The Selwa Anthony Author Management company held their annual Sassy Awards ceremony at the Novotel Brighton during November. Juanita Phillips from ABC TV News in Sydney made the presentations. I was honoured to receive the award as the ‘Quiet Achiever’ for 2008 in recognition of my five heavily-researched books within the space of five and a half years.
Over one hundred authors, publishers, editors and others in the industry attended the full-day seminar and 170 were there for the formal dinner and presentation ceremony in the evening.
Selwa Anthony has been organising the seminar and Sassy Awards for many years in her continuing and very generous support of Australian authors in general, and popular fiction writers in particular.
The marketing people at Harper Collins went all out in September to publicise my new book – The Last Maasai Warrior.
The big promotional campaign involved the usual material in book stores (bins, bookmarks, posters, etc), light boxes at the major airports and, a first – advertising space on the back of capital city bus services.
With my latest book, The Last Maasai Warrior awaiting publication by Harper Collins, it was time to visit Kenya again to research my next book.
Like many friends of Kenya, I had been reading with dismay the news of the violence that hit the country following the December 2007 elections. I wanted to see and hear for myself what effect this had on the lives of ordinary Kenyans.
What I found was a society still in shock from seeing their country torn apart by a level of inter-tribal violence not seen in living memory. The centre of the violence had been in the squatter settlements of Kibera – a Nairobi suburb containing around a million people within a couple of square miles. Kibera is a no-go area to the uninitiated. Through friends, I found someone to be my guide and I spent days talking to people who had witnessed horrific events, and others whose lives had been profoundly affected by the post-election violence.
I met a painter who was innocently caught between a rioting group of Kiberan youths and an ill-disciplined police force out for revenge rather than to uphold the law. An AK47 fractured his hip. He couldn’t afford the operation and barely had enough to buy the crutches he needed. Now, eight months later, he still needs the crutches and has not been able to work. Even in a squatter settlement there is rent and school fees to pay. A difficult life had quickly become unsustainable.
And there was the Kikuyu artist who had grown up amongst his Luo friends and neighbours. He described the demons of doubt that haunted him every day. When would one of those friends or neighbours turn on him and denounce him to the mob?
I came away from that experience with a very different novel to what I had in mind when I went there. In Kibera there are few formal authority structures – the police will not enter Kibera after dark. But through various non-government organisations, community-based groups and the determination of the many hard-working, honest residents to maintain the peace, there is an amazing cohesion and order in what otherwise appears to be chaos.
My sixth novel (due out in April 2010) will attempt to relate some of these stories.
It was an honour and a pleasure to be inivited to address the May meeting of the Society of Women’s Writers at the State Library of NSW.
I’m always on the lookout for stories that are out of Africa, so when I received an email from a man who said he had lived for many years in Kenya, I thought I should make some further enquiries. What I received in reply was astonishing.
Ninety-six-year-old Brian Goord sent me a memoir of his life in Africa, where he described arriving with his wife and year-old son in 1948. With no prior experience, Brian set about farming his land at Eldama Ravine in the highlands overlooking the Great Rift Valley. In the following years he and his family had to cope with all the usual trials found in farming, but in addition there was the Mau Mau emergency, the threat of dangerous predators and stock and plant diseases that few people understand.
In addition to his busy life managing a farm and the eighty Africans who lived and worked on it, Brian became a district councillor responsible for public health and social services in an area covering some 5000 square miles.
I wanted to meet this man and was soon on a flight to Christchurch, New Zealand, where I met Brian, and we talked for hours while he showed me his priceless old home movies of the farm and travels around the country.
I was kindly invited to stay at Claremont (http://www.claremontestate.com/) with Brian’s son Richard and wife Rosie, who was also born and raised in Africa. Claremont lodge is itself an inspirational setting, ideal for the great stories the Goord family had to relate.
I was very envious of Brian and his life in Kenya at a most interesting time in its historical journey – a time that most people can only visualize through the sepia-coloured pages of history books. With the Goord’s recollections of times gone by, I let my imagination take flight into stories as yet unwritten.
Read more of Brian’s story by clicking here.
Good news awaited me on my visit to Munich, Germany for a meeting with my agent Ms Franka Zastrow and my editor at the German publishers Droemer Knaur, Ms Christine Steffen-Reimann.
The German hard-back edition of In Search of Africa was featured on the cover of Weltbild – a very large chain of book stores. You don’t get better publicitiy than that! This is one of the main reasons we are enjoying such excellent sales in Germany so far.
The autumn weather in the university town of Oxford was perfect when I visited the Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House.
I spent a week in Oxford researching my next book, “The Last Maasai Warrior” which will continue to explore the fascinating life of the Maasai of East Africa.
Speaking engagements in July included an address to a book reader’s group at the Mitchell Wing in the State Library of New South Wales and an after-dinner engagement at the annual Officer’s Mess dinner at HMAS Waterhen on Sydney’s north shore.
It’s been a busy month.
Following up on very healthy sales figures in April, Roar of the Lion rose to number 11 on Bookscan’s best sellers list in May, making for a busy round of radio interviews, literary events and press releases.
A highlight was an hour with Richard Margetson in the Guestroom (ABC Radio 891)
German Edition of In Search of Africa
My German publisher, Droemer, has once again licensed book club rights to Weltbild for a hardcover premiere edition of In Search of Africa to be released before their own trade paperback edition comes out.
The launch of Roar of the Lion got off to a great start with free samplers handed out in the CBD areas of Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne shortly before Easter.
After just two weeks Roar of the Lion has roared up the best-seller’s list to lucky number thirteen – even against heavy competition such as Wilbur Smith’s latest.
|Emma and Alexus of Results Media handing out samplers of Roar of the Lion outside Flinders Street Station in Melbourne:|
|Here’s Angela and Ruby distributing the Roar of the Lion Book Samplers in Brisbane on Thursday 5th April|
|Elise and Genevieve in Pitt Street Mall, Sydney|
Tears keeps coming
The third German edition of Tears of the Maasai landed in my mail box last week. That brings the tally to twelve editions of Tears of the Maasai in all.
Sales in Germany have simply soared.
Tanzania was a German colony many years ago which is probably one of the reasons they have such a passion for Africa. The other reason is that the Kenyan Indian Ocean coast has many delightful beach holiday resorts. There is always a strong German contingent in any of the resorts I have visited.
Beyond Mombasa in German
A few days after receiving my German copy of Tears of the Maasai, the hard copy German translation of Beyond Mombasa arrived.
It’s very gratifying to find a readership in another country.