Name: Jane Bwye
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing at the age of nineteen at University, when the editor of the Kenya Weekly News advised me to read Somerset Maugham’s stories, and asked me to send back a series of “Letters from Oxford.” But I never thought of myself as an author until my book, Breath of Africa http://www.janebwye.com/breath-of-africa was published by Crooked Cat http://www.crookedcatbooks.com/ last March.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The title was taken from the part in the book where Caroline first sees the immensity of Ngorongoro Crater, in Tanzania. The picture for Breath of Africa was painted by my daughter. Laurence Patterson of Crooked Cat painstakingly designed it to fit just-so onto the cover.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
Ever since I learned to read, I have been a gregarious reader, and the book which has had the most influence on my life is the Bible. Nicholas Monserrat and his “Tribe” Books gave me the inspiration to start writing my book (see There’s Always Hope: http://jbwye.com/2012/12/10/there-is-always-hope-shining-through/ )
Fiona: Name on entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
I would love to meet John le Carre and John Grisham, and have read all their books. Modern books I’ve enjoyed are The Life of Pi, which made my sides ache with laughter, and The Kite Runner. I enjoy detective stories, especially those of fellow Crooked Cat authors, Catriona King and David Robinson.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
You ask about a mentor. Writing, as you know, is a personal exercise. It’s the perfecting and smoothing over which takes time and effort, and for that I have learned to listen to my peers. I listen, and choose whether or not to take each piece of advice. In the end, it is only their opinion, and it is my book. For Breath of Africa, I leant on the knowledge and advice of John Sibi Okumu, a Kenyan TV personality and erstwhile colleague, who authenticated the African characters. I guess if I could choose an author mentor, it would be Morris West, whose books I have especially enjoyed through the years.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The most challenging thing about writing is forcing my myself to pick up that pen (or bring up a blank Word window) and WRITE something, when my brain is drained, a story has lost its impetus, or I have come against a brick wall.
Fiona: Do have any advise for other writers?
My advice to other authors would be help each other and persevere. If you want something hard enough, you will succeed, and the sense of achievement will be worth all the time and effort. I felt I had to troll the agents and publishers, because I lacked confidence. But I treated it as a marketing exercise, and made sure the rejections had minimal adverse effect, because I looked forward to the next possibility. I found peer review websites very rewarding, and the competitive animal in me helped me reach Gold Medal status on the Authonomy site. http://authonomy.com/ . It’s the book that counts. Each book sold gives me a little thrill, and I’ve learned that making money out of it is of secondary importance.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers ?
To those of my readers who have given me feedback – I say thank you with all my heart. Your encouragement is priceless, and even if the book has disappointed you in any way, your reaction is valuable, for no two expectations are the same. Every review is like gold dust, to me as well as to potential readers.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My website: http://www.janebwye.com
My blog: http://jbwye.com