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One-on-one with writer Farrah Bhaijee

Tuesday, January 18th, 2022 04:00 | By
Farrah Bhaijee.

Farrah Bhaijee aka Nanu is the founder of Kahawa Mombasani, a Mombasa based blog that shares her journey in handling a full-time job while building a media empire. Aside from her young adult novels, she recently released a new book titled Chomz, that brings light to the magical stories of the Coast that have for years been ignored as gossip. She chats with Jasmine Atieno

Where did you get the name Nanu come from?

Nanu was my childhood name. It was cemented by the way most of my stories depict my childhood and the lifestyle that I grew up in; the things that I used to like, my then beliefs, fantasies, and mysteries.

What was the inspiration behind your latest book?

I’d say Goosebumps (a series of children’s horror fiction novels by American author RL Stine) was a thriller for me. I loved the light-hearted horror in them.

My book holds the same kind of feeling, but now intertwined in Mombasa. It wasn’t intentional at all, but it definitely fell in place as my characters have similar type of courage.

Take us through the journey of how Chomz came to be. 

Chomz started out as a ‘Hekaya’ challenge in January 2021. So, my roommate and I challenged each other to write 6,000-word stories about a goat in an old town.

And that became the very birth of the book. It wasn’t my first story to write, but the courage to take the full road is something I lacked all this while.

So, I had a pact with myself that I wanted to accomplish something before I turned 30. So, I gave the book my best shot as a birthday gift to myself.

I got the inspiration from walking around Mombasa, talking to people who knew all the hot umbea (gossip) about the mysterious stories of Mombasa. And yes, the rest is history.

What is your target audience with this new book?

It is targetted at from ages13 to 35. Mostly people who love fantasy stories. I bring a new voice and style to what they are normally used to, especially with the heavy use of coastal slang.

This is because I wanted to create a read that I myself could easily relate with and find exciting rather than the usually old way of doing things.

I am targeting the people both in the East African community and diaspora. 

Should we expect a series of Mombaaz Umbea Mtaani?

Yes! I have a release coming out in December this year—a young adults’ read. Same island, same concept.

At the same time there is always a lot of short stories on my website that I update every two weeks. So, you can look out for those ones too.

How do you manage to seamlessly juggle between writing and pursuing a full-time job?

If you really love something, you will find a way. It was hard in the beginning, but I have learnt good time management. It is all about balance; taking the time to reflect around things.

Another important thing is having a supportive team around me. Success is not easy unless you have a supportive team. So far, it’s working out just right.

What’s the future of the Mombaaz series?

I am going full force! In 10 years’ time, there is no one who will not have known about ‘Umbea mtaani’ and this small beautiful island.

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