Rosanna Amaka’s The Book of Echoes is a searing debut novel about hope, redemption and the scars of history, narrated by the spirit of an enslaved African who journeys to 1980s Brixton and a sun-baked village in Nigeria, drawing together and transforming the lives of two youngsters who are struggling to hold onto their dreams.

Where are you now?

At my desk.

Where and when do you do most of your writing?

In the early morning and evening.

If you have one, what is your pre-writing ritual?

Getting myself a hot or cold drink depending on the weather.

Full-time or part-time?

Both. Just need to write when you can.

Pen or keyboard?

Both. Sometimes you are nowhere near a keyboard when the ideas come.

How do you relax when you’re writing?

Do you need to be relaxed? Or just focused on what you are doing?

How would you pitch your latest book in up to 25 words?

The spirit of an enslaved African woman roams the earth looking for her lost children and comes across Michael in Brixton and Ngozi in Nigeria.

Who do you write for?

Myself.

Who do you share your work in progress with?

No one initially until I am ready, then maybe certain members of my family depending on the character/story and the feedback needed, and then other writers.

Which literary character do you wish you created?

There aren’t characters that I wish I had created because I wouldn’t assume I had the writer’s life experience or skills to have been able to do as great a job, but I do admire the skills it took to create a character such as Pecola Breedlove.

Share with us your favourite line/s of dialogue, poetry or prose.

“We need never be ashamed of our tears.” Charles Dickens, Great Expectations.

Which book do you wish you’d written?

There are many books I am in awe of, and make me want to be a better writer, but none I wish I had written because those books are special and are gifts from those authors.

Which book/s have you most recently read and enjoyed?

I am a little late in reading it, but Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier.

What’s on your bedside table or e-reader?

At the moment I have two proofs of books which are due to be released later this year.

Which books do you feel you ought to have read but haven’t yet?

More of Tolstoy as I have only read one of his books.

Which book/s do you treasure the most?

Following on from the question about character, maybe Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, but it is had to pin it down just to one.

What is the last work you read in translation?

Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou, translated by Helen Stevenson.

Which story collections would you particularly recommend?

Aren’t You Happy For Me? And Other Stories by Richard Bausch.

What will you read next?

The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma.

What are you working on next?

My second novel.

Imagine you’re the host of a literary supper, who would your dinner guests be (living or dead, real or fictional)?

Chinua Achebe, James Baldwin, J. Calfornia Cooper, George Eliot, Tony Morrison and my grandmothers – they would keep it real.

If you weren’t writing you’d be…?

Still writing, but technical documents.

 

Rosanna Amaka was born to African and Caribbean parents. She began writing The Book of Echoes twenty years ago to give voice to the Brixton community in which she grew up. Her community was fast disappearing – as a result of gentrification, emigration back to the Caribbean and Africa, or simply with the passing away of the older generation. Its depiction of unimaginable pain redeemed by love and hope was also inspired by a wish to understand the impact of history on present-day lives. She lives in South London. The Book of Echoes is published in hardback by Doubleday.
Read more
rosannaamaka.com
@RosannaAmaka

Author portrait © Mark Grey

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