Lucinda E Clarke is the author of a series of novels set in Africa featuring her heroine Amie Fish (née
Reynolds). The original book of the series serves (perhaps) as a primer for those unfamiliar with African culture and issues related to endemic corruption (in countries like Zimbabwe) or the simplicity and beauty of bush life among such ethnic groups as the pygmies and Maasai.
She opened our email chat as I read the first novel, over the course of a number of weeks, with thoughts about starting the series with Amie: African Adventure and what she’s learned since.
I wish I could re-write Amie 1 as I’ve learned so much about novel-writing since then. I spend far too much time setting the scene, although as a series it does put things in perspective.
Perhaps this opening is a little chick-litty in a (good) way, in the sense of a dinner conversation where emotions are fraught, for instance. Lots of drama with the move overseas. But you’ve established the biographical elements beautifully – very clever to show it all through the prism of ambitions, settling down, etc.
Hang in there it’s not girly chick-lit (which I hate) it does speed up. All my later books start fast and keep it up to the end. But it wouldn’t make sense now to re-write it and maybe lose the awards and reviews.
Yes, you can see how action-packed it will get just reading the prologue.
A few details I’ve noted to raise: I don’t know if they would still be using tape in a production house or tv studio in the age of Facebook. Same goes for an assumption that a camera wouldn’t be digital (as the parents gift Amie the camera at the airport). Are these anachronisms?
The camera equipment is correct, I was a video producer and had my own video company in a former life.
Memory cards wouldn’t hold enough data. I suspect they may use them now, but I last filmed in 2008 – when I started we had massive tapes, larger than the old beta tapes and a separate monitor we had to plug into the camera – then we went betacam and then digital – the camera
|Photographic evidence of photographic technology,
courtesy of the author.
was so much smaller that people found it hard to believe it was broadcast quality. When I left they were checking out the prices of HD High Definition and I think the format has moved on again to MXF.
Well, you have me learned!
The family are keen to see Amie off, even if she’s reluctant to travel. There’s a sense that Amie’s vindicated after what happens in Togodo, your imagined country that seems a little like Zimbabwe or perhaps the Congo.
Amie’s mother is at that age when she might look back and wish she’d been more adventurous and Sam’s marriage is on the rocks (comes up later) and she’s tied to a house with two small children!
Your novel shows ludicrous levels of corruption from the hotel bookings onwards. Was Kenya, or were other countries, like that? (again, not ludicrous in a bad way! I am not incredulous.) It really starts off when on arrival at the airport, Amie’s painkiller medications are confiscated.
I remember my own anger when they took something off me at customs at Nairobi, despite the guns.
If you’ve not lived in Africa (and I think this applies to India too) you would be amazed at the levels of blatant corruption. As Diana explains it’s not seen as anything out of the ordinary, but expected. They have a whole different mind-set we find hard to grasp, and this is one reason I got a bit carried away setting the parameters.
Africans are truly fatalistic and accept that those with any sort of power will take every advantage they can. They are after all supporting dozens of relatives and expected to share what they earn. Few will even complain that they work and yet give to the family members who sit around all day drinking and playing cards. Yet so many of them are so lovable, innocent and naive and I have Amie fall in love with Africa and her people as I did.
And what of Amie and her husband? There are elements of familiarity there, like the romantic behaviour, but they also seem quite polite with each other at times. I appreciate Jonathon is
overworked and he returns home stressed now and then too, and comes off as a little abrasive. But there’s a formality there as well.
I never thought of making them too cozy as a couple, remember she does not see a lot of him as often happens in ex-pat families. The guys work very long hours and expect their wives to be very self-sufficient. I recall being amazed when I learned that one wife would drive from Francistown to Gaborone 400 kms each way on her own – in the days before cell phones and there was not one petrol station on the way.
What do you say to people who suggest your highlighting of all this corruption is racist?
Racism? Well frankly I told it like it is. You have only to read the stories in the African newspapers to see I was not exaggerating. And you might also notice that a few of the reviewers have said ‘it is like this’. Not convinced? Then try The State of Africa’ by Martin Meredith, it will blow your mind.
Personally, I’m fed up with this racism nonsense. One reviewer told me I had no idea what I was talking about and then mentioned she’d never been to Africa but had seen it all on the telly. It is NOT a matter of skin colour but mindset and I hoped I’d made that clear in the book.
In contrast with the urban corruption, you have depictions of a very rural village, barely touched by civilization, that show the hospitality and kindness of the people. And it turns out to be a really riveting read, explosive and violent, with any number of twists and turns.
Thanks so much for your time, Lucinda.You can find Lucinda’s first Amie book at this link from a number of shops and sources. Lucinda E Clarke is on Amazon and Twitter.