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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

How do I write about Africa...if I've never been there?

by Zee Monodee

Hey beautiful people!

Life's been hectic and it's been a while since I posted here. Apologies - knowing I'm the epitome of the headless chicken does not excuse this lack of posting...so I'm hoping to redeem myself as from now.

And also, please forgive me for blogging about something very close to my heart - the African romance Ubuntu line at Decadent Publishing, that I manage.

Ubuntu stories are tales of modern love, life, and relationships in Africa. There's something of Africa permeating every story in this lineup - whether the location is African, and/or the characters are of African origin and/or evolve in the African context of our age.

The first hurdle I encounter whenever I talk about Ubuntu is that everyone believes only native Africans can write such stories. As in,

How can I write about Africa when I have never been there?

The answer is simple, folks – Research! And in today’s age of Internet and social media, you can be an armchair traveler yet traipse all over the world. I’ll give you some pointers about how to travel to Africa for your research. 

And before anyone asks me if I’m speaking from experience, yes, I am. You see, I am an author, too, and I have set some scenes in a few books in locations I have never physically visited. For example, I have never been to Prague, yet a pivotal scene in one of my books takes place in the heart of this city. How did I achieve this? Exactly the same way you’ll end up writing about Africa despite never having gone there in the flesh.

The first thing to remember is – don’t write something based on how you ‘think’ a place and culture will be. If I tell you Africa, you imagine dry, red dust, endless arid plains with one or two spindly trees dotting the landscape, and in the distance, a feline animal chasing a gazelle or something. Yes, that is a true picture of Africa... but of an African safari. The urban landscape in big towns/cities like Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa, Nairobi in Kenya, Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cairo in Egypt, even Port Louis, the capital city of my island, Mauritius, bear little resemblance, if any, with this kind of sprawling Serengeti-type setting. Just like nothing is ever black or white, Africa, too is painted all in shades of grey.

So how do you go about doing this research? Use the Internet.

Tourism sites – almost every country in the world, and every big city, has its own website nowadays. Go take a look at these pages full of information, and get a feel for the place as it stands in the world of today.

Guidebooks/websites – pick up any big-name guidebook like those of the Lonely Planet kind, and browse this travel information. Often full of vivid pictures, these will give you a very good visual to support the documentation.

Search for pictures – not at all hard to do with search engines like Google Images and sites such as Pinterest. Type in your location, and take a look at what the setting really resembles.

Youtube – take it one step further, and go look for guidebook-style videos on Youtube. The popular ‘In My Pocket’ video series is a trove of information about major cities of the world. Not only do you get to see a location in nearly-360 degrees, you also hear the sounds around.
Another wonderful way to get a true feel for a place is through video blogs or other such personal, opinion-type videos and posts from regular tourists. Their candid observations can be full of brilliant snippets and details.

Google Maps & Google Earth – as simple as grabbing the Google Earth plug-in and then viewing images of any place on the planet from the sky, with the ability to zoom in to the smallest detail, what’s keeping you from seeing any place on earth?
Google Maps allow you to devise an itinerary so easily! I've "walked" in the French city of Arles from the Place de la Republique all the way to the Roman necropolis through Google Maps.

Search engines – what can you not find on the Internet these days? Want to know how a particular town smells like? Type your query in a search engine and you’ll probably find a page pop up with the answer.

Social Media – if all else fails, get on Facebook and Twitter and find people who live in the place you want to write about. Most people love to see their place depicted as close to reality as possible – they’ll be willing to answer your questions and some might even check the finished writing for accuracy.

With all these means at your disposal, why are you not writing about Africa by now, peeps?

And you don’t have to write tedious, heavy, and ‘deep’ stories like literature that depicts Africa. At Decadent Publishing, we want to see light and airy romance. Think category-style stories of love – you can give us that, or go deeper; it’s all up to you, as long as it’s related to Africa.

I’ll give you examples of books we have lined up for release in this line:

Our debut release, Island Bound by Kiru Taye, followed an estranged couple in Nigeria. Will Christmas be a chance to rekindle their marriage?

Dragonfly Moments by Kathy Bosman (coming in June 2013) is a category-style, sweet romance set in the art world of Johannesburg, South Africa. The heroine, Tessa, finds herself in a dilemma – on the point of starting a committed relationship with a man she doesn’t love but who will give her fulfillment of her dream for a family, her first love walks back into her existence. What is she to do now?

The Island Girls trilogy – from me! – follows the hectic lives and love journeys of 3 Mauritian sisters of Indian origin. Book 1, The Other Side, comes out in July, and is a romantic comedy the likes of film director Gurinder Chada’s Indian-based contemporary rom-coms (Bend it like Beckham, Bride & Prejudice). My heroine, Lara, is a recent divorcee who never thought her ‘perfect on paper’ marriage to an Indian-origin man would crumble. Back on the island of Mauritius, she finds a snake pit of conventions and culture that cast her off because of her divorce. To make matters worse, she comes across her first love – the one that got away – a man totally not right for her...because he is of a different race and cultural background. Can second time around work for these former teenage sweethearts?

