Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
Kenya was a wonderful place to grow up, and I was also privileged to bring up my family there. I loved the wide open spaces, the friendly people, and most of all the freedom. My novel, Breath of Africa was written as a catharsis, when we moved from Kenya to retire in the UK in 2001. Sitting at my desk, facing a myriad of wires that crossed the street, and overlooked by close packed houses, I re-lived my experiences in the country I still call my home.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
It was a children’s story, The Secret Voice that came to Sammy’s Aid, about an African boy who had lost his new shoes. The East African Standard newspaper published it in February, 1967, and paid me less than a dollar in today’s terms.
Is there a key person or group that has inspired you in the process of writing?
The Authonomy peer review website, set up by Harper Collins played a major part in the development of Breath of Africa. I made many friends on this site, and received valuable advice and support in the book’s journey to Gold Medal status.
Did you do much research for your book, and is there anything surprising that you discovered?
The amount of research involved was surprising. First, I delved into past correspondence between myself and my first husband while I was at Oxford. Then I read and re-read autobiographies and accounts from both sides of the African/colonial spectrum. It is amazing how perceptions and opinions about an event can differ. What is truth?
What do your fans mean to you?
I am learning how uplifting it is to receive a message from people on the other side of the world whom I had forgotten I’d ever known, saying how much they enjoyed my book. Nearer home, the book has led to meeting up with people in the UK I havent seen for forty years or more. And receiving a review, especially from someone who has lived in Kenya is special. Once you’ve been to Africa, you will always want to return, and reading the descriptions in my book has brought back the nostalgia for many. I was particularly gratified by one fan who stated that the book was a great read, even if you have never set foot in Africa. And being compared with Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing by two separate reviewers sent me into seventh heaven.
What type of readership would your book appeal to?
Breath of Africa will mean different things to different people. Those with former connections to Africa can indulge in nostalgia and recall the beauty which surrounded them. Travellers can get a taste of what’s in store, and it would be a good read on safari. Historians can learn how the end of empire impacted on ordinary people of different races. Christian faith clashes with superstition. And no book should be without a touch of romance, tragedy, and suspense.
What are you working on next?
I am writing a novella called I Don’t Want to be Here, a story that must be told, although it is not my true story, as I feel freer when expressing myself in fictional form. It describes what happens to a happily married couple when one of them falls very ill with cancer, dramatically changing their lives.
Describe the role books have played in your life
The only time I did not have a recreational book to hand was when I did a distance education Business degree, and even then, I was reading study books. Books and the worlds they have opened up to my imagination have had an enormous impact on my life, and how I regard it. I cannot imagine anyone growing their lives without this amazing way of finding knowledge, understanding and a semblance of wisdom. In this day and age, one cannot afford the time to reinvent the wheel. To my mind, the written word is the most prolific way to learn in depth from the experiences of others.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
When I’m not doing all the other things I seem to have become involved in since my family left the nest, I turn to writing. My profession is a business adviser and mentor, and I still enjoy doing that on a voluntary basis twice a week. I judge dressage 4-5 times a month, which takes me into some fabulous English country estates in the south, and keeps me in touch with horses, which are my passion. I enjoy travelling, and have been round the world in ten months, buying a bird book in practically every country I visited. Bridge exercises my mind, and choral singing exercises my voice
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