I have not yet had a professional proof read before. I don't know if I over trust my language, style of writing or it was because I desired no one adding or removing imagination but I have been advised that another phase of editing with a professional editor would be very necessary.
However, this doesn't apply to me alone but, many aspiring authors have not achieved from their works which may have been very successful if funds were there in the very start to ensure steady marketing and so on. But the problem of limited funds and so on exists and has limited aspiring authors from gaining access to such professional opportunities no matter how good our works are.
There may have been only one simple problem or loophole with the plotting, language and style of the young writer's very first or second books which may have been held or continue to hold their story back from the quickest progress that could have been earlier on.
Only a professional editor could know what or where this loophole is in a manuscript. And I think that's what I need right now. Immediately after that, I believe my story will get loose to greater success out there for all bracket.

If and when you get wider distribution in the U.K. and U.S., how well do you hope your work will be received there?
We can never determine how successful and effective the best of our stories can become any time in the future from how much love, obsession and hype we have about them. Best we just hoped that this love is reflected back on every reader’s face wherever and whenever the story is read.
I am passionate about "The Asc3ndants" due to the time I invested into its creation and plot building for six years trying to interlace the best African epic fantasy, of all time! Haha! I have grown convinced that, our power as humans to create lies in how imaginative we are. In addition, I have a dream to see one of my stories if not "The Asc3ndants" referred to as a source of inspiration to many epic fantasy loving African youths of all cultures one day.
If it were by choice, I would have loved to meet and give my story to the best publishing company in the USA or UK. However no one chooses their publishers but publishers choose us for how good and appealing our works are. Nevertheless, I credit those that took a leap of faith when it came to J.K Rawling's 'Harry Potter' which was termed "childish and hopeless" by the first publisher she ever approached. Similarly, I believe any good publisher will notice that I always try to hint on African traditions, culture and heritage on a general ground with some sort of twist or puzzle in every plot I create.
There is need for such publishing companies in Africa. We have so many traditional languages in Africa but wherever you find diversity in language, there is a wealth of new ideas and unique tales yet to be told!
It’s common knowledge that today we live in colonial influenced societies. Our old ways of living have gradually been influenced by western ways. Foreign languages are made official! Therefore, one’s professionalism in a given language will determine where they fall in the employment tract.
A good English-speaking student has greater opportunities wherever they go. We hence grow up learning in and constantly encouraged to use that language. It is the language of commerce, learning and trade, so why would any writer choose to use it and not their first language? We grow up in English speaking schools, so how much time do you think I gave learning of my local language?
The world of publication looks more at the quality of the English language, rather than the uniqueness and power in their story ideas. I pity that and I already see a fire of great African stories rising to consume the continent and beyond! For this I have set up the platform called Atro Universe.
Many aspiring young African writers are in possession of original stories they would love to publish or place out there but have failed. Despite how imaginative and talented they are, many lack computers and funds to pay an internet cafe typist or stationery shopkeeper with a desktop to do the typing for them. Most of them are students and their stories remain incomplete or the complete ones remain in the bottom of their boarding school suitcases.
I aspire to become their voice because I have experienced the same to this day. I am not yet where I hope to be, but when I do we shall have great books from so many writers from all levels of learning. Atro Universe will be a FREE platform available to link African writers to professional editors, agents and publishers. I believe my stories will have a great impact in this plan, and their sales in the near future may grow to support this cause once I have an agent.

-Dave Wolff


  1. Wow...i must wait to read this book...

  2. Am so much happy with my old brother...all the the way from high school.