What's your best African book this year? Yes, you have to choose one. It can be any genre or category you choose. Fiction or non-fiction. Please do share. I'll tell you mine after you've told me yours. I have a game plan too, to be revealed after your reveal. That's if you play this game with me of course.
I started this blog in April 2011. I'm pinching myself when I see that in less than nine months, "Adura Ojo Presents" has received almost 22,000 hits. Thank you, dear readers. A Happy New Year and all the best of 2012 to you and yours.
This story from the outset is a brilliant idea. To the best of my knowledge, Kiru Taye seems to be exploring avenues that had previously been undiscovered: fictional romance within an African historical context. His Treasure - the first of the Men of Valour series - is a novella set in precolonial Eastern Nigeria, also known as Igboland. It is the story of Adaku and Obinna and the tensions within their marriage that blossom into love. Kiru explores cultural issues underpinning the relationship between Adaku and Obinna that make their eighteen months' marriage what it is.
What I like is that Kiru manages to strike a balance between the unpalatable cultural attitudes towards women in pre-colonial Eastern Nigeria and the wholesomeness of her two main characters. Adaku and Obinna have depth as believable characters. Adaku is as feisty as one would like to see in a culture that treated women like cattle. While I at first found it hard to believe that an African man of that era would wait so long for his wife to submit to him, I could see why Obinna comfortable in his masculinity and virility, would do just that.
Kiru faithfully adheres to most of the features of the novella as a literary form. The story is short and can be read in one sitting. I read it in an hour. Kiru Taye and her publisher know their readers well and perhaps it is with this in mind that it is so written. It is part of a series and this seems to be where fictional romance is heading. The storytelling could benefit frommore description in some detail of the cultural setting. For instance when Adanna is going to the market, the items in her basket are mentioned in passing but not described; so the reader does not know what is in the basket. It is the absence of little details like this that I miss in this thoughtful piece of work.
The sex scenes are hot and tastefully done. Some aspects of those sex scenes have not been portrayed before by an African female romance author. It is great to see an African author bold enough to go there. Blazing new trails in African romance, this is a brave and note-worthy first offering from Kiru Taye. She is definitely an author to watch. I look forward to the rest of the Men of Valour series.
If you’re looking for unique, affordable African-inspired gifts for the festive period, why not stop by the Abuja Arts and Crafts Village this weekend. Cassava Republic Press will be organising a Christmas fair at its new bookshop/gallery at No. 62b in the Arts and Craft Village, opposite the Sheraton Hotel on Saturday, 10th of December from 2- 6 pm.
The fair will boast a bazaar featuring a wide variety of local goods - from pottery to Ankara bags and Batik quilts - for sale. Kids will be treated to an afternoon of storytelling and art tutorials.
In addition, we will be offering a special holiday discount of 10% on selected bundles of our titles. These easily affordable bundles will come wrapped in a trademark Cassava Republic wrapping paper or tied with cheerful Ankara cloth to give them a unique, festive touch.
Attendance for the fair is free and open to the public. It will be a fun day of shopping and exhibitions, showcasing the best of Nigerian talent. Best of all, it’ll be a great chance to check out the Cassava Republic Gallery and Bookshop, our new retail space in the heart of Abuja.
We offer great titles from all over the global south as well as a relaxing place to view paintings and photography from some of the undiscovered gems of Nigerian art. Make sure to come and grab some of our Nigerian and African authored books. We can’t wait to see you there!
Cassava Republic is an Abuja-based independent book publisher. The company publishes high-quality fiction and non-fiction for adults, teens and children and is passionately committed to ensuring that engaging and beautifully made books are made available to the Nigerian market. We are also committed to promoting both a reading and a writing culture in Nigeria and West Africa.
Cassava Republic Press was founded in 2006. We are one of the leading new publishers on the continent. In 2008, the influential design magazine Monocles, named us as one of the brands worldwide to look out for. We have among our authors Orange Prize winners, Commonwealth and Caine Prize winners.
For vendors and businesses interested in a stand, registration is still open. For more information, contact email@example.com or call: 0809 831 3250.
By Folarin Olaniyi of Emotion Press, Nigeria
I was at Ondo recently for my annual vacation. As a bookaholic, one of those places I visited was a bookshop not far from the Oba Osemawe's palace.The shop attendant was less receptive to my gentlemanly greeting. He peered at me and my shopping bag, as if I will steal some of his pencils or one, two, three of his educational books.
