Writing and publishing a book is an arduous process. It’s also a personally rewarding experience. For me, the greatest part of it all is the incredible support I have received from family and friends (even people I have never met before).
Nana Awere Damoah is one of those people that I’ve never met but feel like I know pretty well. Nana Damoah published his book Excursions in my Mind over a year ago. He did the launch last December (2008) and since then he has been on a roll. His second book, ‘Through the Gates of Thought’ comes out next year.
Nana and I have a lot in common. We’re both Ghanaians, with non-writing jobs but still pursing our passion. We both published with the same company. Nana was actually the one who introduced me to Athena Press. After a year or so of supporting each other and comparing notes, I felt it would be really cool for Nana and I to interview each other and share our experiences as new Ghanaian writers.
Enjoy the interview!
Boakyewaa: Okay, Nana, I know what your book is about, but it’s your baby, so why don’t you say it in your own words?
Nana Damoah: Which book?
Boakyewaa: Ah see, you’re a little advanced, aren’t you? I mean the first one, Excursions in my Mind.
Nana Damoah: I know that’s what you meant. I’m just teasing. Excursions in my Mind is about life, daily experiences and lessons derived from them. Excursions in my Mind is a collection of reflective articles (a friend told me ‘essays’ sound too academic and it doesn’t help that I look like an academic) and poems, supported by quotations from literary sources, the Bible; actually all sorts of sources. The reflections cover a broad scope of issues that confront us every day, and touch on key issues such as self-help, leadership, love for one’s parents, nature of friendship and daily walk in faith in contemporary life. The topics are selected as randomly as events and circumstances confront the average person but are reflected upon, repeatedly, intertwined with my own life experiences and stories: a sort of perambulation in a maze, but with an eventual exit, escorted by cogent lessons for life’s improvement. The articles are unrelated, stand apart from each other, so you can eat the book in chunks! The book mixes poetry and prose, fiction and fact, comedy and tragedy, memoir and creative writing.
Boakyewaa: Wow! Perambulation and cogent paa? You’re definitely a dork, a geek, but feel free to term it as ‘academic.’ That sounds better. I’m just teasing. I have three books. I haven’t published TENDAI or BASIC REALITY yet, but I still consider them as my books! CIRCLES is about a young woman who reaches a point in her life where she just can’t take a step further. She realizes she’s been making the same mistakes, the same choices, over and over again. It’s a terrible cycle she’s in. And she decides that the only way she can move forward is by facing the life she’s lived.
I gotta ask though, what prompted you to write a religious non-fiction book? I’ve read your short story, the one about Ananse, and it’s not religious.
Nana Damoah: I like to describe myself as a writer who is a Christian. I write about life, but clearly my Christian background comes into play. I don’t necessarily restrict myself to what you would strictly term ‘Christian or religious topics’ in my non-fiction works (Excursions in my Mind, Through the Gates of Thought) and in my fiction work, like in the Ananse story, which is titled ‘Truth Floats’ on StoryTime and is due to published in an anthology by Lion Press UK.
My inspiration for writing Excursions was two-fold: life is a business to be worked at and lived, not just dreamed about, and that in doing this, we need to be ‘learning people’ – there is an example, a message, a lesson, a warning or a moral you can discover in every scene of the play that is called ‘life.’
My second inspiration was this: as an African writer, who is in a technical discipline (a practicing Chemical Engineer), I seek to be an example to our youth that they can experiment and explore, and not to let their scope and influence on their generation be restricted by their formal training, to stop restricting themselves to the box or pigeon-hole when they can go beyond the perimeter and reach the pinnacle of their potential, to grasp the verity that talents cannot be tamed and should be employed for the universal good of mankind. After reading your blogs and getting to know you, I see that the romantic genre suits you perfectly.
Boakyewaa: Geez, dude, do you want to be a teacher or something? I need to have a dictionary open for this interview. Wow. Anyhoo, you know what, I like a lot of genres. It’s like my TV/movie watching life. I like science fiction, romance, thriller/mysteries, dramas, documentaries, and a whole bunch of other stuff. I basically like to be entertained.
My inspirations are very similar to yours. I write about life; things I see, things I feel; life as I experience it. I’m like freestyle rapper, hahahaha, anything goes. And just like you I don’t like to be restricted. I don’t know if it’s my psychology background or it’s just me, but I think I’m pretty open-minded. So my writing draws a lot from my general thinking and perception of life, real or imagined. I don’t think in absolutes. Anything is possible. We can never fully comprehend the depth and breadth of life. Can there be someone like Tendai living among us? Ah who knows! Anything goes!
Nana Damoah: I see what you’re saying though. In some ways, we both don’t want to pigeon-hole ourselves and our writing talents at this stage. I agree it is still exploration time! But don’t you think focusing on a genre helps you hone your skills, especially in writing fiction?
Boakyewaa: Probably, so I may consider doing that when I’m 50, retired and living in a log cabin at Adukrom or Abetifi! Anyways, back to your earlier question. What set me on the path of CIRCLES. Before I wrote CIRCLES, I hadn’t written anything in years. With grad school and a whole bunch of other stuff happening, everything was just stressful. And I became very bitter. My close friends, family, others, can attest to this – I was bitching all the time about how unhappy I was since I was not writing. I badly wanted to get back to it but there was always something holding me back. And then a couple of things happened around the same time. A senior person at work got laid off, and a few days later, I got into a bad argument with someone really close to me. Both incidents combined into a pretty massive wake-up call for me. I spent a week just thinking about life. And I decided, you know what, fuck it, I need to write now or I’ll literally die. And that’s how CIRLCES started.
What was the writing process like for you? How long did it take you?