So fiction and non fiction writing, which is more challenging?
Interesting question. I guess it depends on what one does. For what I do I believe fiction is more difficult. In non-fiction you start from somewhere. You can go to the library or Google or talk to other researchers. In fiction who are you going to talk to? The story is entirely your idea even if it emanates from non-fictional situations.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Currently I teach in a pretty popular school in Ghana, and as you might have guessed this kind of vocation requires good preparation before class and publishable research work. Effective teaching requires more time outside than inside the classroom. So when I am not daydreaming about the plans and riddles of the next novel I am very busy doing what pays the bills
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I did some growing up in northern Ghana precisely in the city of Tamale. Part of the book is about my memories in that city. At that age a child is at his adventurous best, and some of this is captured in the book although along fictional lines. The 2 main protagonists are modeled on real life characters though, but they are entirely fictional. My dad was a teacher and that meant I did move around a good bit.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
My Early Life by Winston Churchill had a good impact on me. Churchill had great command of the English language and it showed. The story was about his childhood so his problems and troubles resonated with me. For example when he was asked to decline "table" in Latin, he found it ridiculous to do that because as he rightly said he didn't speak to tables so why was he being made to do that in Latin? I wasn't great in Latin because I realized it wasn't a language i could use or speak even though it was supposed to help in English and other European languages. I wasn't wrong because Latin has died, so to speak.
When did you first start writing?
In Secondary school I was a member of many clubs and societies among which was the Creative Writers Club. In Ghana schools there is a lot of "English composition work"; which means one is exposed to writing pretty early. Secondary schools have great influence in this sphere because many of the literature books are chosen to make easy reading. That I believe make the students fantasize about writing their own stories.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Generally the story is about the frustrations of primary school kids in countries whose mother tongue is not English and how they struggle with the nuances of the language.The stories are mostly true but the characters who acted them up are an amalgam of many people. Nanka one of the main actors of the novel was patterned after many characters.The story is also very Ghanaian in the sense that many of the scenes can be easily replicated.
What are you working on next?
The book is a trilogy. The next one is thus a sequel to this one and is aptly named "Secondary School life". In Ghana the bigger part of life is centered around secondary school. In the US for example it is clearly one's college days where all the action is. In fact most athletes quit sports when the transition to college, which is the opposite in the US. Inter-Collegiate sports popularly called "INTERCO" or "INTAKO" is the highlight on the calendar. There is a good dose of it in the book. I must add that most secondary schools in Ghana operate boarding houses, so the book is really about boarding house experiences. Most student behaviors are learned and fashioned in boarding school. Bad habits such as cigarette smoking or alcohol drinking are all learned in boarding school.
Who are your favorite authors?
Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka are certainly in my top 5. Chinua's "Things fall Apart" is a must read for every student in high school in Nigeria and Ghana and perhaps beyond. I have favorite books. For example the Iliad by Homer and "My Early Life" by Winston Churchill are evergreens in my life. Winston Churchill's exasperation with Latin is one I can relate to.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Good writing is like painting. It is a joy when a story comes to life. It is pure art. However writing is difficult because of periods of drought aptly termed "writers block". When there is minimal blocks then writing can be joyful The greatest joy is when it is done and you can sense that this is it..
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