' Do you have fiction?'
'Mister man, I no understand wetin you dey say.'
'Oh, I mean do you have novels or plays in your stock?'
'Stock? Is that not a novel, because I no understand stock fiction?'
He pointed his finger to an angle in his medium sized shop. And there I saw a copy of Ngugi's Weep Not, Child. It was pirated. 'How much?' I looked at the first page of the book, and it was inscribed: N200. ' Na N300.' I switched to pidgin, for the first time since the start of this conversation.
'No be N200 you write for the book?'
I handed him a 200 Naira note and demanded for a receipt. He was totally transformed, it was in his shaking voice I firstly discovered this.
'No receipt!' Silence invaded the bookshop. And then I laughed from the depth of my stomach. He joined me in this harvest of laughter. 'You dey fear?' I asked, just back from laughter land.
Our writers write day, noon and night, hopeful that their words will make a way for them. They will survive the hassles of getting the right publisher that would be faithful to the creative art of packaging words. Quite disheartening will it be for them,when discovery will show it that some uneducated rascals are the ones reaping the fruits of their labour. The pirates are people like us. They fart, urinate and even laugh. Only some divides make them pirates. Most of them are uneducated and do not know the great influence writers have on their worlds. Some of them are educated but blinded and therefore turned ignoramus by their greed and desperate thirst for a better living. For the easy-way-out!
The pirates drain our resources. They call us fools. We the lovers of literature. We the future. The pirates turn our books to automated teller machine. They transmogrify our packaged words to bank vaults, which they can manipulate for their monetary gains. And they are the Anini, Osama Bin Laden or Boko Haram of the publishing industry. They know the act of pirating is illegal. And they are aware of the fact that they are literally killing the book industry. Afraid of the sanctions from authorities like Nigerian Copyright Commission? YES. That is why the bookshop attendant could not issue a receipt. We need to ginger the pirate's fear for duplicating our books. Publishers, writers, critics, readers and buyers of books, must resolve to fight piracy. The pirates dread us. They need us to help them catalyze that fear for pirating to inestimable heights. Let us all refuse to buy pirated books and report suspected pirates to the nearest Nigerian Copyright Commission office. The commission should respond quickly to petitions; they should bring their offices closer to lovers and buyers of books. Publishers should DRAG books closer to readers. Publishing outfits should encourage reading as an habit, and sponsor events dedicated towards this cause. One of those events, The Emotion Book Party is a bi-annual literary event dedicated towards celebrating books and it is hosted by Emotion Press. Government and corporate organizations should make funds available to upcoming publishing outfits. Nigeria needs more than five hundred publishing outfits to cater for our yearly upsurge in writing talents. Grants should also be provided for writers that wants to write full time. An enlightenment campaign against piracy, involving workshops on the dangers of piracy targeted at sellers, readers and buyers of books, must be kick started by individuals and organizations.
Folarin Olaniyi is Managing Editor at Emotion Press and The Coordinator of The Emotion Book club, Ibadan. Check out the emotion press blog atomojojolobooks.
I’ll have to start off by saying “Thank you” for the wonderful opportunity to be here. It’s a real honour. My pen name is Lara Daniels, and I’m an African romance writer with a penchant for writing romantic suspense. Although I’ve completed four books now, I’ve published two titled, “Love in Paradise” and “Love at Dawn”. Both are part of my Da-Silva Romance series.Besides being a writer, I’m also a Registered Nurse, a wife and a mom to three children who ensure that my days are never boring.
When did you start to write?
I began writing in secondary school, and it became more serious when I entered Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) back in Nigeria.Back then, I’d write short love stories and post it on the walls of the female Dorms. However, I never really thought of writing as a career until August 2009 when I published my first novel.
Who were your writing influences/heroes?
They are many and varied in terms of the genre they write. When it comes to Romantic fiction, Lisa Kleypas is by far my biggest influence. Although she writes other subgenre of romance, her major focus is historical romance. The fluidity of her stories makes me want to pick up a laptop and start typing away. Besides Lisa, I have other literary heroes and they don’t necessarily write romance. African writers such as Ola Rotimi and his classic, “The gods are not to be blamed” comes to mind. The popular 1980’s Pacesetters series, (remember them?), also influenced me to write suspense.