Light My World, Book2 in that trilogy, is a rom-com following a modern-day, self-made "princess" looking for her Prince Charming in a sea of frogs. Throw in Indian culture and said princess, named Diya, is at her wits' end dealing with overwhelming family. Things cannot get worse...or can they? Because she meets British widower & father of 2, Trent Garrison, and it's hate at first sight between them!

Alissa Baxter brings us The Blog Affair, a funny and engaging chick-lit type story set in Cape Town, South Africa. Based mostly around a blog on ‘serial datism’, the tale follows Emma as she navigates the testy waters of the dating scene in Cape Town.

And our latest acquisition is from Ghana author, Nana Prah. Midwife to Destiny is a true to life, sweeping romance that takes place mainly inside a hospital in Ghana – nurse Ora needs to get over her reservations and past fears to take a chance on Dr. Jason Lartey. Think Grey’s Anatomy, but in Africa! 

One more thing - we get gorgeous, amazing covers for this series! I've peppered them throughout the post so you can have a peek. *wink, wink*

Dreary and dark? I don’t think so! I hope you’ll join us as we roll out these books in the coming months. I also hope you will consider Africa under a new light, and why not, pen me a story to feature in this up and coming lineup!

You can find out more about the Ubuntu line in the post I did on PCD here, and also at the Decadent Publishing website in the submission spec sheet  (featuring preferred length and heat ratings for the line) under the Submissions tab at www.decadentpublishing.com .

And of course, if anyone has any question about the line or a potential story, do not hesitate to get in touch – I am only an email away at this address zeemonodee@gmail.com

A touch of lightness & rhythm before I leave - get a glimpse of modern Africa in this video clip from Zambia-origin performer, Kay Figo.




From Mauritius with love,

Zee

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Zee Monodee
Stories about love, life, relationships... in a melting-pot of culture

Zee is an author who grew up on a fence - on one side there was modernity and the global world, on the other there was culture and traditions. Putting up with the culture for half of her life, one day she decided she'd stand tall on her wall and dip toes every now and then into both sides of her non-conventional upbringing.
From this resolution spanned a world of adaptation and learning to live on said wall. The realization also came that many other young women of the world were on their own fence.
This particular position became her favorite when she decided to pursue her lifelong dream of writing - her heroines all sit 'on a fence', whether cultural or societal, in today's world or in times past, and face dilemmas about life and love.
Hailing from the multicultural island of Mauritius, Zee is a degree holder in Communications Science. She is married,mum to a tween son, & stepmum to a teenage lad.
Find more about her books and crazy life at her website/blog www.zeemonodee.blogspot.com
You can also stalk her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, & Pinterest - she's there as Zee Monodee

15 comments:

  1. It's been a wonderful adventure writing for the Ubuntu Line. I don't want to stop!

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  2. Great points, Zee! They not only apply to Africa, but to anywhere around the world. And if you create your own place, they're all important things to know. All the best!

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    1. Exactly, Jess! These tips can apply to any location, and can also be used for a fictional setting, too. :) Thanks for dropping by!

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  3. Awww! Thank you, Kathy! It was a joy to work with you, too! :)

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  4. Thanks for this post, Zee! The second book in my upcoming series follows on of the Stafford brothers to Nigeria where he has gone to work for six months with Doctors Without Borders. You gave me some good ideas of where to find more info!

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  5. Great post, Zee. I'm looking forward to all these positive fiction about Africa. :)

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  6. It looks like a much more spread out Seattle from that monorail there, though it also looks like they are building. Good job on the research. I know I researched a bit about hotels in Mumbai before writing my MM romance. Have a good one!

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  7. You're most welcome, Chicki! Check out Youtube, esp - I found that one the most helpful when I was researching Prague for one of my books. :) xoxo

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  8. Kiru, you hit the nail on the head. There's a definite need for more Positive fiction about Africa!

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  9. It's a pic of Johannesburg, South Africa, Eva. :) It does look like Seattle, true! Thanks for dropping by!

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  10. Great post Zee. I didn't realize there were so many books under the Ubuntu line. I am so happy to be a part of this great venture with other fantastic authors. Africa is beautiful.

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  11. Great post! I'm so interested in reading more stories about Africa!

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  12. And we're delighted to have you in this lineup, Nana! Yes, Africa is beautiful - high time the world got to see just how much. :)

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  13. Thanks L.R. And Amanda (browser acting up so I'm thanking you together in the same post - sorry)

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