Lit eZine Vol 2 | p-4 | AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT | Interview with Khaya Ronkainen

We bring to you our featured writer Khaya Ronkainen
with and an excerpt from her poetry book:
and her short story:
AN INTERVIEW with Khaya Ronkainen


TALKING TO Khaya Ronkainen

How and when did your love for writing begin? What part of being a writer do you love the most?

Khaya, feeding an elephant in Plett, South Africa.
Khaya Ronkainen, feeding an elephant in Plett, South Africa.

First, thank you for granting me this opportunity to talk about my work. To answer the first question, my love for writing began when my family moved from the city to the countryside. I was eight years old at the time. A combination of culture shock, fascination and boredom led to my letter-writing exercise.

Even at that young age, I felt compelled to share my world. So, writing letters to my older siblings who were at different boarding schools and cousins living in the city was one of my favourite past-times. Despite growing up surrounded by storytellers and literature, I had never thought one day I would pursue writing both as a vocation and career.

The part I love most about being a writer is the act of creating itself. The imagining and the investigating of a fleeting idea, and seeing it take shape on the page. The surprising and satisfying result, where readers can see themselves or their experiences reflected in. All this gives me the greatest joy.

You are a South African-Finnish writer. Do your roots and your present settings reflect in your writing?

In a big way and all the time. As my author bio indicates, as an immigrant, I’m often examining the duality of my life. There is so much to explore just from my upbringing alone, which was both in urban and rural South Africa. But my move from Africa to Europe, later in life, brought about a whole new way of seeing.

I call these my diluted life experiences, and they inform my writing. For instance, the poem “A Friend Asks How My Family is Doing” in my latest collection, The Sheltering, illustrates this intersection and contradiction clearly.

A part of the reason for writing your poems about current events is to make people aware of how they really affect us. Do you think we writers are doing our part or do we need to play a bigger role in building and transforming the future of our troubled world?

A part of the reason for writing poems about current events is to encourage people to acknowledge what went down, the loss and pain, instead of avoiding. Because it’s difficult to heal, if we can’t say: This hurts. I don’t know how to deal with it. I need help.

I believe the act of sucking it up doesn’t help anyone. Rather, the act of peeling the bandage and cleaning the wound brings us not only closer to healing but for others to see that they are not alone in their pain. There’s comfort in that. Regarding us writers playing a bigger role in building and transforming the future of our troubled world, I believe we are already pledging. Our biggest contribution is liberating the mind and touching the heart through the stories we tell. We can only hope these stories, in whatever form, motivate the reader to imagine and take action towards their envisioned future.

You have put your heart and soul into your personal poems. Which poem in your book “The Sheltering” is the closest to your heart?

Most poems in this book are close to my heart, but more especially those in sections  2, 3 and 4. Because they were written in the moment and about personal traumatic events. Hence, they are very raw. I was in a dark place. Even the natural world I often write about from a place of awe and beauty serves as a lifeline, a means of surviving the chaos.

How did the name of the book “The Sheltering” come about?

In writing and putting together this collection, I was building a refuge with words. If we think about architecture, we can also think about the art and technique of building a shelter that shields us from harsh weather. Like any other architecture, e.g. South        African architecture, Finnish architecture and so on, ‘The Sheltering’ takes into consideration a specific period, place and even culture.

So, the title came from the art of sheltering in place, and which one book reviewer sums up pretty well. “The title ‘The Sheltering’ felt appropriate, suggesting both the act of isolating and retreating, but also as a means of self-care and contemplation.”

Khaya, midsummer hiking in Finland.
Khaya Ronkainen- Midsummer hiking in Finland

You love travelling. What pulls you towards a particular destination? Is there a book in the pipeline based on your travels?

People, culture, food and landscape all pull me towards a particular destination. I believe this is called Experiential Travel, nowadays. One gains unique experiences from immersing themselves in a local culture, instead of staying at five-star hotels and only visiting tourists attraction.

Funny you should ask, travel writing as in travel memoir is something I’ve been considering a lot lately. However, there is another story in my heart I’ve been trying to tell for many years now. So, I’m prioritising that novel this year, and possibly a short story collection. Fortunately, both the novel and collection have a strong sense of place. Hopefully, that will appease my travel itch.

You wear many hats, none being any less than the other. I would say you are a wonderful role model for the woman of today. What message would you give to your readers, especially women?

Thank you, I’m humbled and honoured you feel that way. Being seen as a role model is something that makes me proud of who I am, but it also scares me. But to answer question, there are so many opinions, expectations and advice out there about how to be in the world, especially for women. While some advice can be helpful, other can be downright patronising and, sadly, often from other women. So, I’d say, Do You! Show up in your life, relationships, profession or business as yourself, and serve the world in the way you were meant to.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Khaya. It was wonderful talking to you!

Profile Picture Khaya Ronkainen

Connect with Khaya on her website

Connect with Khaya on Instagram


Khaya Ronkainen is a writer of poetry and prose. Her work is largely influenced by nature, often examines the duality of an immigrant’s life and lately also explores themes of ageing and women’s health.

She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Seasons Defined (2018) and From the Depth of Darkness (2019), as well as full-length collection The Sheltering (2022). Some of her work has been anthologized and published in various international literary journals.

Khaya enjoys a dual South African and Finnish citizenship, and currently lives in Finland with her husband.

You can find more of her work on her website or connect with her on Instagram @khaya.ronkainen.

Please don't forget to support the writer.

Please don’t forget
to support the writer!

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