So much has happened in the African romance genre recently and with new writers coming up, it is easy for the media to overlook quiet trailblazers like you. Do you consider yourself to be a pioneer of Modern African Romance (in the 21st century)?
I’m honoured that you’d refer to me as a trailblazer and a modern African romance pioneer. But the sad fact is, modern African romance is still in its infancy stage in terms of concept and the African romance writer remains the underdog in romantic fiction simply because many people do not perceive Africa as a continent where Romance is experienced. An agent once told me that I’d have a hard time selling my idea of contemporary African romantic fiction because it was set in Lagos. She basically told me that the idea wasn’t believable. Because of her remarks, I was forced to change the setting of my first two novels to fictional countries – and even then, it still didn’t fly.
As with every new idea, African romance is faced with huge challenges, one of which is being recognized as a viable genre. But with recent breakthroughs such as Koru Taye’s African romance historical and even well written self published contemporary works by Myne Whitman, I feel confident that African romance is already on the edge of an explosive advancement into the literary world. I’m also ecstatic about the recent formation of the Romance Writers of West Africa (RWoWA) that houses brilliant West African romance writers (both published and unpublished). It’s truly satisfying to be a part of the ongoing epic move and I find myself basking in the joy of it.
Tell us about your current book?
My current book, Love at Dawn was originally published in 2010. It has gone through a couple of revisions after its initial publication. Love at Dawn is a romantic suspense set in Zamzudan, a fictional African country. The novel centers on the theme of Love, forgiveness and redemption and its major characters are Tory Da-Silva - a bubbly young woman who falls in love with a cynical and broody multi-tasking Lawyer -Rashad Macaulay. The novel is divided into three parts with the first part introducing the reader to the mysterious Love-hate relationship between Tory and Rashad. It’s not until the second and third parts that the reader fully understands the reason for the complex relationship between the two major characters. In love at Dawn, I also try to highlight some of the issues faced in some African countries, such as rampant poverty, poor healthcare and corrupt governments.
Why should readers buy this book and where can they get it?
Readers should buy my book because of its uniqueness, in that while it concludes happily like all romantic fiction, it also touches on forbidden and controversial topics in Africa such as paedophilia and abortion, which ultimately makes it an engaging and highly suspenseful read.
One philosophy of life or mantra that you hold to be true?
That’s easy. “It’s very nice to be important, but it’s even more important to be nice.”
What are your thoughts on e-book revolution and self publishing?
I’m mostly cautious. On one part, I’m happy that the advent of eBooks will make it easier for writers to get published with little to no cost. And with many printing presses now offering all sorts of incentives to have writers publish their works at competitive prices, Writers don’t have to go through the harrowing experience of repeated rejections by agents and the big publishing houses for them to get published. Then there’s the power of social networking such as facebooking and twitter. Publicising one’s book has never been easier than it is now for the self publisher. That said, my biggest concern is that this trend may result in the mass production of books that have mediocre quality. I’d hate to see this happen, because good books are necessary to enlighten one’s minds and positively influence one’s perception in an ever changing world. But what happens if good books cease to exist? I find myself cringing at the thought.
Advice to aspiring writers?
Writing is a beautiful craft and should be nurtured like all crafts. So do whatever you have to do to hone it–and that includes reading. Read, read and read – then Write!
Please give us a snippet of what are you currently working on?
I recently completed two books a month apart from each other titled “Love’s Prescription” and “The officer’s Bride.”
Love’s prescription was actually long listed in the 2011 Amazon’s breakthrough novel award and is on queue for publication by Ankara press in Nigeria. In love’s prescription, the heroine, Uche Unigwe is a medical doctor who comes from humble origins and has had to work very hard to have a successful career in upscale Victoria Island in Lagos city. She meets an enigmatic man called Ola whom she is deeply attracted to. Ola is mega successful, but like all the characters in my other books, Ola has a dark secret that could very well destroy his new relationship with Uche.
