My name ‘Efua’ means light – I absolutely thrive in warm, bright, sunshine-y places. I can’t stand long, grey winters.
‘I was built close to water’ – This is a German saying for someone who cries easily. I often cry when laughing. I cry at weddings when newly-weds kiss, and I sob in cinemas and on my sofa when watching films (both happy and sad endings). I have bawled with my own characters while writing their stories.
When I was little, I dreamt of a country for brown people – I grew up in a little town in Nigeria where mixed-race kids like me were a rarity. I was ‘white’ in Nigeria and ‘black’ in Germany and sometimes I longed for a place where I would blend in and not be different.
I left Nigeria to study in Germany when I was 18 – Everything was new and sometimes I struggled to adapt, but I loved the experience and later on studied for a year in France. I love travelling, new places and people and trying out new foods.
I never imagined being a writer until I was thirty! – Becoming a mum and staying home with my baby gave me a lot of time to think. Between cuddling and singing lullabies, my mind began to wander. To my surprise, my head – which until then had been busy with market data and statistics – began to fill with stories. I was a child again, back in Nigeria; running barefoot, searching for adventure or sitting absent-mindedly in a mango tree, hands dripping with sticky sweetness and imagining the most exciting things. I found the long forgotten storyteller in me and my fingers suddenly began itching to write.
Writing began as a bridge connecting me to my childhood – My first stories were based on nostalgic memories of a place I had left behind. Not in a biographical way, but in the setting and atmosphere. Harsh, dry Harmattan winds sweeping in around Christmas and spreading delicate red dust blankets over everything. The distant silhouette of a woman carrying firewood on her head, the bulge of a baby tied to her back like a snail shell. The dark tail of a snake disappearing beneath a rock.
Writing became a mission when my children grew old enough to read – I love telling my kids about my childhood adventures and searched for children’s books that told similar stories set in Nigeria. To my dismay I couldn’t find any! I could hardly even find any books with black or brown characters at all. One day my daughter came from school saying she learnt that children in Africa suffer and don’t have food. I was shocked. Surely that was not all there was to teach six-year-olds about Africa! I reminded her of our trips to Nigeria and the happy people we met, and suggested she tell these stories next time. It was then I wrote Children of the Quicksands, a magical adventure story. And I filled it with myths, magic, music, courage, pride, friendship and other beautiful things that can be found in Nigeria.
Efua’s novel Children of the Quicksands is available now, priced £7.99.
I love travelling. Even though I adore my home, sometimes I think I’m at my best when I’m far away, out of my comfort zone, somewhere completely new. It brings out my braver side and my writer’s brain does a little happy dance at all the new experiences. Some of my favourite travels include Mexico, Egypt, Israel and of course, Italy. The last place I visited was Stockholm. I recently renewed my passport, as a gesture of optimism that the current climate will improve, and now it’s in my desk drawer, waiting for adventures…