Womandla: Hlomu queen speak about her books

By Ntombi Nkosi
Pics By Seipati Langa

Arriving at the Centurion home of internationally acclaimed author, journalist and entrepreneur, Dudu Busani-Dube, the Ignited Woman crew cannot help but feel welcome.

Immediately she makes refreshments available and the pre-ordered lunch arrives.

This is going to be a much longer afternoon than anyone anticipated it looks.

The calm Busani-Dube is the author and self-publisher of four books titled Hlomu The Wife, Zandile The Resolute, Naledi His Love and Zulu Wedding, which is based on a film production with the same name.

It is the runaway success of these four books that has brought us to her door step. Interestingly her life story also tells like a book.

Love for books

After attending a Catholic primary schools where she was once slapped by a nun in Standard 4 (grade six) for reading a book during bible scripture class, Busani-Dube had to adjust to a new kind of education when she started high school in 1994 at Vukuzakhe high school.

This was a boarding school where the principal walked around with a sjambok and with it beat the sense out of any learner who misbehaved.

“I don’t know if I had always been an introvert but I know that my early teens was when I got to understand my personality,” Busani-Dube said.

Her love for reading dates as far back as she can remember, if she found a book, she would read it.

“It was in high school where I really started burying myself in books. There was a library at my school and it had those Sweet Valley High and Nancy Drew books, that’s what I read. I was also going through a lot of stages and books kind of helped me escape,” She says.

It was her English teacher teacher Miss Fulela who discovered her writing talent and encouraged her to focus on it.

Busani-Dube recalls the book ‘To Kill A Man’s Pride’ which is a collection of short stories from the Drum era with writers including Nat Nakasa and Can Themba.

“I don’t know how many times I read those stories. There was something about how descriptive the writers were, most of them were journalists. I felt like they were able to capture everything about the era they lived in by just writing those stories and using the language they spoke at that time. They were my favourite writers,” said Busani-Dube.

The author studied journalism at ML Sultan Technikon, before it became Durban University of Technology (DUT).

Immediately after completing her final year she joined Independent Newspapers KZN as an intern.

A year later she moved to Johannesburg.

“I had friends who were already there so I arrived at Park Station in March 2005 with a suitcase and a blanket, straight to my friend’s bachelor flat in Hillbrow, CBD with no job. I was hired by Sowetan a couple of weeks later,” she says.

Since then she has worked for Sunday World, Isolezwe, and finally The New Age which was liquidated in 2018.  

Inspiration to pen books

Even though she gets the question a lot, she cannot really point out a specific inspiration of motivation to write her first book, Hlomu The Wife, she says.

“I was always going to write a book it was just a matter of when. So in 2014 I started and that was it. My characters are people we all know, people in our families and places most of us have been to, so I guess it is safe to say that my stories are inspired by everyday life except for the wealth and private jets and unconditional love that is there.

“When I wrote and finished Hlomu The Wife, I had no plan at all, I thought about getting a publisher but decided against it and eventually I opted to blog the first few chapters of the book to see if people were going to like it. Three of my friends had already read it and the feedback was good, but they are my friends,” said Busani-Dube.

In December 2014, she created a Wordbpress blog, where she asked a few people to check it out and tell their friends about it and the next morning she says it was crazy.

“I stopped blogging when I was left with 10 chapters and decided to sell a PDF copy.

“The money I made from selling the PDF I used to print the book and my second book, titled Zandile The Resolute. It was important to me how the books looked so I got a professional graphic designer to do my covers and I invested in good printing paper,” she said.

The business of books

Busani-Dube says putting the book together was doable, but then she had to sell it and the demand was huge.

“Book-stores would not take my books, they were not prepared to work with self-publishers at that time so I had to find other ways.

“I sold the books from the boot of my car and I remember sometimes I’d have to drive long distances just to deliver the books. I once drove to Witbank in Mpumalanga with my friend just to deliver eight books I think. I knew it did not make financial sense but for me to succeed I had to make some sacrifices because everyone I met to hand a book, I’d take pictures with and they’d post them on social media, which generated a lot of interest and brought me more customers,” said Busani-Dube.

She says she was also lucky because everyone was supportive, from her family to colleagues and even strangers.

Her former boss would sometimes meet up with people who lived around his area to give them the books.

“I did a lot of pop-up sales too until eventually bookstores started calling,” she said.

Busani-Dube said that she would not really encourage people to self-publish, especially if they are not patient and do not have the means to raise the funds required for it.

“My biggest challenge was distribution, particularly because my books were in demand and I couldn’t meet it,” said Busani-Dube.

Blacks are reading again

She dismissed the perception that black people do not read.

“I think it’s not that black people don’t want to read, I think that most of the time they are not aware of the content that is available to them. Truth is, the book market is dominated by well marketed foreign books and this is not the time to be selling European content to Africans, we are not interested in that anymore. Local books need to be marketed better and they need to be marketed to black people, just like it’s done with Afrikaans literature.

“I must say though that, so much has changed in the past few years, reading is cool again,” she said.

Book four

Following the success of the Hlomu series, scores of readers are asking themselves, when Busani-Dube will be releasing book four.

“The fourth book looks into the Zulu brothers’ history and where they came from and why they turned out the way they are. There is a lot of darkness in it and them trying to fix themselves. It also goes back to Hlomu and Mqhele’s story and ties some loose ends here and there,” said Busani-Dube.

Making mistakes

She says she has fallen and gotten herself up a few times.

“I have made mistakes too and I learned from them. The best advice I can give is, ask for help, for things that you are not good at, get someone who is and work with them,” said Busani-Dube.

She said that she can stay indoors and not leave her house for three full days.

“I do that sometimes, especially when I’m writing. But lately I go to gym and I made that decision only because I wanted to structure my days. I’m at gym at 9am for an hour and after that it’s either I’m at some meeting, running errands of working in my home office.

“I also travel to and from KwaZulu-Natal a lot because my husband and my family live there,” said Busani-Dube.

Her hobbies includes reading and television

“People get shocked when I tell them how much I love shallow TV. I was in the news profession for 14 years and it was hard news, when I get home I avoid anything hard and depressing, I watch the Kardashians and the Real Housewives of everywhere in the world?”

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