FabAfriq Magazine

Interviewing Aiyven and Kirsten Mbawa

Ramses Wato : Aiyven and Kirsten , thank you for taking part in this interview.

Aiyven and Kirsten : Oh, that is no problem! Thank youfor inviting us to have an interview with you! Our parents have told us quite a bit about Fabafriq and we think what you guys are doing is amazing.

Ramses Wato : First off, tell us about Aiyven and Kirsten?

Aiyven and Kirsten : I’m Aiyven and I’m 11 years old, I’m Kirsten and I’m 12 years old, and as you know we’re the Mbawa Book Reviewers! I, Aiyven Mbawa, am the author of Land of the Nurogons: Zest for Quest. I, Kirsten Mbawa, am the author of Sagas of Anya. We started writing our books when our nanny told us to enter BBC 500 Words. She claimed we had a talent for writing! Unfortunately, we did not get a reply, although this “disappointing” act turned out to work in our favour. Our parents encouraged us to expand our 500 words into tens of thousands of words, and that is how we found ourselves with our very own novels!

Ramses Wato : What motivated you girls to become writers?

Aiyven and Kirsten : We have always loved reading from a young age and also writing from when we were able. We remember writing our first short stories from as early as 6/7 years old. Kirsten’s first pen pal for a while was Mr Squirrel 😊 whom she wrote letters to tell him about things at school. She was just in year 1 then.

Ramses Wato : Aiyven and Kirsten can you tell us about your latest book, and where the idea came from?

Aiyven and Kirsten: For my book (Aiyven’s book) Land of the Nurogons, the idea came from a random thought of mine. It started when I had the thought of humans saving/helping aliens, but that did not sound entirely original. So, I added some bits and bobs onto that plot, taking some inspiration from other books along the way. For my book (Kirsten’s book) Sagas of Anya, the idea came from my love of Victorian books. I’d read and watched Hetty Feather and adored it. I desperately wanted to write my own story on a Victorian theme. This is where the idea of Sagas of Anya came from, although I admit the research was tiring.

Ramses Wato: How long did it take you both to write?

Aiyven and Kirsten: Well we entered the BBC 500 words competition in February of 2019, and we finally published our books in May / June 2020. So about a year and a half…

Ramses Wato: How do you organise your writing day? for example, where do you write? and when?

Aiyven and Kirsten : At the minute, we are not writing as school has resumed, but when we were writing, we didn’t really organise our writing day, if I’m being honest. We would just come home from school and write, normally in the study, our bedrooms or the dining room table. Aiyven sometimes even wrote in the car on the way to school. We now have a bit more experience so will plan our writing a bit better.

Ramses Wato : What topics do your cover as writers and why are these important to you?

Aiyven and Kirsten : The themes we write above varies, it could be an idea that’s been with us a while, something going on in the news (like we did some poems about BLM), a movie we watched, a prompt we came across book we read or conversation we had. Story ideas really can come from anywhere which is why one of the big things we took away from the creative writing course was to improve our observation skills. The things we write are important to us because in some way we would have felt strongly enough about the idea to want to write about it and like we said earlier, words flow better when one is writing what they feel.

Ramses Wato : Do you use a computer or write long hand?

Aiyven and Kirsten : We use our laptops as it is easier and quicker than to write long hand. Usually, for reading we prefer paper to technology, but for writing it would be too long-winded to write long hand.

Ramses Wato : Do you edit as you go along? Or at the end of the first draft?

Aiyven and Kirsten : We did do some editing as we went along and also whenever we would go back to review what we had written last before sending it off to the editor for the main piece of editing. Honestly, getting the editor’s feedback, learning to take it on the chin and working through to input it in the manuscript is one of the toughest parts of writing. That experience was good because it taught us to take criticism and turn it into something better.

Ramses Wato : Do you find rewriting difficult?

Aiyven and Kirsten: A little bit difficult, but more so tedious. Rereading and rewriting your own work can become quite laborious after some time, however, we made sure to do it in small chunks, so as to not tire ourselves. Having said that, if we have to rewrite after having come up with a better, more exciting idea, then it's quite enjoyable.

Ramses Wato : Do you use the internet for research? What research tips can you give writers?Kirsten: Oh yes, very much so. Due to the time in which Sagas of Anya is set, I had to do masses of research to make sure the story was true to time and place. There were words, I could use like wow, weird etc because those weren’t used in the Victorian times. I did research on websites about Wales, Welsh newspapers (e.g. Wales Online) with articles dating back to Victorian times, google maps etc Pinterest was also a very useful resource which helped with images of what people dressed like, what their houses looked like etc. This made the process of writing my book somewhat more involved. Aiyven though, is totally the main researcher in the family. She is always googling something or the other.

Aiyven: lol, yeah. To be fair, the genre of Land of the Nurogons being fantasy adventure meant that what I created became the world of the book. It didn’t require that much research. I had however to work on things like story pacing, structure and transition. Following on from the creative writing course, these are things we will still keep working on.

Ramses Wato : What type of books do you like to read? Do you have a favourite book/ author?

Aiyven and Kirsten : Truthfully it often varies. For a long time we were hooked on Jacqueline Wilson who writes contemporary realistic fiction. Mum had to make us do Jacqueline Wilson fast so we could get to know other authors😊 Then Aiyven got stuck on Rick Riordan, Percy Jackson series and I got stuck on history fiction works like Anne Frank, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas etc etc. Our tastes are also changing as we grow older. For instance I read the Hunger Games series this summer and it was amazing so I am going more the dystopian way. Aiyven is now into books for tween – teen years like Geek girl, The Girl who speaks bear etc

Ramses Wato : What roles do your family members, friends and teachers have in your career as writers?

Aiyven and Kirsten: They were the ones who encouraged our writing. Our family definitely played a huge role in our writing career. Our parents helped with a lot of promotional work, marketing work, publishing and proof-reading work! We couldn’t have done it without them. Our other family, friends and teachers also gave us a lot of support which really aided us throughout our writing journey.

Ramses Wato : How do you manage writing and your studies?

Aiyven: In general, we had a schedule to rest after school and do some writing much like doing any activity after school. Whilst we were writing, I was still in primary school so the responsibilities of school work were not that great. I didn’t have that much homework so I could just write whenever/wherever.

Kirsten: For me, it was a bit different as I had just started secondary school so that was quite a change but we worked it in such a way that, I would write for a short while after school or on days when I didn’t have much homework. Also, I took a bit longer to finish my book as secondary school has a bit more responsibility.

Ramses Wato : Do you have people who support you in your activity?

Aiyven and Kirsten: Yes! People online, family, friends and others have supported us so much! We’re so grateful. We have 3000 followers on our Facebook page, nearly 1000 followers on our Instagram page (@mbawabooks) and 250 subscribers on YouTube (Mbawa Book Reviewers)

Ramses Wato : Why do you think it is important for children to develop a love of reading?

Aiyven and Kirsten: Reading is so fundamental and it's even better when it starts from childhood. We remember being read bedtime stories by mum and dad and having the feeling of travelling and visiting exciting distant lands from the comfort of our bedroom. It widens the mind, improves vocabulary and really helps with being able to apply one’s self to school work.

Ramses Wato : How has the pandemic of coronavirus affected your school and writing activities?

Aiyven and Kirsten: The pandemic hasn’t really affected our writing as we were at home most of the time where we do our work. In fact, in some ways, the pandemic actually helped us with our writing! We managed to take part in a creative writing course which gave us many useful writing tips! However, we weren’t so lucky with school. Our schools were completely shut down for a good 3 to 4 months! It went so quick! Aiyven was not too happy about not having school as she missed all her friends and teachers, but Kirsten was ecstatic! She was very upset when the lockdown was over!

Ramses Wato : What are your hopes and dreams for the future?

Aiyven: I would love to be an English teacher as well as an author when I grow up but let's watch this space and see what the future holds.

Kirsten: As well as an author, I want to be the first black female Prime Minister of the UK!

Ramses Wato : What is the best thing about being a writer?

Aiyven: The fact that you get to make a world of your own. You are the creator, the designer, you’re the one who makes the world.

Kirsten: The best thing about being a writer is the writing process. The first draft. The feeling of throwing down all your ideas onto a word doc, anything that comes to mind, emptying your mind. We really love that feeling!

Ramses Wato : What are you girls working on next?

Aiyven and Kirsten : The next venture for Mbawa Books is the launch of our Middle-grade & Preteen (8-12) Book Subscription Box in October. Each box will contain 2-3 curated epic reads, 2 new short stories by us, signed author swag where possible and lifestyle items. We will have a fantastic community in our new Facebook Group where our subscribers will meet the authors during monthly Facebook Lives and also take part in activities, workshops in the group. Those interested can register their interest at www.mbawabooks.co.uk/subscription-box

Ramses Wato : And finally, do you have any advice or tips for writers?

Aiyven: I would say, write. No matter what age just try to find time to write. Even if it is just a few sentences a day, get yourself to write and write especially what you feel, that will make it easier to connect to what you need to say. Writing a few sentences a day will train you into the habit of sitting down at your paper, laptop, computer or any other writing device. Because, trust us, your writing spot soon becomes your second home.

Kirsten: Our tips for you are read, read and read! The more you read the more your vocabulary will grow and that’ll be great for any upcoming books you’re writing. If we didn’t start reading from a young age I don’t think we would be able to have written books at 11 and 12. Reading also develops your brain so make sure you do a lot of it!

Ramses Wato : Thank you Aiyven and Kirsten for the opportunity and your time. We wish you all the best in your endeavours.

Aiyven and Kirsten : Thank you so much for having us! It was a pleasure answering these wonderful questions, we appreciate everything. Thank you again!


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