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frequently asked questions

 

Is The Association of Foreign Spouses based on people you know?

No, not really. I was interested in my mother's experience as a foreign woman coming to live in Ghana at a time when the country was very unstable and there were shortages all the time. But the book isn't based on her experience: all the characters in the book are made up and they each have their own stories to tell.

There is a military coup in the book. Is this based on your own experience? Were you there, in Ghana, during a coup?

Yes, indeed. When I was a little girl growing up in Ghana there were a number of coups. I remember feeling very anxious for a while, though otherwise, my childhood felt very happy.

What inspired you to write Cloth Girl?

The story in Cloth Girl is woven around a few facts that I know to be true about my paternal grandparents. My grandfather first saw my grandmother, Matilda, in her school uniform and sent for her parents. My grandfather did study law at Cambridge University and he did have two wives and lots of racehorses. I began to wonder what sort of marriage could possibly come out of a meeting like theirs. I didn't know my grandfather, and my grandmother died when I was very young. The characters in the book are completely fictional. In order to ensure the authenticity of the fiction, I didn't do any research whatsoever into the lives of my grandparents.

Why is the book called Cloth Girl?

The traditional dress of women in Ghana is often referred to as a cloth, for instance, women put on their Sunday cloth to go to church. Towards the end of the colonial era, the more sophisticated women who preferred to dress like the English were called "Frock Girls". They derisorily referred to women who, like Matilda, preferred to dress in traditional clothes as "Cloth Girls".

Are you writing another book?

Yes, of course! I have had an idea for a third book for some time and now I have started writing and the book is beginning to take shape. I hope it won't take as long as Association and that I'll have it finished within a few months.

Did you always want to be a writer?

When I was a teenager, I thought it might be nice to write books, although I had no real idea of what that might entail. I started writing a book when I was about thirteen, but abandoned it shortly after. The idea of writing books didn't ever completely leave me, and through my twenties, I toyed with the idea, but never did anything about it.

What tips do you have for aspiring authors?

The only tip that I could give anyone who wants to write is to do it.

Which authors inspire you?

Rohinton Mistry, Vikram Seth, J. M. Coetzee, Anne Tyler and Carol Shields.

What is your favourite book?

'A Fine Balance' by Rohinton Mistry. I am in awe of his ability. I admire the fact that there aren't any superfluous words in his writing, and yet at the same time he is able to pack the story with incredible, specific detail. I laughed and cried when I read this book, and then I cried some more.

I have written a book – will you read it please?

No. I am in competition with you and you mustn’t share your ideas with me! For advice on how to find an agent and publisher, see The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook and the book From Pitch to Publication by Carole Blake (ISBN 333714350).