More from Crooked Cat’s contemporary fiction week.

Jane Bwye

It is Contemporary Fiction Week at Crooked Cat Books Facebook Page – and I’m in the company of two awesome authors. We’re sharing titbits, and here’s my second one…


Flash forward thirty years, during which time I was lucky to remarry. We brought up our family, which grew to six children, in an idyllic life with horses, cows, dogs, chickens… within a twenty mile radius of Nairobi. I started writing BREATH OF AFRICA in the 1970’s, and became immersed in the story. But there were complaints; Mum was always late; she never answered questions; she even forgot to pick someone up from school. So I gave up.

When all but Dennis – our afterthought with no thought – had left the nest, I finally had time to take the Know Kenya Course at the Nairobi Museum. That was when I discovered that my brain still worked. I took the Museum Guides’…

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A wonderful book from my fellow Crooked Cat author, Jane Bwye.

Jane Bwye

It is Contemporary Fiction Week at Crooked Cat Books Facebook Page – and I’m in the company of two awesome authors. We’ll be sharing titbits, and here’s one of mine…


Not The Whole Truth

People have often asked me how much of my own life is portrayed in BREATH OF AFRICA. I say that the story is fiction, but the book draws on my experiences. However, that’s not the whole truth.

My life started naturally enough. I grew up in the Rift Valley and went to school in the Kenya Highlands, then on to Nairobi.

I loved horses. While at boarding school I would just live for my Saturday riding lessons at the nearby racecourse. My best friend and I were a bit hare-brained; we used to break out of school at night at the height of the Mau Mau emergency.

Here is a piece from the first chapter of…

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A couple of weeks ago I interviewed Jeff about his novel, ‘Igboland’. Here’s some more information about how the book came to be.

Jeff Gardiner's Blog

Igboland cover5My novel, IGBOLAND, is inspired by the photos, diaries and stories of my Mum and Dad, Janet and Gerald. They lived in the Nigerian bush for six years as missionaries, during the Biafran War. They faced many difficulties and hardships, but remember their time with great joy; for them it was a life -changing experience as a young couple. I was born out in Nigeria (in Jos), and my parents brought up two children with relatively few resources.

Below is a selection of some photographs from their time out there – taken between 1964-70.

1037 Village MethodistsA friendly welcome from the brightly-dressed local villagers.

1053 J with manse catMum and the pet cat – mainly kept to catch mice and rats.

box 1021 FrangipaniDad admiring the frangipani blossom. Plants grew very quickly and dramatically in the West African climate.

1080 Usha bridgeMy parents’ VW Beetle attempting to cross another precarious bridge. Most of the roads were dirt tracks, which after…

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‘Igboland’ – a Biafran story

‘Igboland’, by Jeff Gardiner, is published by Crooked Cat Publishing, Edinburgh. It’s fiction, backed up with solid research and factual information – my favourite kind of fiction. I’ll confess an interest straight away – my first novel is also published by Crooked Cat, and Jeff is my editor. I’m enjoying a brief break from writing, and taking the opportunity to catch up on my reading. I’m delighted Jeff agreed to answer a few questions for my blog. Take a look at this book – it’s well worth reading.

Jeff Gardiner – ‘Igboland’

 What started you writing? What made you want to become a writer?

 I’ve always loved reading for as long as I can remember. When I was young, I wanted to be able to write something that affected others as much as a book like ‘The Wind in the Willows’ affected me. (Haven’t achieved that yet, but it’s good to aim high). As an adolescent I wrote terrible, self-indulgent poetry and plays, which I hope never see the light of day. Once I had more life experience, I began to write stories and found some success with those. I write because my head is full of images and stories to tell.

 Your book ‘Igboland’ is set in Nigeria during the Biafran conflict of the 1960s. What led you to choose this topic for your story?

 I was born in Nigeria during the Biafran/Civil War. My parents were missionaries living out in Idoma. I’m very proud and sentimental about my Nigerian roots, and the idea of writing a novel set there was always something I wanted to do. ‘Igboland’ uses some context and details from my Mum’s diaries, but the story is fictional. I very much enjoyed researching Igbo culture and their beliefs – known as Odinani. We in the west could learn a great deal from their profound understanding of the world around us.

 How has writing this book changed the way you approach writing?

 ‘Igboland’ involved more research than my previous novel, ‘Myopia’. I had a strong structure, which did change and turn itself almost inside out at one point. I’m better at structures and planning now. ‘Igboland’ went through a number of edits before being sent off to publishers. I learnt a great deal about editing through the process of completing it. Editing is something that writers must take seriously. It’s an essential element of novel writing.

 In what formats is your book available? Do you favour some formats above others (e.g. e-books versus print)?

 My novels ‘Igboland’ and ‘Myopia’, and my collection of short stories (‘A Glimpse of the Numinous’), are available as paperbacks and e-books. My novel ‘Treading On Dreams’ is in e-book only. I always used to favour proper books, but I am slowly coming round to e-books. I now have a kindle and read most books on it now. The only thing I don’t like about e-books is that it’s difficult to flick back quickly to find a previous extract.

 What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

 You have to believe in your product. If you don’t then nobody else will. Never give up. Have courage and persistence. Get used to rejection and toughen up. Be business-like, and be prepared to work hard at marketing your books. It doesn’t finish when you write ‘The End’. Enjoy being creative.

 Thanks for reading this, and thanks for having me on your blog, Yvonne.