Hello fellow writers and readers, welcome, welcome!
It’s time for another fascinating Author Interview tonight but first, as always, an important Public Service Announcement.
Just a quick note before the fun and games start – I link to a lot of other articles in my posts, so WordPress users please check your spam folders and approve any links/pingbacks that you find from me to improve the visibility of your own posts, as well as mine, it’s a win win for us both 😀
And now with further ado, let’s get chatting to author Jane Bwye and find out more about her gripping creative writing journeys, along with how she has crafted her emotionally engaging novels.
Thanks for reading and have a great evening 🙂
Hi there Jane, thank you for taking the time to join us here today to talk about your books, along with your passions, inspirations and writing experiences.
Let’s start first with your African History novels “Breath of Africa” and its sequel set in the present day “Grass Shoots”. Please tell us about the plots and themes of these books, how they connect with each other and let us know in a bit more detail about how the tender love stories unfold within them.
That’s a big ask! Hope you’ve got plenty of time and space…
I am an optimist, and both books are hymns of joy to my home country, Kenya. While writing “Breath of Africa”, I re-visited my youth and indulged in dreaming. Readers suspect it is an autobiography. They are right, to a certain extent, but I’ve let my imagination run riot in many places. That’s the joy of writing fiction.
The books cover the period from Kenya’s Mau Mau emergency of the 1950’s right up to the present day. There are historical notes at the beginning of each section, and Glossaries are included to provide translations as well as extra snippets of information, which would have spoiled the flow of the story.
Two girls break out of school during the Mau Mau emergency, which triggers a drama of psychological terror, fuelled by oath administrator, Mwangi. And ten years of tribal, racial and political turbulence become the catalyst for Kenya’s swift transition to Independence. Nobody is ready for it.
My stories unfold against a background of interlinking problems between the different races, and they highlight the dim world of those of mixed race, who are shunned by everybody.
The three main characters include the daughter of a white settler, Caroline. Charles Ondiek is the son of their African farm guard; he defies prejudice and graduates from Oxford University. Teresa, Caroline’s school friend, is the unwanted product of a liaison between a “poor white” and an Indian coolie. Caroline courts and marries a neighbouring farmer’s son, and Teresa finds herself pregnant by Charles, but she runs away, and makes Caroline promise never to tell him. As a widow, Caroline takes in Teresa’s son, Sam, home-schooling him with her own son, Paul.
My characters are Christians, but superstition clashes with their faith when they’re targeted with Mwangi’s curses. Teresa succumbs, and Charles’s family are especially torn, as they are the spiritual custodians of a secret ancestral cave in the desert, and Kenya is known as the cradle of mankind. During Kenya’s attempted coup of 1982, Charles is left for dead on the Nairobi-Mombasa road.
The saga is continued in “Grass Shoots”, tracing a love triangle between Caroline’s son Paul, an accountant; his best friend Sam, a paleontologist; and a later addition to Caroline’s surrogate family, Emily, an AIDS orphan, who is attacked by a stalker. Charles drags himself up from the gutter, and the young pursue their careers in Nairobi, and become involved with an innovative charity helping Charles’s home village in the aftermath of the 2007 elections. Emily values Paul’s friendship and comes to appreciate his love of birds. She learns about Kenya’s pre-history from Sam as they tour Kenya’s coastal ruins. She meets his family in the village. But she cannot shake off her fear of sex…
…and I am not going to tell you anymore!
You also have published a novella called “I Lift Up My Eyes”, a tale of life and love set in the English town of Sussex. Please tell us more about the plot for this one and its protagonist Ann, as she struggles to deal with raw emotional dilemmas of duty, compromise, hope and peace of mind.
The publishing contract for I Lift Up My Eyes expired on 30th April 2018. But it can be found at the British library. Maybe one day I will summon the energy to self-publish it. The book is dedicated to my husband, who died on our 50th wedding anniversary, after twenty-five years of suffering. It is not our story, but it was written as a catalyst. He read the book while he was in hospital and gave me the loveliest kiss afterwards.
Robert, a widower, picks single mum Ann up from the street, brings her into his home, and they eventually marry, with a baby of their own. Ann is filled with love and gratitude. But Robert’s partner absconds, and his business fails. He becomes depressed and suffers life-changing ailments. Ann, much younger, finds herself torn between loyalty and the need to live her own life. At choir, she meets and is courted by Duncan, a not quite so disabled elderly man. She enjoys his company, his professions of love, and the romance of their meetings, but cannot bring herself to surrender to his advances. Her prayers get more and more desperate. She engineers a disastrous meeting between Robert and Duncan. She visits Israel and Petra in Jordan. The holy land is not what she expects…
If any of your novels were to be made into films (or even a TV series), who would you cast in the lead roles?
