Ayesha Harruna Attah is the author of Harmattan Rain, nominated for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Saturday’s Shadows, and The Hundred Wells of Salaga. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times MagazineAsymptote Magazine, and the Caine Prize Writers’ 2010 Anthology. She received the 2016 Miles Morland Foundation Scholarship for non-fiction, and shuttles back and forth between Senegal and Ghana. The author passed through the Aidoo Centre September 20 for a Meet&Greet. Following, excerpts from an interview with the Centre’s Director Nana S. Achampong.

Photo Credit: ITUNU KUKU

Nana S. Achampong: Talk about your writing process and the way you brainstorm story ideas

Ayesha Harruna Attah: I often will mull over an idea for a long time, making notes whenever a related thought floats into my head. When I am ready to write the book, I often begin with a plan and then start writing.

NSA: How did you break into publishing?

AHA: I got into the Senegal-based Per Sesh’s writing residency for young African writers in 2007 to write a first novel. Once the manuscript was done, Natalia Kanem, a member of Per Ankh publishers liked the manuscript and funded the book’s publishing.

NSA: Are you a fulltime professional author?

AHA: Luckily, I am currently writing full time.

NSA: Do you have any strange writing habits?

AHA: I am awfully boring. I usually need music to write.

NSA: What book do you wish you could have written?

AHA: Novuyo Rosa Tshuma’s House of Stone. This book is deliciously good!

NSA: Name three underrated African writers

AHA: Ama Ata Aidoo, Doreen Baingana, Bessie Head.

NSA: How important are names to you in ‘100 Wells of Salaga’? Do you as a rule choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name-choosing resources you recommend?

AHA: A combination. It usually is because I’ve done research into names and their meanings. For instance in The Hundred Wells of Salaga, Wurche is named after BuWurche, a real queen who existed and who led a battalion of 300 men. Sometimes, it’s just because I like the way the name rolls on the tongue. The internet is an amazing resource.

NSA: What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?

AHA: Read as much as you can.

NSA: What is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process?

AHA: Unfolding myself out of my shell to make sure the book reaches far and wide.

NSA: Is there one subject you would never write about? What is it? And why?

AHA: I don’t think there’s any subject I find taboo. I write to rip apart and examine why it is that people find whatever topic off-putting.

NSA: What are you working on now?

AHA: I am rewriting my first book of non-fiction on the kola nut of West Africa.


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