Fiction writers often have to build realistic and believable characters from mere imagination, and some creatives find that process more challenging than others. However, it’s not every day that you find a male author who walks in a female’s shoes on daily basis – Anathi Nyadu (22) obviously isn’t cut from your regular cloth. Anathi writes about FunDza’s fictional female character Zinzi Zwane and witnesses Zinzi experience all the challenges that young female adults face.

“[FunDza’s Content Editor and author] Zimkhitha Mlanzeli saw something in me and told me she wanted me to write the blog but I declined. In July 2013 I finally gave in and took over the Diary of Zinzi Zwane from her. It wasn’t really hard for me cos I read a lot and thus exposed myself to a lot of female characters and how they lived their lives,” says Anathi.

He adds that their backgrounds were different and that almost created a disconnection between him and Zinzi.

“What challenged me though was the fact that Zinzi grew in a well-off family but the diary begins exactly when they lose all the money. However, her way of looking at life remained the same even though she was no longer privileged. What was hard for me as someone who didn’t grow up in a family that had money was writing about someone who had everything growing up. But her gender was not an issue at all. I began to own the character as time went by.”

Talking about his background, Anathi was born in the Eastern Cape (EC) but currently lives in Kimberley Northern Cape with his sister.

“When I six years old I moved to Kimberley after my mom had just passed on. My father departed just three months after my mother. This might sound brutal but I’d say her passing was a blessing in disguise. Most guys quit school there in Sterkspruit (EC) and we know how poor the education is there, which means I wouldn’t have studied this far if I had stayed there. I wouldn’t have ended up in Kimberley,” he says. He’s currently doing his Honours in Film and Visual Studies at the University of Free State.

Just like most writers, Anathi’s love for the smell of the ink was sparked by a memorable event.

“I can’t really recall when I started writing. In Grade 8 I stole a book from my English teacher, which was far too good – to the extent that another girl later stole it from me! I remember we attended a drama session and our drama teacher spoke to me after our session. He then read me one of his poems. From there onwards, I started writing poems and English short stories. It was the first time I was exposed to African literature. In Grade 12 we did more short stories and so my passion developed.”

Anathi obviously had his plan vividly drawn out because his short stories have been shared widely on FunDza’s online platform, and one of his masterpieces, In My Hands, has now also been featured in the new anthology titled #LoveReading.

“I first encountered FunDza through Mxit, back in the days. Writing the Zinzi Zwane Diary taught me to experiment with the kind of writing I wanted to do. It helped me to read more cos I even started a book review this year. Every Monday I’ve a book that I review.”

Anathi’s writing means a great deal to him – fiction is a world he escapes to when his reality gets unbearably harsh.

“There’s a lot of crime in Kimberley. I even joined a gang at some point in my life. One day we robbed this guy and he reported us. He pointed the other three guys I was with, apart from me. The person he reported us to knew my family so I would’ve been in deep trouble if he had pointed me out as well.”

As someone who’s keenly climbing the ladder of education, he sees education as the only way out of poverty and other social challenges.

“Education opens up your mind and you get to meet different people from all walks of life. You make a lot of contacts, especially at varsity. Gay people were looked up on with disgust but I got exposed to more gays at varsity residences, which made me question why we ever laughed at them as they’re human like us. I got a fresh look at life.”

Anathi puts a full stop to the interview with the four letter word.

“Read! I don’t understand people who don’t read. I learn more about the world and human beings right from fiction. Reading makes you empathetic to other people’s struggles. My advice is one word: Read!”

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“I love books. I love that moment when you open one and sink into it you can escape from the world, into a story that is more interesting than yours will ever be.” Elizabeth Scott