Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Benedict Kuah - Fons of War & Death - Author Interview

Author Interview

1. How did you come up with the title?
A struggle really, I went with three other titles trying to find the right fit until I decided to go with the two main characters whose actions at various junctures, sought to tip the book one way or the other. I do think that at times during their journeys, War and Death fit them perfectly.

2. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Oh sure! I do believe that almost always, our writings have a purpose and a message in them. I think that what readers can grasp from this book is the ease with which we can dehumanize each other. As history has shown us most often, it is along ethnic, religious or nationality lines. But history has also shown us how trivial distinctions can be blown up to create bloodbaths when fanned by destructive forces. Here is a case of a brother and sister from the same womb, with the same blood flowing in their veins, almost the same time of birth, but then one is defined as a human being, and the other labeled a ghost, inhuman and so every single barbaric act that you can imagine is suddenly okay to perpetrate him. Even after writing the book, due to the fact that I gained this perspective after having completed the book, I still try to imagine how this distinction leading to such contrasting treatment of twins started. Just imagine, it might have been someone somewhere just looking at the features of a kid and deciding that you know what, he or she look like his idea of a ghost. And so it starts, and suddenly down the road, children with just such an appearance, are hunted down like beasts from the wild. My hope is that as we follow the story of these kids and men and women in this book, we reflect that if this can occur to children from the same womb, we must therefore be extra vigilant about the good natured distinction we easily allow as harmless that are foisted on our communities. It might begin as a jest, but can spawn suspicions, divisions and in extreme cases genocide.

3. How much of the book is realistic?
The characters are fictitious, but the themes are real. The treatment of albino babies in many cultures could not be improved upon fictionally in this book. It is horrendous. The Trade routes and some of the jockeying for goodies between kingdoms benefiting from the trades in goods and slaves are all historical facts. The setting closely resemble (though ‘improved’ here and there) the set-up of the Kingdom of Nso in the Cameroons.

4. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?
Not really. I haven’t seen anything yet that needed to be changed or that I feel was not properly handled. Maybe later, but right now I am completely satisfied.

5. What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Simplifying the book in such a way that it cuts across all boundaries and have the same impact on everyone even if their understanding of the setting of the novel is limited.

6. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
My answer to your second question really indicates the impact of my discovery as I progressed with the book. To tell you the truth, I did not grasp the full scope or the macro implication of the treatment of two kids, from the same womb in such a diverse manner until I finished and started editing the book. I set out to just tell the story of these people, driven by powerful demons that are the same ones that run throughout human evolution no matter where you come from or what period of history you happen to be born into---greed, ego, love, hate, ruthlessness, superstition, tribalism, I mean all the isms… but at the end of the day, I could not escape from the larger implication of just how easy and dangerous, labels, put on people, even with no intent to harm, and with no obvious differences between them, have led to unimaginable catastrophes.

7. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I never really thought of writing growing up; it never ever crossed my mind. The seeds were planted by my English teachers once I reached Secondary School (Middle School). As I progressed through school, and my homework in English and literature became heavy with writing essays, these teachers kept commenting on my writing and encouraging me to pursue it. It lay dormant as I hit some rough patches in my life and focused on other things but when I changed continents and met teachers as diverse from those that I had growing up as you can get, and these teachers had the exact same reaction to my writing as my previous teachers, I just knew that I had to push myself to do something about it. I could only write just so many fictional novels in my head and luckily about five years ago, the proverbial bug finally bit and I could no longer hold it in me even if I had tried. I began my first novel, published two years ago, Kingdom of Africa, the Changeling and the Lion.

8. Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
It is a very difficult question for me to answer due to my background. Growing up, I did not have the luxury of a library; not in my home, not anywhere about me, and I was a voracious reader. And so anything that I could lay my hands on, was a gift. From the bible to my older siblings’ textbooks from school--literature and history texts books alike, I will consume, so long as it tells a story. Even at an age when I could hardly understand half of what Shakespeare or Chaucer or Soyinka and such were saying, I will still try to muddle through them. I remember working myself through Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones when I was still in primary school (grade school) still trying to learn how to put sentences together. That is how desperate it was for me and reading material. So it bred in me an attitude that has made me to enjoy myself in books, any book. At various junctures I have loved Wole Soyinka, Ngugi wa Thiongo, Shakespeare, Henry Fielding, Agatha Christie, Clive Cussler… what is handy, what I can lay my hands on. So I will tell you that books make an impression on me not writers really, books. But you know, I really like Chinua Achebe for the vividness with which he is able to bring to live for people of different backgrounds, worlds in which though they may not identify with it, are able to not only appreciate it, but discover that all the currents that run through their lives also run through it and so they can draw not only inspirations, but lessons from it. Chinua Achebe's novel, ‘Things fall apart’ really grabs me.

9. Tell us your latest news.
I just became an editor for the website Abakwatimes.com, another chapter of the patchwork that makes my life I think. Within the end of the month or early next month, I plan a big launch of the book in Minnesota.

10. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Just to thank them, from the bottom of my heart. I don’t know if it is the same with every author, but for me, the greatest pleasure, second only to me letting a story grab a hold of me and take me where it will, is the time, effort and generosity with which they decide to join me in exploring a world that I discovered and beckon them to join me in. I am eternally thankful to them.

About the Book

At birth, judged to be deformed by a congenital defect that made him to be named a ‘ghost,’ Kintari’s parents handed him over to be euthanized. Blackmailed into carrying out the shameful act, the midwife, a childless woman decided to save him. She secreted him away in her forest home; brought him up more as a kin to lions than humans; did her best to teach him skills no child had any basis learning, all in preparation for the day his existence will come to light. ‘Ghost’ Hunters will flush him out of the safety of this home, making him to run far and wide, but in the end, he could never outrun his fate. It will eventually catch up with him when he entered a deal that entailed him returning to the land that had rejected him at birth.

Melalia and Sahinda were two girls from very diverse backgrounds. One was a woebegone princess dubbed Death’s Enchantress. She was famous for the suddenness with which death visited anyone who becomes engaged to her and the long line of suitors still vying for the honors. The other was her companion, Kintari’s twin sister; a girl who was celebrated as a single birth child but who instinctively knew that something was missing; that she was just half of a whole.

The return of Kintari will set in motion events that will put their lives in the balance and unleash powerful forces that were not above using the girls to draw him in.

Pages: 320
ISBN: 978-0-9854891-1-3
Price: $14.95
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Virtualbookworm Publishing
Buy Link: VirtualBookworm.com

About the Author

I was born in the Southern Cameroons in the seventies, the 6th of nine kids. I grew up in a barracks where kids run in packs so at times my childhood was a charm. But because of it, I think I might have shortened the lives of my parents by a good number of years.

I came of age at the University of Buea in the nineties, a very strategic period in the world. It was then that the carefully charted course of my life spun off its axis. The wall that divided East from West had just crumbled and with it the dissolution of the last remnants of Soviet Empire. The people power that had caused these massive changes finally swept onto the shores of Africa. I could not stand back and so I played a leading role as we unsuccessfully tried to pry loose the strings of colonialism with which France still shackled its supposedly independent former colonies.

This activism will lead me to take a harrowing journey across the seas, amply captured by my friend, colleague, classmate, fellow activist and companion on the journey, Cho Ayaba in his memoir ‘Not Guilty.’ My journey will land me on the shores of Germany from where I left to make my home here in Minnesota. I now write and publish, assist in editing the website Abakwatimes.com and also do a weekly show on esteemtv.com called the Ben Kuah Show. I am as passionate in ending the French hegemony and colonialism still persisting in Africa as I was back then though I know how difficult the job is for they have successfully hoodwinked everyone that colonialism is a thing of the past.

Links to connect with Benedict:
Author Web Site
Book Web Site
Author Facebook
Book Facebook

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