Gloria D. Gonsalves comes from Korogwe, Tanzania, where she lived for 27 years before migrating to Europe. She spent some time in Ireland before moving to Germany, where she currently resides. She enjoys writing poetry and tales for children and adults. The author of several books, she recently talked to Africa Book Club about her writing and how she came to rekindle her interest in African literature.
You have an interesting last name for a Tanzanian. Is that a pen name?
Gonsalves is my maiden name. It originates from Goa, India where my paternal grandfather comes from.
What do you like to write about?
My writing aims at supporting humanitarian related projects and creativity in others, especially children, by having them participate through drawings or stories. I also write photographic snippets for my nature blog.
When did you first know you wanted to become a writer?
My love for books began while attending a boarding school in Tanzania. I read novels as a way to improve my English language skills. During the second year of my secondary school I participated in an English essay competition and won third position. The positive result of that competition led me into putting together a drama play, which with assistance from my teacher, became a special act for visiting schools. It was also a motivation for me to keep writing in the English language. I stopped writing for a while but years later, while pursuing a Masters degree at the University of Cologne, I discovered blogging and began sharing my poems. A friend suggested that I compile them into a book. I did not act on that advice immediately. Instead, I chose to tread carefully with a written short story to an on-line magazine. The story was picked as “Editor’s Choice of the Week.” That’s what got me writing again.
Tell us about your most recent book.
DANLORIA: THE SECRET FOREST OF GERMANIA (published September 2013) is a book about adventures of a little boy called Stan, who frequents the mythical forest with his father. One terrible day, Stan’s father becomes very ill and cannot take Stan on a walk through the forest. While gazing out of the window, Stan sees a fern in his yard. The fern calls for Stan to follow him to a wonderful party in the forest. Young readers will learn right along with Stan as Fern teaches him about different plants from around the world.
Where can readers can find your book?
Is this your first published book?
I have published seven books to date – three children’s, two adult poetry collections and two memoirs. Readers are welcome to visit the Books section on my website for further details on the books.
What do you do in your spare time?
I enjoy taking forest walks, and often, that’s where I get ideas for my nature writing. My walks were also the inspiration for the characters in my new book. I also take delight in reading (preferably hardcopies than e-versions), traveling, sky gazing and attending performances.
Who are your favorite writers?
Sad but true, the authors I read when in school did not influence me much at that time. Shaaban bin Robert, Ngugi wa Thiongo and Chinua Achebe were to me part of the school curriculum and for many years they remained so. Instead for leisure reading we passed or borrowed copies of Barbara Cartland or Mills & Boon.
It is only later when abroad that I began discovering African and other iconic foreign authors. Maybe it is true that we miss things only when they are out of reach. Homesickness made me seek out African authors. That’s how I began getting acquainted with Ama Ata Aidoo, Tsitsi Dangarembga and others. Gradually they became these authors from my continent who write great things I can read without associating them to tedious study routines. Currently I am rediscovering Shaaban bin Robert and through that process I have been inspired to write some Swahili poems.
I also admire the works of Maya Angelou, Paulo Coelho, Alicia Walker, Gabriel García Márquez, Isabel Allende, Doreen Virtue, The Brothers Grimm and Esmeralda Santiago.
What’s your favorite book by an African author?
Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga and Women Writing Africa: The Eastern Region (v. 3) by Amandina Lihamba, Fulata L. Moyo, Mugaybuso M. Mulokozi, Naomi L. Shitemi. The first book is rich with complexities, most that I can relate to. I admire the way Dangarembga draws out and exposes her characters. Women Writing Africa is a jewel. It’s a book rich with stories of women, who have contributed towards the history of Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. Their legacies were sourced from short stories, poems, and newspapers excerpts, dating back to the 18th century. It’s a book I have really enjoyed reading. I read one story, stop and revel for days or even months before reading next one – I am still reading.