Introducing the lovely Amaka Azie: your next favourite romance author

Amaka

I had the privilege of interviewing Amaka Azie, an exciting new author who writes contemporary romance fiction set in Africa, just like me! We met on Facebook. Yes, social media is amazing …

Please tell us something about yourself.

A: I was born in Lagos, Nigeria, West Africa. A middle child, with four siblings. I’m also a twin (I have a twin brother). I currently reside in England with my husband and daughters, where I practice as a part-time family doctor.

How did you get into writing?

A: It has always been a dream of mine since I was a teenager. I enjoyed reading a lot and would sometimes forget to eat because I was engrossed in a book, much to my mother’s irritation. My interests in writing intensified when I joined the press club in secondary school. I was responsible for putting up interesting news articles to read on assembly. This pushed me to also write short stories I passed around in class. I remember my classmates queuing up to read my stories.

I continued to ruminate about writing for a long time until I met a publisher last year, who encouraged me to follow my dreams. I have not looked back since then.

How do you develop your plots and characters?

A: I usually start off with an idea, write it down and then gradually work out how the plot progresses. I sometimes use flashbacks to give the characters depth. So that people can understand the characters more. A few times, the plot has taken a mind of its own and led me to a path very different from what I had originally planned. I guess sometimes, a story can take over the writer.

What inspires you to write?

A: Real life situations. I am a romance writer, but I like to integrate real life situations and struggles into my stories. I think everyday experiences of regular people are potential ideas for many stories.

I am a good listener, and I have found that people, even strangers, open up to me about their lives. Sometimes just seeing the emotions from people telling me their stories, puts an idea in my head.

Music is another inspiration. The song “I put a spell on you” by Nina Simone has filled my head with various ideas.

Who is your all-time favorite character (from your books) and why?

A: Chuma Obi, from Thorns and Roses. He is a complicated man, who has insight to his character flaws. He knows he is obsessive, manipulative and controlling. He sometimes tries to fight his natural obstinate behavior but fails most times.

He is also a kind, caring and loyal person, who will go all out to fight for people he cares about. I love that about his character. He never wants to see anyone he loves struggling.

Do you prefer coffee or tea?

A: Coffee

What’s better than chocolate?

A: Cocktails… I’m a sucker for cocktails…

If you believed in this sort of thing and could channel an artist from the beyond, who would it be and why?

A: It would be Fela Kuti, a late Nigerian musician. He did not care what people thought about him. He spoke the truth about injustice through his music and was arrested by the Government multiple times.

I would channel his fearlessness and courage to speak the truth no matter what.

What are your plans for the future? Where do you see yourself in five years?

A: Hopefully with a Nigerian Writers Award… hahaha. And more bestsellers under my belt of course!

Any advice for those aspiring novelists out there?

A: Keep writing. Don’t give up. No one will read your stories if you don’t write. Also, don’t start out thinking about money. Start out with a burning desire to share your story.

Thanks for your time, Amaka! I’ll be reading Thorns and Roses, that’s for sure!

How can your readers contact you?

You can interact with Amaka Azie on:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amakaazie1/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmakaAzie

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/amakaazie

 

 

Love in a time of crisis

A tree

We all go through difficult times. Times when you’re hurting, disappointed, hopeless. A bad situation seems like it just won’t get better soon. I find it hard to write romance at times like this. I find it hard to work, full stop.

The only thing that I have found really works for these moments in life is to surrender. Dreadful word, I know. Who wants to do that? You want to fight the pain, you want to fix things, or lash out. Revenge looks good.

None of that works.

Surrender is another word for acceptance: of the situation, and what you feel – and the next step is asking for help in the sense of plugging into universal energies. Life works on a vibrational level and this is the moment to choose the high road (raise the vibration). Higher, towards love.

Usually, I need to start with feeling the pain. It can be huge, your chest cracking open. I don’t leave myself standing alone at these times. Yup, I call on the Great Beyond to assist me. Or whatever you want to call it (you choose). Have a good cry. A deep, core cry. You have to do it. Honour yourself in this way.

Next I will calm myself with a mantra. I’ve spoken about fear and the power of affirmations before. You need to tell yourself that all is well over and over again at times like this. I flow with life.

Allow yourself to be guided and held.

Plus, a gratitude list helps. What can you say thank you for despite this awful moment? Write it down. This tool always makes me feel better.

Finally, a happy dance. Yes, you can. Get up, even if you’re miserable. Shake that booty.

