Monday, May 9, 2016

Beneath the African Sun: Interview with Historical Fiction Author Maria Lynch



Maria was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. After graduating from Dr. Ribeiro Goan School and with secretarial skills and her experience as a School Secretary she arrived in London, England in 1967 in the midst of “hippie world.” She studied at Pitman’s College for a Commercial Teacher’s Diploma which she successfully achieved in 1969. Due to the tenuous political situation in Kenya she had to find a new home. In the autumn of 1970 she emigrated to Canada in search of a home to put down her new roots. This she did with her husband, Tim who immigrated to Canada from South Wales, UK.

To Maria and Tim, Canada became a land of opportunity and new beginnings. In pursuit of these opportunities, they lived in Hamilton, Montreal, and Toronto. Tim pursued post graduate studies at the University of Toronto while Maria achieved a B.A. in Economics from York University followed by a B.Ed. from the University of Toronto. During this time, she and Tim nurtured their two sons. When they reached school age, Maria taught Business Studies’ courses  at high schools in the City of Toronto for fourteen years. In 1999 she achieved an M.A. (Leadership and Training) from Royal Roads University, British Columbia.

Maria is an avid reader of fiction and non-fiction books. The latter enables her to delve into her favorite topics of social justice issues, community development and philosophy. In 2009 she began blogging, visit www.dovemuse.ca. This deepened her interest in writing novels and is author of Beneath the African Sun; for details visit www.authormarialynch.com. She also enjoys nature trail walking and traveling.
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About the Book:

When Sabby Mendes leaves Portuguese Goa aboard the dhow Monsoon Wind bound for British East Africa in 1916, he has one dream—to find work as a tailor in the relatively new capital of Nairobi. Sabby is a young man, still a teenager, but he is determined to build a life for himself, and he knows that the opportunities in the British Protectorate are better than those facing him at home.

A bright, affable young man with a genuine passion and talent for tailoring, he is not prepared for what he is about to find beyond the Arabian Sea. The Protectorate, which will become British Colony
of Kenya, is a highly segregated society with the British firmly ensconced at its top; below them are the “Asians” like Sabby; and at the very bottom are the native African population who are regarded as little more than savages in need of civilization.

Beneath the African Sun offers, through the eyes of its protagonist, a street-level view of the changing social and political climate of Kenya between 1916 and 1970, including the ‘Mau Mau’ Uprising of the native Kikuyu, the eventual independence of Kenya in 1963, and the political fallout that followed.

More than a history, it is a story about family, home, social justice, and what it means to truly belong somewhere.

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Thanks for this interview, Maria.  Can we begin by having you tell us about yourself from a writer’s standpoint?

In the past I wrote reports, minutes of meetings, academic papers and a post graduate thesis. In 2009 I created a blog, www.dovemuse.ca that I use as a personal repository of my writings. I post my personal reviews of fiction and non-fiction that I read. This kind of writing shifted my focus to creative writing. Apart from personal book reviews, I write about our travel adventures and other topics of interest. From blogging I took the leap to writing my first novel, Beneath the African Sun.  The more I read the more I discover different writing styles. It helps me create my own style of writing to a form that is unique to my way of telling a story.

When not writing, what do you like to do for relaxation and/or fun?

I like walking in the parks, nature trails and on sandy beaches. I love theatre plays, orchestral music concerts, participating in book club meetings and attending lectures on current trends in politics, social justice issues and philosophy.

Do you have a day job? Or a night one?

Neither. I spend my time reading and writing.

Would you say it’s been a rocky road for you in regards to getting your book written and published or pretty much smooth sailing?  Can you tell us about your journey?

It was mostly smooth sailing to write Beneath the African Sun as I drew on personal experiences, childhood stories and recollections from family members and friends. The one challenge was to sort out the different stories and choose the ones that would suit the characters I created in the novel and yet maintain authenticity.

I used a self-publishing company, FriesenPress to produce my book. I chose a package that closely resembled a traditional publisher. I was assigned a team led by an account manager who coordinated all the activities of the team; editor, book designer, book promoter and book distributor. I worked very closely with each member of the team during the whole process of the production of my novel.

What is it about the historical fiction genre that appeals more than any other genre you would choose to write?

Historical fiction puts historical facts and events in a story format. As a writer I can use the backdrop of history to create a street-level view of the historical impact on an ordinary person’s life that would include suspense, love, tragedy, conflict and possible political mayhem that could surface in the story.

If you had to summarize your book in one sentence, what would that be?

More than a history, it is a story about family, home, social justice, and what it means to truly belong somewhere.

What makes your book stand out from the rest?

Beneath the African Sun offers, through the eyes of its protagonist, a street-level view of the changing social and political climate of Kenya between 1916 and 1970, including the Mau Mau Uprising of the native Kikuyu, the eventual independence of Kenya in 1963, and the political fallout that followed.

If your book was put in the holiday section of the store, what holiday would that be and why?

Summer. It is a tale about a migrant who leaves his home village in Portuguese India for a new life in British Colonial Kenya set in the early 20th century. It is easy to read and can be read by the lake while vacationing in a summer cottage. The story takes place in Kenya, a country where the sun shines all year round.

Would you consider turning your book into a series or has that already been done?

Not a series but I am working on a sequel to Beneath the African Sun.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

My ideas come from reading fiction and non-fiction, personal experiences, witnessing experiences of others, listening to personal stories and formal lectures on social justice issues, philosophy, and impact of community on individuals.

During these settings I become curious and want to know more and reflect on how I could turn what I hear and read into a story that would portray the issues from a street- level viewpoint. Further research and interviews would add context and content to the story.

What’s next for you?

I am presently mapping out an outline for a sequel to Beneath the African Sun.