There’s a story to my name. Yaba is my day name. It means I’m an Nzema woman born on a Thursday. Yaba is also the goddess of the earth, so if names mean anything, I should be well and truly grounded. My middle name, Mangela, was the name of my father’s aunt, who raised him. My surname, Badoe, is most probably a misspelling of Buadi, the first member of our family to learn to read and write at a mission school in the late 19th century. The story goes that a missionary, unable to spell his name, wrote Badoe, which then became our surname.

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars

I’ve spent most of my working life working as director of television documentaries in television. In-between gigs I write. I wrote A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars, which recently came out in paperback not only in London, but in our family guest house in Ghana as well as a hotel room in Stone Town, Zanzibar, where I was attending a film festival.

The best filming gig of my career so far was making a documentary film about Toni Morrison with Kirsty Wark for BBC4. I adore Toni Morrison’s writing and re-read her novels with gusto. I’m afraid to say that when I said goodbye to her, I couldn’t help myself. I gushed – literally gushed – over Ms Morrison, so overcome was I by the thrill of meeting her.

I come from a family of women storytellers. My grandmother had a treasure trove of Anansi stories, which she told me from memory. My mother wrote short stories for one of the first women’s magazine published in Ghana Obaa Sima (Ideal Woman) and would hold me spell-bound with stories of our large extended family. Obaa Sima, a monthly magazine, was first published in 1971 by my aunt, writer and novelist, Kate Abbam.

My love of stories derives from the pleasure I take in listening to family, friends and strangers. Nothing excites me more than the lives of others, the challenges they faces, the stories they want to tell and how they tell them. Stories are part of the DNA of being human, I reckon.

I must have been around 12 when I decided that I wanted to write stories. The idea of my first adult novel, True Murder came to me when I was 14 or 15. Around that time I found out that a friend who had been in the same class as me at prep school had been murdered. All of us who knew Clare and her family were traumatised. Her murder haunted me to such as extent that I decided, all those years ago, that if I were ever to write a novel it would be about that: an event that turned the everyday rules of life completely upside down.

I’m a sucker for Country and Western music, especially women singers who sing sorrowful songs: women such as Patsy Cline, Loretta Lyn, Dolly Parton, Emmy-Lou Harris and Iris DeMent. Their voices reach deep into my heart and tear me apart.

I started to immerse my self in YA literature when a friend of mine, Kinna Likamani @kinnareads, gave me The Hunger Games to read. I loved it and went on to read as many YA novels I could lay my hands on.

One of the very best cultural moments in my life was my first visit to FESPACO, the biggest African Film Festival in the world, which is held every two years in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. I attended the festival in 2005 in my capacity as a journalist and was able to watch hundreds of films and documentaries made in Africa and its diaspora. What talent! What a multiplicity of cultures and perspectives! What joy to be in Ouagadougou during FESPACO!

I think this statement by the artist, Maggi Hambling, should be on every writer’s wall: “One of the difficulties (of being an artist) is retaining a backbone of steel to meet the criticism you receive and remaining vulnerable so things can still touch you.”