I have heard it said that we all have a book inside us, just waiting to get out. And a colleague at Eastbourne’s own charity ‘People Matter’ has proved that to be the case.
A few weeks ago, Jane Bwye published her first novel ‘Breath of Africa’.
She describes herself as a retired businesswoman and intermittent freelance journalist who lived over half a century in Kenya.
“The recent elections there took place without much-feared violence and reprisals, and the country moves on in hope.
“This hope is epitomised in the book, which traces the stories of Caroline, a privileged woman from the highlands, and Charles Onidek, a farm labourer with dreams of Oxford.
“A drama of psychological terror is fuelled by Mau Mau oath administrator, Mwangi; however, against the backdrop of Kenya’s beautiful but hostile desert, the curse is finally broken.”
I found myself envying Jane, as I have often thought that I should put pen to paper in this way, but so far have always given into procrastination!
Just in case I ever get around to it, I wanted some ideas from her.
What prompted you to write the book?:
“Robert Ruark’s Uhuru and Nicholas Monsarrat’s Tribe books made a deep impression on me as a young woman, although I could only read them once.
QI believed I lived in a beautiful, ideal world. Surely they’d got it wrong? Africa couldn’t possibly be as violently ugly as they described it. Why was everybody so negative about it?
“Monsarrat is one of my favourite authors, and I have read every word he’s written. I wrote to him on the pretext that there were four pages missing from my copy of his autobiography, expressing my belief that, contrary to what the Tribe books implied, there was hope in Africa, and a better future in store. Was he perhaps thinking of writing such a book? If not, I might be tempted.
“After his death I received a letter from his widow saying that Nicholas had indeed intended to write such a novel, and she wished me luck for the task ahead of me.
“Breath of Africa was conceived on the basis of that hope.”
How much of an effort was it?:
“I researched as I went along, and thoroughly enjoyed writing the initial draft. It was the editing which took the time and effort. Once I mastered the difference between a story and a plot, and learned to leave cunning hooks to draw the reader on, the book developed a mind of its own. But the whole exercise took forty years from conception to completion – admittedly with a gap of thirty years while my large family demanded attention. So, yes, it was a massive effort of perseverance.”
How easy was it to get published?:
“It wasn’t easy at all. After 72 rejections over a period of four years, I was ready to throw in the towel and seriously consider self-publishing. But when the book received Gold Medal status on the Harper Collins peer review website Authonomy this time last year, suddenly not one, but two, publishers expressed an interest! I am very happy with Crooked Cat!”
Will you do more writing?:
“A writer never stops! There is one completely different book I am working on, before I tackle the sequel to BREATH OF AFRICA.”
So there it is. It’s up to me now, if I am going to achieve my ambition ...
PS: As ITV broadcast the Olivier Awards on Sunday April 28, what better opportunity to encourage your church and friends to pray for the world of the arts and entertainment?
Christians in Entertainment, The Arts Centre Group and Artisan are partners in this nationwide day of prayer for the performing arts.
For more information, go to the Christians in Entertainment website.