My guest today on Espresso Tales is Jane Bwye, author and business mentor who writes both fiction and non-fiction.
Jane Bwye spent most of her life in Africa. She has been an
intermittent journalist all her life, and has written three novels, a cookbook, a history of her local church, and a handbook for those who want to start their own business. A world traveller, and a somewhat rusty bird-watcher, she is now “retired” in the UK, working part-time as business mentor, judging dressage, and indulging in her love of tennis, bridge and books.
Megan: Jane, thank you for joining me today. Can I get you a drink?
Jane: Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Megan. I’d love a cup of coffee before we start.
Megan: Perfect. I'd love to hear about your new book, Going It Alone. Tell me about making the move from fiction to non-fiction.
Jane: My latest book, Going It Alone, produced in response to my publisher’s call for non-fiction, was launched last week. I’ve been mentoring small business start-ups for over fifteen years and have met an astonishing variety of people. It was fun writing this little handbook. I based it on my mentoring sessions, using a business plan for structure. I am proud of the feedback I’ve received recently: “It reads like Jane is sitting right there beside you”. Because I love telling stories, I used anecdotes based on real life to illustrate points. The book is dedicated to a local charity, People Matter, where I am Trustee and client adviser. They will be hosting a “real” launch party for the book in September, and some of the clients whose (lightly disguised) stories are used, will be there to join the celebrations. It should be fun.
Megan: Why did you begin writing?
Jane: It was before I went to University, that the editor of the local Kenya Weekly News asked me to send back a series of “Letters from Oxford”; which I did – and he PAID me for them! So, at the age of nineteen, I became a professional writer, and have fought to be paid for my work ever since. I reviewed books for the weekly paper, and still enjoy doing this, even though nobody pays me now. I started writing articles, short stories and promos, and even had my own newspaper column “Bwye The Way”. But I dreamed of writing a novel… and finally after 30 years, Breath of Africa was born, from sheer nostalgia after we moved to the UK.
Megan: You've had a busy and varied career by the sounds of it. Do you find that writing is exhausting or does it invigorate you?
Jane: Writing utterly exhausts me! I dread the intense immersion it entails, and I will think of anything to put off the act of getting down to write. But it also energises me. When I am engrossed in my story, the hours hurry by and before I know it, the day has ended. I feel immensely satisfied after a good day’s work. I enjoy editing, as it isn’t creative and is almost restful. I have been lucky with my editors, even though it sometimes gets intense and tiring. But then comes the hard work. The intensity and stress increases as publication day nears, and I have to go out of my comfort zone to promote my book. After launch day I am utterly devoid of energy and never want to write another book!
Megan: Do you do much research for your writing?
Jane: I am a historian by nature, and enjoy digging and delving on the internet, reading relevant books and having discussions. For my first novel, Breath of Africa, I had a bundle of letters between myself and my future husband as a source. I re-read novels and non-fiction books of colonial and modern times in Kenya. And I drew on my own vast experience of living in Kenya during the second half of the 20th century.
Grass Shoots was a different matter. I used the “excuse” of research to go back to Kenya and revisit my old haunts, but I also spent a week in the village of Kabubbu in Uganda, supported by an Eastbourne charity, Quicken Trust. Here I developed a theory about how charity might work in Africa. I read books by prominent Kenyan politicians, and an enlightening work by a Zambian economist, and decided to weave the story of Amayoni, a fictitious village in the Highlands of Kenya in present times.
My History of St. Wilfrid’s - my local church in 2013, the year of its 50th anniversary – was researched mainly by talking to members of the congregation who were there from the beginning. I also read through years of Newsletters and delved into countless Minutes of the Church Council. I’m afraid I rejected the suggestion I should also go to Lewes and dig into the church archives there. My approach to history is more to do with the social aspect.
Megan: Jane, thanks for joining me and best of luck with Going It Alone.
Jane: Thank you for having me.
Megan: To learn more about Jane's fiction and non-fiction titles, you can visit her via Amazon, her website or blog: