I read an article today titled, Why don’t authors compete? by Seth Godin via Alicia Simons (@AliciaMSimons). It makes a great read about how authors help each other and it reminded me of the interesting people to know and books we discover, by being part of the RRBC book club.
It is my pleasure to host this month’s RRBC Bethany Turner ‘Pay it forward’ day one, with a really supportive and talented author, Jan Hawke. Jan says on her website that she is ‘a bit of a wallflower when it comes to building herself as a brand,’ but she is club secretary at RRBC and spends much of her time promoting and raising awareness for other RRBC authors. Today I’m thrilled to tell you more about Jan!
Author Jan Hawke.
Milele Safari: An Eternal Journey by Jan Hawke
Sub-Saharan Africa, the setting for Jan Hawke’s debut, Milele Safari, couldn’t be more different from her home in rural Cornwall. The structure of the novel, which explores the aftermath of genocide, was loosely inspired by The Canterbury Tales, and the writing process turned out to be a therapeutic journey for the author herself.
I live near Launceston in Cornwall, UK with husband Pete and Toby and Benji the Springer Spaniels. It’s a tie between the boys as to who’s maddest, but as I outrank all of them in being weird anyway it’s not really open to debate. Due to ill health I retired early from an IT career in the publications unit of a central government civil service office. These days, I regret to say, I’m physically lazy with things that don’t hold much interest for me (so that’s mostly housework and, increasingly, cooking…) but writing and messing around with graphic art to keep my hand in is still something I enjoy immensely. However, I do love where we live, mainly because I chose it for being so quiet and off the beaten track, very close to the moors and quite near to the sea. Great for mood writing and for the lack of passing trade and callers that living in the country is all about.
Jan’s book, Milele Safari.
About Milele Safari:
Essentially it centres on Sophie Taylor’s early experiences as an assistant teacher with a relief organisation and how her life is ruined by her fiancé’s murder in fictional Zyanda, in the fallout of the tribal genocide being perpetrated there. It skips around in time and a lot of the story is told in flashback thirteen years later when Sophie, re-trained as a doctor, returns to the Zyandan-Tanzanian borders to work as a clinician and psychotherapist in an experimental community settlement for the rehabilitation of the victims of war and violence, but also offering them a new future as empowered participants in fair trade agriculture and with wildlife and eco-conservation tourism.
Because she was initially sceptical about returning to work for an aid agency, Sophie’s sister, who runs an upmarket safari tour company, hits on the idea of easing Sophie back with a working holiday as the medical attendant for a group of Hollywood movie-makers out on a jolly in Southern and East Africa before starting a re-make of The African Queen. That helps set up the backdrop of actual and perceived attitudes towards ‘natural world’ Africa, before Sophie moves on to confront and overcome the darker aspects of war and colonial and cultural abuse that permeates modern Africa, through the people she encounters on safari and in the community she is to join.
Buy Milele Safari here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0992747201/ref=nosim?tag=theomni-21
Find out more about Jan here:
Twitter Handle: @JanHawke
A first glimpse of Milele Safari ~ if you’d like to read some more you can find the paperback on Amazon.com and other leading online bookstores supplied by my distributor, Ingrams.
NOW ALSO AVAILABLE in Kindle format on AMAZON.com
Smoke and Thunder
Sophie’s Diary: Thursday 26th April ~ near Livingstone, Zambia
Amazing! We walked across the actual lip of the Falls from the Zambian side almost as far as Livingstone Island. This place is different every time I come here. I remember seeing the Falls just after the rains last time all those years back, when I’d never really regarded water as an element that defined Africa, except in a negative way. Tom was with me and it had such a profound effect on us both (not just the emotional-sexual side although that made it so memorable of course) that I could never again forget the power and beauty of water and how much it sums up every part of Africa and its people and their economies. Perhaps that was because my earliest travels took me mainly to land-locked farming communities where water was far more precious than gold during droughts and the children listened to my stories of rain that fell gently and steadily for days on end with longing in their eyes, and of snow with open-mouthed disbelief. In those areas a lack of water was at least well understood but a surfeit – flash floods and suchlike were almost more dreaded than drought and much less predictable of course. Too much water or nothing like enough – an eternal dilemma for African farmers. I had never thought deeply on how much abundance of water could be such a boon if it could be controlled even a little until I visited Victoria Falls, but at the time all I could think of was how truly beautiful and spectacular the Zambezi was.
