Author Interviews: CIRCLES and Excursion in my Mind

Nana Damoah: Boakyewaa, you’ve just stroked a string in my heart! ‘Books and Knowledge’ is actually the first chapter in Excursions in my Mind. We don’t read and I don’t believe it is a predicament of only Africans, though our plight may be more acute. It is a crisis of our generation, which has been brought up on fast foods, fast cars, fast visuals and videos, fast everything! We still have a long way to go in Ghana and the state of affairs is exacerbated by the paucity of publishing houses that should be churning out relevant books that tackle our African and Ghanaian issues and values. I must say I have been encouraged by the effort of Readwide in Ghana lately.

I am an incurable optimist generally, and so yes, I am confident about the book industry in Ghana, but we need to work to make it better. We need more bookshops, with diversity in the available books. We need to harness the power of the internet in this journey. We need more publishing houses; what we have now are mostly printing houses – we need them to add the marketing and promotion of books to just the printing towards the book launch. We need to create a community of young and aspiring writers, who will hold each other’s hands and share our 21st century experiences of being writers and authors. There is much work to be done, but there is hope.

Boakyewaa: I’ve always said that it’s about quality, any day. I know Ghanaians don’t typically read. It’s not a myth. It’s not a stigma, it’s the truth. It’s an unfortunate truth but it’s not a lost cause. I think it’s about quality and the range of stories. Look at both of us, you have a religious non-fiction book and I have a romantic fiction with some sex scenes! But don’t get me wrong, I am not saying the best way to sell books is to write about sex. No way. You just have to write what you really want to write. Stories people can relate to. Stories that mean something to you. That’s why each time someone texts me or posts a comment that CIRCLES seems so familiar to them, I am like ditto. Just a few days ago, a friend of mine called me and said she just read the prologue and the part that Rabbie asks herself – at what point did she start to go wrong – just got to her, because she’s been asking herself the same thing over and over again. That’s what I really like about CIRCLES, the fact that other people can relate. Whatever we decide to write, it’s up to us, but it should resonate with someone.

Nana Damoah: Exactly, I couldn’t have put it better. I like that: “Whatever we write, it’s up to us but it should resonate with someone.” That is why we have to encourage more Africans writing African stories for Africans. Publishing isn’t easy too. If publishing in Ghana was a little easier, perhaps more people would write.

Boakyewaa: Yes, that’s why I’m really thankful I had you. It’s a blessing that I found someone who’d gone through the same process with the same company. I know I’ve bugged you for the last year, but I would have been lost without your experience. What lessons have you learnt from all of this? What has this taught you?

Nana Damoah: I have had an incredibly magnificent learning experience. One big lesson is that when you believe in something, go for it. The monetary gain is just surplus, the personal satisfaction cannot be quantified. I wake up each day knowing, as I write, that my thoughts are affecting lives, my talent is not wasted, I am relevant. Another lesson is that if you push yourself, you can compete with the best. We are both published on a global platform, and not just limited to Ghana. We need to think bigger! And that is the challenge I want to throw to our publishers. Get the Ghanaian books onto Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. when you publish them. Get them a global platform. Then, the process of publishing itself, with the various editing stages, opening up your work for critique by an editor, putting yourself through re-writing and re-writing, that is invaluable in honing your skills as a writer. Finally, I have learnt that people are yearning for good books to read. Our responsibility as writers is to write them those books!

Boakyewaa: All of the above, my dear, all of the above! I’ve learnt three main things. First, a dream can be very different from reality, but, you still have to persevere. I got a prize once at Ridge Church for perseverance, and I hated that prize before, but I’ve come to realize that perseverance is one of my best traits. I don’t give up. You just have to adjust. That’s my first lesson, whatever curveballs come my way, I adapt and I live with it. I say this a lot, in life, there is always a choice. It’s when you feel you don’t have choices that you get stressed.

Second thing I’ve learnt is to do whatever I’m doing for myself. I’m grateful for anyone who reads my stuff, but ultimately it’s for me. I have to enjoy this. I have to be passionate about it. It’s not about the accolades or praise, or blog numbers or even sales. Will I be disappointed if only one person buys CIRCLES? Of course, but it won’t end me. I am writing, because I truly love it, completely. I can’t lose that. That’s why it can’t be about others. It’s about me, always.

Third lesson is support. I am very appreciative of support. I don’t take it for granted. I’ve been really lucky in that regard. And I try to give it back. I am sucker for anyone who’s trying to do something they’re passionate about. I know how hard it can be, so I let them know, hey go for it. Do you. I can’t bring anyone down. For what reason? When I recognize someone is trying hard, and they have the talent for it, I give them their due. It doesn’t take much.

Nana Damoah: Yes, it doesn’t take much. Writers unite! My support for others comes from my faith, my upbringing and my general perception of life. My philosophy, honed by examples from my mum and late dad, is that one good turn deserves another, and if you could only affect one individual in your life, you would have affected a generation. So each day, I seek to be significant to at least one person. It is like lighting candles – if I light your candle and you go on to light the candles of others as I continue to light more, you can imagine how we can spread love and influence all across the world. If I can do something little to help a writer come into her own, and she in turn does same for another, won’t we be creating that great bank of Ghanaian and African writers we hope for?

There is always room at the top, so let’s go there together! So it’s a big big pleasure, and through this, Ms. B, I got to know you and will even be famous because you are already and CIRCLES is gonna catapult you way up! I know that! I am going to gate-crash at the launch and bring a poster: MS. B IS MY FRIEND! Go go girl!

Boakyewaa: You crack me up! You’re hilarious, dude. But I totally respect your mentality. Don’t take it for granted. It’s rare. People are really competitive and I’m so the opposite of that. I don’t get it really. The world is big enough for everyone. It’s all about your mindset and your attitude. How you think drives what you do. In that regard, I am an idealist. So thanks for the support, dear, and thanks for the interview. And big thanks to everyone who’s been reading the blog for the last 8 – 9 months! That’s some serious time, man. And many thanks to all my friends, old and new. I wonder if I can do a shout out. Hmm, what if I leave someone out? Well I think you all know who you are. Love you!

Nana Damoah maintains 4 blogs: For articles (www.excursionsinmymind.blogspot.com), poems (www.patmoscollections.blogspot.com), short stories (www.storyloom.blogspot.com) and quotes (www.nyansopensem.blogspot.com).