If my Africa books were made into a film, I would cast my erstwhile colleague, who authenticated the African characters in my books, John Sibi-Okumu in the role of Charles. After all, he did appear in the film “The Constant Gardener”, briefly as a doctor!
What would you choose as your own personal mascot or spirit animal when it comes to you and your style of writing?
That’s easy! I just love horses. They are wonderful animals – so wild and free, and yet amazingly do anything for you – if you treat them right.
What do you think most characterizes or defines your writing? Do you have any writing quirks or themes that constantly crop up in your stories?
My love of nature, and wide-open spaces.
What do you find the most difficult thing about writing? And what do you find the easiest?
Writing comes naturally, if I let the muse work its charm. Of course, I get stuck sometimes, but I leave it for a while, and most often in the middle of a night, I get another idea…
Who are some of the authors, musicians, poets and/or historical figures that inspire you?
I’ve read all John le Carré’s books. But it was Nicholas Monsarrat’s depressing “tribe” books, that made me want to write positively and hopefully about Africa. The music of Tchaikovsky and Beethoven transports me into a dream world, as does Shelley’s poetry.
What sort of research do you do to write your books?
I like to be accurate and unbiased. I read books offering different viewpoints, and research newspapers and encyclopedias. The internet is a great tool, but you must take care to verify. I’ve used personal diaries, press cuttings and newsletters.
Why do you write? What inspired you to become a writer?
I guess, because I’m good at it! I’m a dreamer with a vivid imagination. I pour my heart and soul into my writing, use it as a catharsis sometimes, and to feed my nostalgia.
What keeps you motivated during creative slumps? How do you deal with Writers Block?
I write because I want to; if I don’t feel like it, I don’t write. But then I realise something is missing, so I “pick up the pen” again.
You have access to a time machine. What advice would you give to your younger self?
Do not let your emotions rule your life. Put your mind and common sense into gear, and remember your God loves you!
How do you spend your free time when you are not writing?
I find it difficult to say no but am slowly realising that I am getting older. I volunteer a day a week as a business start-up adviser at a local charity which helps the unemployed; I play bridge up to three times a week; I judge dressage most weekends, driving to some awesome venues over the south of England; I enjoy going to the theatre. I watch tennis on TV and am trying to get back into playing geriatric tennis at my old club. I’ve always got a book to hand at home, enjoy doing sudoku and word games, and have recently re-discovered my love of jigsaws.
Tell us more about your upcoming projects. Are you working on anything specific or have plans in the pipeline?
Coming out on 15th August is my next book. Very different. It’s called “Going It Alone: A Beginners’ Guide to starting your own Business.” And it comes with some free software, providing “what-if” analysis. I’ve been mentoring small business start-ups for about fifteen years, and I thought it would be a doddle – until I started working with my editor! But we’re getting there…the easy bits were anecdotal case studies, taken from the experiences of my clients.
Finally, are there any nuggets of wisdom that you can impart to other aspiring writers?
Make sure your writing is as absolutely perfect as you can make it, before submitting to agents or publishers. If you self-publish, the same advice applies – and you need to have it properly edited and proofed.
Don’t be “precious” about your work; seek peer reviews and advice wherever you can get it. I learned so much as a member of an online peer review website, Authonomy (now defunct), and still network with friends made there.
Never give up! Perseverance does pay. It took me thirty years to write “Breath of Africa” (with family interruptions); and when I’d thought I’d “finished” it, I received 70 rejections from agents and publishers (and that doesn’t count all the unanswered submissions). I finally found Crooked Cat, through a suggestion from an Authonomy friend. And I’ve recently learned that I am in the top fifteen of their best authors ever!
And that’s a wrap! Thank you for chatting with us Jane, your novels are certainly “hot stuff” and we look forward to enjoying them at our leisure further real soon 🙂
Jane Bwye lived in Kenya for over half a century, as a freelance journalist, business owner and teacher. She has travelled the world, buying a bird book in every country she visited. Now retired in the UK, she gives talks, judges dressage, and mentors small business start-ups.
You can connect with her via the following Social Media channels:-
You can buy her books here:-
If you too would like to be interviewed on my blog at TooFullToWrite and you have a book or a series of books that you would like us to chat about then fill out the Contact Me form here with your details and we can arrange a future interview slot.