How would I describe the Falls? I suppose it would depend on what time of year you went to them. In dry seasons they are still impressive and, to some people, more beautiful as the constricted river flows in ethereal, lacy ribbons down the various gorges. People from North America scoff that ‘Niagra beats the pants off this’, conveniently forgetting that their connubial resort’s attraction is firmly under control and almost completely tamed by dams and hydraulic engineering. But if they try to say that just after the rains you won’t be able to see or hear them for the heavy mists and the rumbling, tumbling roar of the Zambezi as over half a million cubic metres of water career hundreds of feet downwards, across a span over a mile across and seemingly through a thousand channels and chasms. Dr. Livingstone was right you inevitably conclude if you experience the Falls at this time when the Zambezi is swollen to its limit – Angels would indeed pause in their flight.
The Smoke that Thunders…
… ‘My first time here?’ Sophie gave a small twisted smile as they all sat about the ‘campfire’ in the lodge later that evening. ‘With my parents when I was fourteen I suppose. But it was the dry season then and I don’t really count that as my first time – the Zambezi is a little pussycat then. No. My first sight of it in almost full spate was about four years later and I was with…’ She gazed into the fire for a few moments before speaking again. ‘Sorry. I was with a good friend. The river was really high and fast and some of the extreme sports firms wouldn’t run their rafts in certain parts of the rapids because it was too dangerous – more than a ‘five’ anyway – too much of an insurance risk.’ She grinned at the two cameramen. ‘We were staying on the Zimbabwe side – before it started going badly over there and their petrol prices were really cheap so the Zambians were swarming across the bridge to trade for things they just couldn’t get hold of at home. We had a couple of days break from work so we decided to stay in town and do the whole tourist thing. We went to the Vic Falls National Park, which is a really nice little reserve – you can get right out over some of the chasms if you’re careful. But when the river is full like it was today – and the time we were there – you almost become a part of the Falls. The air is thick with misty droplets, so fine and light that sometimes you’re breathing them in…. and the sound is stupendous. The ground shakes and you can feel the impact of the cascades in your throat and the percussion rising up through your legs. It’s visceral… primeval even. It was so beautiful and wonderful that we both cried…’ Sophie fell silent again and others began to talk about their own experience of the great waterfall. The general consensus was that it was awesome in the true sense of the word.
They had all gone to bed now except for her and the driver, Adam, who had come back to talk to Reception about some forward booking that had gone awry. Sophie had turned at the sound of his quiet low voice and smilingly waved him over to join her when he was done. They began to talk about small things, how Livingstone had changed since the last time she had been there. Anything so she didn’t have to go back to her room just yet. She didn’t want to be alone and certainly didn’t want to go to sleep yet, or rather go to bed and lie there restless in the dusky blue light of the full moon, rippling through thin curtains, thinking about Tom. How blissful they had felt not two miles away across the great gorge in one of the basic but very spick and span lodges. That truly wonderful, magic night they had made their future plans and been so, so happy and so much in love…
Why did you decide to self-publish, and how are you marketing your book?
Because I don’t handle rejection too well. Not entirely true, because I did approach about a half dozen carefully selected literary agents with mixed results, some of whom actually replied with a polite ‘no’. I always knew it would be hard to pitch the book because it’s such a medley of approaches with several viewpoint characters and some folklore and mysticism thrown in the mix – the whole point of it being about Africa is that it’s not any one thing.
Also, although I purposefully chose a variety of people with different literary tastes to beta-read it for me (and who nearly all found something to enjoy in there), I knew it would be a hard book to read in places in view of some of the subject matter. Because of that, for someone who’s new to the fiction side of publishing it was always going to be difficult to pitch to a niche audience because it’s such a mixture of scenarios and emotional content. I couldn’t say it’s chick-lit, or a war thriller, or a fictional misery memoir, although there’s elements of all those in there, so I guess I wasn’t brave enough to put myself through the rejection mill for too long.
But mostly I opted to self-publish because of my background in publications and because I still had all the software, design and editing tools to produce creditable print and ePub editions all on my ownio. Also I joined LinkedIn and met some highly skilled self-publishers on there who put me on to some reputable and very professional POD and distribution providers, who made all the bits that I couldn’t navigate for myself extremely stress-free as well as easy(ish) on the pocket.
Really I’ve had a ball being in sole charge of how my book got published and, even if sales never go too far into profit, I’m hooked on doing it myself from now on. As for marketing — well not quite so keen but I’m successfully combating a deep-seated reluctance to indulge in social networking and have recently embraced blogging. This interview is in itself a giant leap for me — and getting minor kicks from it, so I guess I’m gradually coming out of my PR comfort zone OK.