The publication of her debut book, “The Thing with Zola”, by author and storyteller Zibu Sithole marks a significant turning point in her career.
Sithole, who hails from Ekurhuleni and has more than 10 years of experience writing for TV, radio, print, and digital media, says it felt surreal to see her name on the book’s cover.
“This book is actually mine. Seeing my name on the mock covers sent me into an imposter syndrome frenzy, which was unexpected because this isn’t the first book I’ve written; I write books for a living. But this is my book, my ideas, my imaginings, and my name on the cover,” said Sithole.
She gravitated towards writing romance novels because she knows how love is supposed to feel.
“I feel like I know love. I was raised in a very loving family. I have watched people love. I know what it is supposed to look like. I know how it should feel and look. I write about love because I know it. So that's the basic inspiration. It is a coming-home book. After the pandemic, people had to deal with a lot of changes. We had to deal with rearranging our dreams and priorities. And many of us, including myself, found ourselves coming home. It's coming to terms with the fact that things did not work out. But they can still work out. Life can still be good,” said Sithole.
Sithole, who has been a ghost-writer for years, says being a ghost-writer is so much easier because, as soon as you hit send on the manuscript, you can forget about the book because it is not your story, not your name, and what happens to it is none of your business.
“Being anonymous gave me the confidence to play with style, experiment, and learn along the way without fear of judgement. What I don’t like about it is how limiting it can be. The story is not mine; I can’t let it unfold the way I want it to; there is a formula and a storyline to follow, and it can be frustrating,” she said.
This book is particularly different because of her ideas and imagination.
The story follows Zola, a vivacious 29-year-old whose life has been a flurry of bursaries and opportunities in Europe, giving her an escape from life in South Africa.
A decade of studying and working abroad has defined her aspirations and deepened her love, but when her visa expires, she’s forced to say goodbye to the life she’s built in Germany.
Zola ultimately returns to Jozi, her hometown, which now feels strange and enigmatic.
She said readers will be charmed by her perseverance and charm as she grapples with the complexity of her newfound world and makes a few missteps along the way.