Please tell readers about yourself
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.