Mpilo reflects on her new book ‘The Viper’

Mpilo reflects on her new book ‘The Viper’

Asher Mpilo, a multi-talented artist, is known for her incredible performances as an actress, singer/rapper, and her passion for writing captivating screenplays and novels.

After graduating from the Zimbabwe Theatre Academy, she further honed her craft at the Dell’arte International School of Physical Theatre in California. Asher’s journey in the world of theatre led her to collaborate with the Hinterlands Theatre Company and perform various pieces, including clowning, in California. She also showcased her poetic and theatrical skills in a piece at the Room Project in Detroit.

Not only is Asher a powerhouse on stage and in writing, but she has also ventured into the music world, working on projects with German artists during their residency in Detroit. Her creativity knows no bounds, as she even had one of her screenplays filmed in Kenya, Africa. Recently, Asher added “published author” to her list of accomplishments with her romance-gangster love fiction novel, “The Viper,” available on Amazon.

But Asher’s artistic journey doesn’t stop there. She is also passionate about giving back and has volunteered with the Zimbabwe Cultural Centre in Detroit. Lately, she has been sharing her knowledge and teaching Shona language classes to American artists and American-born Zimbabweans, bridging cultures through her art.

Journalist Shingirai Manyengavana (SM) had the privilege to have a one-on-one interview with Asher Mpilo (AM), reflecting on Asher Mpilo’s new book ‘The Viper’ which was published earlier this year.

Q/SM: What’s something most people don’t know about you?

A/AM: What most people don’t know about me is that I actually started as a writer before diving into physical theatre acting. The Viper isn’t my first book; it’s actually my 50th! Additionally, I’m a deeply empathetic person. Many folks here don’t know that English is not my first language; and it’s actually my third. I also believe in reincarnation and have a strong belief that I once existed in Jamaica long ago.

Q/SM: How do you balance writing with other aspects of your life?

A/AM: I find it pretty easy to balance writing with other parts of my life. Since I’m an independent author without any publishing company deadlines, I have the freedom to write on my own time without feeling pressured. When I’m working on a book, I dedicate two hours every day from Monday to Friday to ensure I make progress while still managing other commitments. This routine helps me maintain a good balance between my writing and other aspects of life.

Q/SM: What inspired you to become a writer, and what keeps you passionate about it?

A/AM: My inspiration for becoming a writer comes from my love for reading and the desire to share my imaginative world with others. The joy of entertaining, communicating ideas, and connecting with readers on an emotional level keeps the passion alive. Knowing that I am positively impacting lives, bringing happiness, and fulfilling my purpose fuels my dedication to writing. The support and engagement from my WhatsApp fan base play a significant role in keeping my passion burning brightly.

Q/SM: What’s the most vulnerable moment you share in “The Viper”, and why did you choose to include it?

A/AM: So, the most vulnerable moment in my novel was from the climax to the end. It wasn’t just about my imagination; but deeply personal. The character was basically me. I poured my own feelings and experiences into that situation because it was all about mirroring my life. It was a must to include those vulnerable moments to convey the true essence of the book. And it also allowed me to express authentic feelings.

Q/SM: How does your own life relate to the themes of the book, such as resilience, hope, or perseverance?

A/AM: My life intertwines with the themes of hope, perseverance, and resilience in the book. Just like the character, I’ve faced challenges that required me to hold onto hope, push through with perseverance, and show resilience in tough times.

Q/SM: What’s the significance of the title “The Viper”, and how does it tie into the narrative?

A/AM: So, The Viper title is all about Shaquan Tate, the main character known as Viper in the gangster world. He’s cold and ruthless, just like a real viper. The title ties into the narrative as it reflects the dangerous, treacherous and poisonous world of gangsters, full of betrayal and risks to you and your loved ones

Q/SM: What’s your favorite part about being an author, and what’s the most challenging aspect?

A/AM: The best part of being an author is bringing my own experiences and emotions to life through storytelling. However, the challenging aspect is balancing vulnerability with the need to create a compelling narrative.

Q/SM: How has your life changed since publishing “The Viper”, and what have you learned from the experience?

A/AM: Since publishing The Viper, not much has changed for me except gaining the title of a published author. I released the book just last month in May, and I’m still working on promoting it as an independent author. It’s tough to market the book solo and become a best-selling author, but I’ve realized that believing in myself and taking the leap is crucial. Publishing a book isn’t as daunting as I initially thought; it’s all about having faith in yourself and going for it without waiting for a publishing deal.

Q/SM: What’s one thing you wish readers would take away from your story?

A/AM: One thing I’d want readers to take from my book The Viper is the power of love to transform individuals and overcome obstacles. Despite their initial animosity, Strawberry and Shaquan’s love story shows how love can change people for the better, even in challenging circumstances like prison. It’s a reminder that love has the strength to bring out the best in us and lead to unexpected growth and happiness.

Q/SM: How do you handle criticism or negative feedback on your work?

A/AM: When it comes to handling criticism and negative feedback on my work, I try to view it as an opportunity for growth and improvement. I take the feedback constructively, analyse it to see if there are valid points to consider, and use it to refine my skills and storytelling in future projects. It’s all about turning criticism into a stepping stone for progress and betterment.

Q/SM: What’s something you’re proud of accomplishing, either personally or professionally?

A/AM: One thing I’m really proud of accomplishing is becoming a published author. It’s a significant milestone for me, and I feel a great sense of achievement having my work out there for others to read and enjoy. Additionally, I’m proud of how I navigated through experiences that were reflected in The Viper, showing resilience and growth along the way. It’s all about embracing those personal victories and using them as fuel for future endeavours.

Q/SM: How do you prioritize self-care and mental health as a writer?

A/AM: Prioritizing self-care and mental health as a writer is crucial for maintaining creativity and overall well-being. I make sure to schedule regular breaks during writing sessions, practice mindfulness techniques like meditation, and engage in activities that help me relax and recharge, such as reading, karaoke, or spending time in nature. Taking care of my mental health allows me to approach my writing with a clear mind and renewed energy, ultimately enhancing the quality of my work.

Q/SM: What’s your favourite way to spend a day off, and how do you relax?

A/AM: My favourite way to spend a day off and relax is by chilling with friends, going canoeing, and having a blast at karaoke. To unwind, I love kicking back with a bottle of Smirnoff Ice while watching movies. It’s the perfect combo of fun and relaxation for me.

Q/SM: What’s the best advice you’ve received, and who gave it to you?

A/AM: The best advice I’ve received is to always stay true to myself and never compromise my values. This wisdom came from someone so close to me, who has always encouraged me to be authentic and stand firm in my beliefs. It’s a reminder that has guided me through various situations and decisions in life.

Q/SM: What’s next for you as an author, and are you working on any new projects that excite you?

A/AM: I’m thrilled about my upcoming projects! I’m diving into a new short thriller movie, aiming to captivate the audience with suspense and surprise once again. It has been a while since my last movie was filmed in Kenya. While working on my next short thriller movie I am also crafting “Lost Sanity,” my next book, fans are also clamouring for The Viper Sequel. It’s an exciting juggle of creative endeavours!

Shingirai Manyengavana

Shingirai Manyengavana is a versatile freelance journalist based in Zimbabwe, passionate about amplifying underrepresented voices and leveraging journalism as a tool for social change.

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