Kgshak Akec is a writer, poet, storyteller and a lover of words. Since the moment she learned how to write in English at the age of six, Kgshak has been writing out the stories that live inside her mind. Fascinated by human experience, the untold words and unsung songs of the day to day, as an early-career writer, Kgshak finds herself drawn to stories that challenge perception and go against the grain of the typical while also being grounded in truth. Kgshak’s deep love of stories and world-building is existential.
“To fall into the pages of a book and emerge into an entirely new world is more than just escapism, it’s magic. To write is not only my passion, it’s my power.”
Hopeless Kingdom is her first manuscript but only the earliest work in her long line of stories.
What motivated you to write Hopeless Kingdom?
I draw so much inspiration from the day-to-day, the people I talk to, the places I travel, the songs I listen to. I initially had the idea for Hopeless Kingdom when I was about twenty – which was five years ago now and, in that time, I let the story grow in my mind and the world build until I felt like I was ready to write it out from start to finish. My greatest motivation was to tell the story from the heart and one that rang true, so that any young Black girl or boy who read it saw themselves in those pages.
What was it like to win the 2021 Dorothy Hewett Award for an Unpublished Manuscript?
I didn’t know what to do with myself for a few weeks, I was in total and utter disbelief and there are still times now, over twelve months later where I’m suspended in that disbelief. It is something that I am so incredibly proud of and still so deeply honoured to be named a winner of an award named after one the greats in Australian literature. It’s a recognition that I know will continue to propel me forward in the future.
Which writers have inspired you throughout your life?
I’ve loved reading and world building ever since I learned how. Some of the writers that shaped my younger years are Roald Dahl, E.B. White, C.S. Lewis, Beatrix Potter, Anna and Barbara Fienberg, Arnold Lobel, and JK Rowling. In my later years I’ve been moved by works from Toni Morrison, Patrick Ness, Tomi Adeyemi, Trent Dalton, Pip Williams, Erin Morgenstern, Bernadine Evaristo, Mathangi Subramanian, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, and my good friend and remarkable writer Amber Smith.
When did you begin writing?
I’ve been writing stories since I learned how to write letters on a page and understood their meaning – so from about eight years old. It was one of my favourite ways to pass the time, making up characters and building worlds around them. As the years went on, I started writing less stories and more of other things that school, or university required, and it wasn’t until I had free time and space in my adulthood that I fell in love with writing stories and creating worlds all over again.
What is one thing about Hopeless Kingdom which will entice readers?
It’s rare that the African-Australian experience and stories from our communities are told in a way such as Hopeless Kingdom. The book is a vast, yet intimate display of truth, of people and places that will swallow readers into a world where everyone will find traces and echoes of familiarity. The story is carried by characters who are in their own way trying to find themselves in every place travelled.
What is your hope for the future?
I want to keep doing what I’m doing. This opportunity has been extremely significant in opening the doors of possibilities, although this is only very much the beginning of my journey as an author. I’ve got a few ideas for stories to come after the release of Hopeless Kingdom, so I hope to keep my head down and keep at. But above all, I want to keep being inspired by the places I go, the people I get to know and having the space to be able to express that.
What are you planning on writing next?
I’m not totally sure at this point but there are a few works that I’ve dedicated myself to – on and off for the past two years – all in varying degrees of completion. I’ve set my heart and mind to writing more works like Hopeless Kingdom, ones that tell the stories of and represent minorities. But I also plan to venture into the sci-fi/fantasy genre in the not-so-distant future.
What do you like to do when you aren’t writing/reading/working?
I love being out and about, playing team sport when I can and biking around my neighbourhood, I also love to paint, to cook and interior decorating. I also work in a theatre company full-time as a performing artist in the community.
Hopeless Kingdom is available to preorder now!