05 Jul Author Q&A – Yaba Badoe
When did you first know you were a writer?
For as long as I can remember I’ve always enjoyed listening to other people’s stories. My grandmother was a fantastic storyteller and my mother wrote short stories for one of the first women’s magazines in Ghana. I must have been about 8 or 9 when I wrote my first ‘book’ at prep school – a rather sad tale about a gypsy girl. I bound the pages together, and after I’d illustrated the cover, I decided that writing a book was fun. However, I didn’t start writing seriously until I was in my twenties. By then I realised that only the very best and luckiest of writers are able to make a living from words. So, to earn enough to put a roof over my head, I opted to work in radio and television instead.
What inspired you to write The Secret of the Purple Lake/What is your favourite part of the book?
In my mid-thirties when most of friends were getting married and having children, I decided to reassess my journey in life. Was I doing what I really wanted to be doing? To understand what direction to take I went to see a Jungian therapist who’d helped a friend of mine. Jungians are very keen on dream work and I began to take note of my dreams. That’s how I met Ajuba, the fisherman’s daughter, and the Fish-man of the Purple Lake. The stories tumbled out of my dreams and, slowly by surely, I began to write them down, until eventually, my characters wanted to meet each other and connect.
Share an interesting experience you’ve had with one of your readers.
I was at the Hay Literary Festival this year and met some amazing readers. Two of them came up to me after I’d given a schools’ talk about my journey as a writer and the books I’ve written. I was rummaging through a novel I was thinking of buying when two girls came up to me.
‘Miss, can we ask you a question?’
‘Of course you can!’ I replied.
‘When you came to Britain, Miss, was it very difficult?’
In my talk, I’d mentioned that I arrived to go to prep school in Britain when I was six years old. I’d explained how strange it had been learning how to eat Yorkshire pudding with beef!
‘Yes, it was quite traumatic,’ I admitted. ‘But then sometimes, when something difficult happens to you, it can give you a sense of being different that may help you become a writer.
‘Thank you, Miss,’ the girls said. And off they went.
How would you describe your writing style in three words?
Poetic. Magical. Unique.
What is the best advice you’ve received?
Mr Birkett, the Headmaster of my prep school, used to have scrawled on his blackboard the words: ‘Be Original. Avoid the ordinary.’ I took this to mean that I should allow my imagination to flourish and use it at every opportunity. Isn’t it weird how words written on a blackboard years ago have had such an impact on my life?
What are you reading?
At the moment I’m reading an uncorrected proof of Chris Vick’s Girl. Boy. Sea. I’m loving it. It’s going to be published on the 8th of August by Zephyr. Girl. Boy. Sea combines all the elements I enjoy in a story: adventure, love, huge dollops of the natural world and stories. It’s very powerful indeed.
What are you working on now?
I’ve just started writing a new YA novel for my publisher, Zephyr an imprint of Head of Zeus. It’s early days yet, so I’m at a stage where I’m still getting to know my main character and tuning my ear to hear her voice.
A big thank you to Yaba Badoe! You can learn more about her work by following her on Twitter @yaba_badoe.