The officer’s bride on the other hand borrows a lot from non-fiction for its plot. Although the characters are fictitious, the back story is not. The novel spans the five years of the dictatorial rule of Nigeria’s General Sani Abacha. Its major characters are Zainab - a spirited young woman who falls in love with Eddy, a broody and powerful Military Officer who also happens to be a top member of the Nigerian Intelligence service, the SSS. Eddy is knee deep in a mysterious activity that has the potential of toppling the whole country. Since this is a blurb, I dare not divulge any more specifics about what Eddy is up to. You’ll have to read the book when it gets published.
Lara, it’s been a pleasure chatting to you. I have not met you in person but your humble spirit is truly inspiring. Thank you for your patience with me as this chat has been a long time in the works. Lara's books can be found on Amazon.
Book Republic is a Nigerian literary blog established by Emotion Press. It is basically dedicated towards promoting the reading culture in Nigeria. In our creative way, as usual, we plan to write on both old and new books and other things that matter in the Nigerian literary scene.
Every forth night, from January 2012, we will be hosting a Guest writer. The Guest writer series will feature essays and interviews by the writer.
The Book Republic blog is www.progresspublishing.wordpress.com
As Emotion Press' two releases - The Man In The Moon and The Grasshopper Race - will be out In December, the first ten followers of the blog will be given the electronic copy of those books free of charge! They will be the first ten people to read the books. You can follow the blog by visiting www.progresspublishing.wordpress.com and enter your name and e-mail on the given space.
Lately this blog has gone off in an interesting direction to say the least. *Insert mischief inspired laughter*
So I've decided to open up another blog for my own work. (Blogging was never meant to be a full time hobby...God help me!). I want this blog to retain its original aim which is to showcase and review the work of African Writers and Writers of African Origin living in diaspora. I may be absent here for some time due to some writing commitments and may not post as often but I will do my best to post once or twice a month for now. It may well be that posting would be more regular in the form of guest bloggers and writers. We'll see what happens. It's all very exciting.
Wish me well and please stay with me on both journeys as writer as well as reviewer. I would also encourage readers to please follow me on Adura's Eyes. More poetry and the occasional prose can be found there from now on. I've put my literary pieces including also those at Naijalines on Adura's Eyes. Naijalines would of course remain a personal blog. Thank you so much for your support and feedback as we continue the journey together.
Blessings as always,
***Previous Poems/prose would remain here for a while as I make the transition to Adura's Eyes.
First, I want to say a big thank you to Adura Ojo for hosting me on her blog today. I feel honoured to be here.
Right, on to the topic of today’s post – Sex and the African Romance novel. I’ve been itching to write a post on this topic for a long time. As a romance novelist, sex is a feature of my writing. But I’ve since noticed that while sex scenes are pretty common place in romance novels in the UK or US, not many African romance authors feel comfortable writing about it.
Let’s face it; sex is still a taboo topic in Africa. This fact really amazes me. Let’s look at some statistics. Africa has some of the countries where populations are rising rapidly. From the last census, Nigeria has a population estimated at well over 150 million people. Africa has 9 countries in the top ten fastest growing populations according to aneki.com.
So one thing is very clear, lots of Africans are having sex. The figures above prove that. Yet it seems no one wants to talk about it or write about it, apparently. If so, then it is worrying because lots of people are having bad sex, in my opinion.
Yep, think about it.
If no one’s talking or writing about it except in Biology text books that show sex merely in terms of body function or religious leaders that classify sexual activity as a sin, then you can bet there will be loads of dysfunctional sexual encounters. There are lots of Africans especially women who are taught that sex should be purely for procreation and not for pleasure. If they seek any more gratification than the ten seconds it takes for their husbands to spill their seeds inside their wombs, they are labelled as sexually deviant.
I met a woman recently who had never experienced an orgasm and she is married with two children. I had to watch her in shock as she told me her story. All I could think was, seriously? The truth is she is not alone. There are loads of sexually frustrated African women out there that simply lie back and think of (insert the African country name) while their husbands have their way. And that saddens as well as annoys me.
That was why when I finally decided I was going to write romance novels, I also made the conscious decision to include sex scenes (or love scenes as they are know in the romance writing world) in my stories.
I wanted to write stories that feature couples making love the way I think it should be within the boundaries of a loving relationship. Of course each story is different and the context of the love-making within each story will be different. But the bottom line is that I wanted to showcase men and women giving and receiving sexual pleasure in the context of love-making. Also a love-scene when written very well plays an important role in moving the characters and story along. Like a first kiss, the love scene is a pretty good indication of whether the romance will be passionate or cosy. If you’ve ever read any of my book excerpts, you’ll know which end of the romance scale I prefer.
