Chwayita Ngamlana tells us what motivated her to write her debut novel If I Stay Right Here. By Fundiswa Nkwanyana
My book is based on an abusive relationship that I was in for two years. I wanted to write about something real and true. From the very beginning, I knew that writing the book would open me up to uncomfortable and emotional moments. The two main characters, Sip and Shay, represent my ex-girlfriend and I.
Writing the book was hard and I cried. However, I decided to keep at it because it was also a way of therapy. I was willing to take the risks no matter how unusual, embarrassing or shameful the content would be perceived. I want people to understand that love, passion and sex all coexist with manipulation and violence, which makes it hard to leave.
I hope that I’ve managed to shed some light on abusive relationships. This is because the subject is often ignored. When I was going through it, I didn’t even know I was being abused. I was constantly trying to figure my partner out, and I tried really hard to make her happy. Abusive relationships are not normal and we should not accept being treated poorly just for the sake of appearing strong. I now know that strength is in leaving, and not staying.
I was expecting a backlash; but, surprisingly, the book is doing really well. Readers love the modern, experimental and innovative way I wrote it. Also, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex community is happy that someone finally wrote something relatable and honest without any fear. I’m also surprised that straight individuals relate to the characters, as well.