(Folks, do I need to add Read a good romance here? Didn’t think so.)

I hope you’re feeling better soon.

 

Only connect

inspiration This is the first in my promised series of posts about how to handle The Fear. Writers know it, we all know it. The voice that asks, “What if I’m not good enough?” “What if I can’t do this?” Sometimes it presents as someone else’s comment in your own head about how you’re going to fail, in someone else’s words. But convincing none the less.

I’m here to tell you that entertaining The Fear is putting the cart before the horse. You will be dragging yourself, and it, along. The Fear is the problem, not the thing that you think you’re afraid of! The battle is in a different place. It’s not tomorrow, when you will be sitting down to write. That will be a breeze. It’s now, when you’re at 10 000 words, and you’re not sure how the next 5 000 will go, and you’re worried about it. The worry is the problem.

You need to battle it in a different place – namely, here and now. The present moment.

The way I do this is to put the energy elsewhere. Firstly, recognise that Fear has got you by the throat. Then do the opposite of your usual knee-jerk stress reaction. SLOW DOWN.

This involves trust. I make sure I take care of myself (get ten hours’ sleep, eat a good breakfast, read a book – Marian Keyes is great). Light some incense. Gently clean the floor with some cedar oil or frankincense in water. Do a few affirmations to recentre yourself (I like to write them out or sing them). Play with your child. Then, when your ease comes, or even if it doesn’t, just write (or do whatever your own particular bugbear is).

Remember the joy and the love in all that is. The rest is illusion. Connecting with universal energy is the real work. It’s the only work you actually have to do.

Just show up.

EM Forster said: “Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect …”

I’m sure you will.

The beauty of notes

notes

I just love notebooks. I have drawers-full. But none of them are about plot lines. They’re mostly about personal growth (which I think is vital for writers, like everyone else!) But there are also ideas notebooks. These are recognisable by their utter randomness and lack of order. In fact many of them are not notebooks but receipts from restaurants, with scribbled words like

Smoke machine!

Jokes aside, I do keep a notepad next to my computer, and I try to keep a small one in my handbag. And a pen. Am I the only writer who never has a pen?! My child, who can’t write, has claimed all forty of my working ones.

The notepad is good for ideas that come to you when you are tapping away, and for doodling of course. I believe there is a relationship between words and images in your head, and it’s good to keep those linked. When I first started trying to write (the Agony Days, more about that later I promise) I actually put a set of paints and a small canvas next to my laptop, because I knew the painting mindset was important somehow. I didn’t get much of either done!

Nowadays I know that it’s the freedom that writing and painting share.

I also jot ideas down on computer at the end of the manuscript, a section of text that can become up to twenty pages long and play havoc with my word count!

If there is any advice I can give authors, it’s to honour the uniqueness and weirdness of your own creative process. Never try to hone it or make it more like someone else’s (and other people will suggest you do.) Do it your way. Receipts and all.

By the way, in my latest manuscript (being finalised now) the heroine gets into a bit of trouble surrounding her own notebook … hopefully be bringing you this one by Feb next year! You can check out all the exciting research I’ve been doing on Kenya for it lately on Twitter.

Thanks for tuning in.

Clean your house!

broom.jpg

This blog post could equally be entitled Love vs Perfectionism. And yes, it is about how writers need to clean their homes.

I mean this both literally and metaphorically. In a previous post I wrote about needing to be able to sit down amidst the chaos, dust and dirty dishes and just open that document. There is a heap of procrastination and work avoidance behaviour (WAB) available to you if you choose that. I agree with the inimitable Ms Hay that procrastination is just a lack of self-love: it’s delaying your own good. We all do that sometimes.

That’s not what I’m talking about here.

I mean that occasionally you have to put the brakes on and re-group. Even if you have only an hour in which to write, it may be necessary to get your head space organised first. Not in order to write, or to write better. Just for your own sake. Writers can become a bit obsessed and single-minded when it comes to work.

I recommend taking a breath and cleaning the floor. But give it a bit of a ceremonial air. Infuse it with love, rather than more of that deadline-beating angsty energy (my personal worst). You might want to add a few drops of lavender oil to the proceedings. Or go the whole hog and smudge the place. But do dust as well, and sort out that pile of books. Throw a few things out. Light a candle. Get clear.

The place doesn’t have to be perfect (nor do you, or your manuscript) but it does need your loving attention. As do you.

Enjoy.