When I read Myne Whitman’s A Heart to Mend I noted there was no love-scene, except if you count the couple kissing on the sofa as a love scene. I was slightly disappointed she didn’t go there. However in the context of that story, it made sense. When Myne started writing A Love Rekindled last year and shared some excerpts online, I hoped she would take the plunge and include a consummated love scene. As one of the first Nigerian romance authors, I hoped Myne would set the pace for upcoming Nigerian romance writers. I felt if she didn’t include a love-scene in the story then others may not feel brave enough to go there either. Thankfully, she did and I think A Love Rekindled is a richer story for it.
In Lara Daniels’ romantic suspense novel, Love in Paradise, the closest the amorous couple came to making love was a make-out session on the sofa before being interrupted by a nosy tabloid photographer. As this was her first novel, I can understand Lara’s wariness with having a full on love scene but I hope her future novels are a bit more adventurous in that department.
In my debut romance novella, His Treasure (part of the Men of Valor series) a historical romance set in 13th century Igboland, I have used sex not only as a tool of rebellion but also as gift of love. By refusing to submit to the sexual will of Obinna, Adaku effectively rejects her husband. Yet when she eventually acquiesces, Obinna shows her love beyond her wildest dreams. The love scene is pivotal in terms of moving the story along and showing resolution of some of the conflicts.
I have to accept that writing love scenes can be difficult. If you’re like me, when I read a romance novel, I like to visualise each scene. So I get quite critical if I feel a limb is in the wrong place or the writer has not told me the basics like are they sitting, standing, etc. I remember having a laugh recently when I read a love scene and thought ‘He is either a midget or extremely acrobatic.’ Love scenes have to be realistic.
So I hope more African romance authors will include love scenes in their stories. With the dawn of the eBook age and romance publishers like Sapphire Press, Ankara Press and Africana Publishing springing up, I certainly look forward to a golden age for African romance and sizzling hot novels in the pipeline.
Kiru Taye is the author of His Treasure, a historical romance novella, published by Breathless Press. The book is out 2 December 2011. I can't wait! You can reach her via her blog: http://kirutayewrites.blogspot.com.
Bitter Leaf is set in fictional Mannobe, a village which appears to be a character in itself. At the centre of the narrative are charismatic Babylon and beautiful Jericho. It is essentially the story of these two lovers. However there are other characters that help make life in Mannobe what it is supposed to be – a sleepy yet vibrant village where almost everyone is linked in one way or another due to their past or present lives. Okereke has a gift for creating colourful characters. Jericho is the feisty heroine; Babylon the charismatic hunky dreadlocked musician, Allegory the self appointed sage-slash- prophet, Mabel and M’elle Codon - twin sisters who could probably give real life Michelin master chefs a run for their money, Magdalena daughter of Mabel who lost her heart (to guess who(?)) and almost lost her head too. There is also Jericho’s lily livered beau and Babylon’s rival - Daniel Dorique - from the affluent Dorique family. And who can forget Oracene, the eccentric clairvoyant-slash-medicine woman? There are others. The reader may well remember most characters long after reading without trying too hard. Having such memorable characters is one of the novel’s highlights.
Another thing to really sing about is the lyrical beauty of the prose. It is poetic and somewhat sublime. Apparently, Okereke started her writing career as a poet. Bitter Leaf is her first novel. Structure is tight and pacing is fine. The plot is well executed and the relationships between the characters are handled well.
My gripe with this novel is that it is portrayed as an African story. From characters' names to the language and the food, I struggle to find Africa in it. The fictional local language is confusing: a mixture of European influences and some sort of creole: words like ‘bon dia’, ‘senorita’, ‘tanka’ and ‘pues’. And then a smattering of ‘sha’, ‘abeg’, and ‘ewo’ (presumably Nigerian Yoruba, pidgin, and Igbo usage respectively). While the merits of poetic licence and creating an imaginary world may be all well and good for the writer; in this case it seems to require more than a stretch of the imagination for the reader to locate the numerous worlds of all these languages in one tiny village. The novel’s title is ‘Bitter Leaf’ and there is a scene in the novel (a recollection of Jericho’s childhood) where bitter leaf and what appears to be pounded yam is described. Apart from this instance, food which has a life of its own in the book seems to be mainly European in presentation and content.
Given the recent controversy about what constitutes African fiction (this has been discussed elsewhere by concerned literary critics), it is important that African writers writing African fiction do just that. Despite the lyrically beautiful quality; the sanitized picture of an African terrain sours the book - in my opinion. It does Bitter Leaf no favours as a work of African fiction. Bitter Leaf to me is bittersweet. Pick up the book to read some enchanting prose and decide if you really can see Africa in it.
*This review was written as part of the Nigerian Independence Day Reading/Reviewing Project set up by Amy at Amy Reads. Long live Nigeria!
Regrettably, This is the last in the blog series, African Authors and Self Publishing:( It's been a pleasure having author Fiona Leonard guest post this series. If you've enjoyed reading the series, be sure to show your appreciation by leaving a comment. A little birdie tells me this is not the last we'll see of her:-) You can read part 1 & 2 here and here. Find out more about Fiona on her blog and here.
African Authors and Self Publishing (Part 3): Go Where The Money Is By Fiona Leonard
Most writers want to be Charlie when they grow up. By Charlie, I mean the boy from Roald Dahl’s book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Charlie is dirt poor, but one day he finds a winning gold ticket in a bar of chocolate. That ticket ultimately leads to him inheriting a magnificent chocolate factory and untold riches. He’s honest, hard-working and very loyal. He gets the lucky break and BAM! his world changes.
In ‘author world’ that gold ticket looks very much like a New York agent who chooses you and then, with hard work, diligence and a good heart, you are ultimately chosen to inherit the untold riches. Those gold tickets do still exist and some even lead to untold riches, but what self-publishing has done, is to change the game so you don’t have to sit around waiting to win the ticket.
Self-publishing gives authors the chance to put books straight into the domestic market without having to convince a local publisher to take a risk on their novel. This is particularly beneficial for authors in markets like Ghana where publishers have shown a preference for text books rather than fiction. With a bit of market research, authors can find outlets to allow them to target local, expat and tourist readers. And there has never been a better time to do this. In markets with limited local publishing it is easy to stand out and readers are always keen to find well-written local fiction. Pay close attention to peak market opportunities like tourist high seasons and the pre-Christmas postage rush.
For many authors, the international market has been completely unreachable. Now e-book publishing and print-on-demand, means that you can sell your works worldwide without ever having to leave home. You could write and edit your book in Nigeria, and have it on sale worldwide as an e-book within 24 hours. Selling your book through Amazon, for example, puts your work in front of a global audience, and what’s more, someone else handles the logistics like shipping and money collection!
The thing to remember though, is that you’re not the only one who has this knowledge. You are competing with thousands of other authors who are all looking to push their book in front of a paying audience. Selling your book means you not only have to go where the money is, you have to go where your money is – that is, the people who want to buy your book. Fortunately you can do all of this from the comfort of your own office chair.
Market Research and Building a Tribe
It would be nice if everyone wanted to buy your book. But in the first instance, it helps to be a bit more specific; to know what sort of people would be interested. There are all sorts of ways you can establish that, from researching other books like yours to writing a detailed reader profile – some authors even find photos or create avatars of their perfect readers! You need to establish what country or region they live in and start focusing your efforts. It comes down to asking two simple questions – who are the people who want to buy my book? And where do I find them?
In the past, marketing staff in the publishing house would have helped you put yourself in front of those readers. If you self publish you need to do that part yourself. One of the most effective ways to do that is to build a tribe of people who support and endorse your book. Initially these people will most likely be friends and family, but your tribe should expand to include people who follow you on social media – twitter, Facebook, and your blog/website. These are the people who multiply your efforts – you write a good blog and they tweet it. They buy your book and tell their friends.
The other tribe worth building is your sources of good advice. Ten years ago, African authors had to work hard to find the information they needed. Today, if you have access to the internet, you have access to the same information as authors across the globe. And there is an incredible range of information available.
As you build your tribe, construct your marketing strategy and set off in search of your readers the following are invaluable sources of information:
The golden ticket approach may seem simpler but it’s still very much of a long shot and it helps to have something to do while you’re waiting. If there’s one piece of advice I’ve received that I keep coming back to it’s this very simple question: