Tuesday, August 18, 2009

LifeStylzGh Interview - Evelyn Owusu: Blessed Blessing

Up and coming young Ghanaian writer, author of 'Breath of Fate', motivated by her aspirations towards distinction. LSG talks with her about her present and her future.

Who is Evelyn Owusu?
Born on the 5th of June in Liverpool, Britain; raised in Ghana; schooled in Morning Star, Motown and Legon. (Evelyn pauses here, saying that she would like to give a more in-depth answer, ‘go deeper’.) I’m someone who likes to give back. I feel I have been blessed for a reason and ‘in future’ is not the time to start blessing others- right now is the time. I’m someone who loves to see others live their dreams, fulfill their dreams. I laugh a lot- I can’t help it.
I aspire to be a blessing unto others who would pay it forward, and they pay it forward until an ending chain is formed. I aspire to make people, Ghanaians especially, know that we don’t need to look unto others- be it a foreign country or even our own government- for help, and that the solutions to our situations lie within us, if only we’re willing to work hard at them. I believe there’s no other way to achieve this than living by example, and guiding others by example- developing projects that would help people help themselves.

When did you start to consider yourself a writer?
My answer to this question might be strange considering the fact that I wrote story after story since Class Six. But I didn’t consider myself a writer till the whole subject of publishing my first novel- Breath of Fate- came up. This is because writing was a hobby for me, something that gave me satisfaction. It was extremely private as well. I guess because it was a compulsion, and it became part of me. I never really thought about it. I wrote…but I never called myself a writer until my dad gave out the Breath of Fate manuscript and things sort of blew up from there. I guess I never realized what I was until others pointed it out.

What is Breath of Fate about?
Breath of Fate is a story about friendship and love and betrayal and forgiveness and standing out from the status quo. Korantemaa is the story’s heroine and she experiences love for the first time. She has her own beliefs about what a relationship should be, beliefs that are separate from what everybody else, including her own two roommates and best friends, practice. She does not believe in sex before marriage and the reader gets to see how she handles this belief with her experiencing love for the first time surrounded by people who have opposing beliefs.
There is a surprise ending, and the surprise ending is the reason I wrote the story in the first place. It’s also the reason why I’ve been asked countless times to write a sequel. I think I would write a sequel to Breath of Fate…just not now.

If there was anything you could change about Breath of Fate, what would it be?
(She laughs) Anything I would like to change?
I read the book now with an eye closed. That’s because I’m grown up now, and I wrote the book when I was sixteen. The Sweet Valley and other foreign books I read a lot of at the time clearly influenced my writing; but here’s the funny thing: for my upcoming launch, I had to retype the whole of Breath of Fate because I couldn’t find the soft copy and I’m doing a reprint. Back then it was the age of floppy disk drives and…well, I guess that’s enough explanation. And you would think that it was the perfect opportunity for a do-over the way I’ve wanted to for years, but I didn’t take that opportunity. Thing is, I wrote it when I was sixteen, so I wanted to maintain that work that the sixteen year old me had done.

Do you have a specific writing style?
My writing is filled with a lot of dialogue. No long passages on how someone’s leg looks. No long descriptive passages. I can’t stand them unless they’re poetic or funny.

What's your current writing project?
I have a few writing projects. They’ve been ‘current’ for a time. I go back to them. There are some stories that would take years to write because sometimes the ideas are bigger than the writer or writer’s experiences. Then there are others that it would take only a few months to write because you really, really want to tell that story or convey that message across. Right now I’m thinking of writing a motivational type of book because I have a message-especially to young girls coming up and their relationships- and I want to be blunt about it. I don’t want them to have to try and figure out what I’m trying to say within a story. Sometimes the story can be distracting. And I’d like to title it something like, ‘Wake Up!’

Could you share an excerpt of your new book, Against the Tides, with us?
Sure. This is a scene between Akofa, and her husband, Fiifi, the two main characters.

“I think I’m pregnant,” she blurted and held her breath, waiting.
Fiifi’s head shot up at the word ‘pregnant’, knowing the thought that was beginning to form and stilling it. He quickly turned and made his way slowly to the couch. He didn’t look at her when he finally sat.
“Well…we had been talking about having another child.”
Talking was putting a strong label on what they had done. Akofa didn’t say a word and he continued as he went over what she’d said again.
“You said you thought you were pregnant so I guess the next step would be to fully verify although you’ve never been wrong before.” Again, she was quiet, he spoke again. “Marcus and Ruby would be excited about a little brother or sister. It would be the first time we wouldn’t care either way what sex the child would be. We wanted a boy, and we got a boy. Then we wanted a girl and we got what we wanted. They’ll be thrilled to have a sibling in what, seven, eight mo-”
“Please get out.”
His head shot up for the second time, surprised by the quietly spoken command.
“What?” he asked, thinking he hadn’t heard well.
Akofa moved from where she half sat on the desk and rounded her table to stand in front of her chair.
“I want you to leave,” she said more calmly than she felt.
“Akofa?” He got to his feet and started toward her.
“You don’t want to do that,” she said stopping him in his tracks when she saw he was heading her way.
“Why are you suddenly so upset? I know I don’t seem exactly thrilled but this is a surprise. It’s the first time we’re expecting without, err, working at it. “Working at it?” Akofa asked in an incredulous tone.
“I meant it’s the first time we haven’t really planned a pregnancy. We both wanted to start working on a baby after we got married. We talked many times about it. And then later when Marcus was a little older, we talked again about another child. We mentioned another baby once or twice, if I remember correctly and-”
“Don’t say anymore, Fiifi.”
She stifled a sob. She’d seen every emotion that had ridden across his features like he’d spoken them aloud. She supposed she should be grateful that he hadn’t said what he’d been thinking. She’d also seen him halt the thought that had began to form in his mind but he’d sort of asked, wanting to know when she was due. She started when she felt a hand on her shoulder and felt herself being turned.
“What did I do now, Akofa?”
“You don’t know?”
She looked up at him, anger blazing in her eyes. Anger was better than tears. She didn’t want to cry in front of him.
“I’ll enlighten you,” she added before he opened his mouth to speak. “You want to know who the father of the baby I’m carrying is, don’t you?”

Is there a message in Against the Tides that you want your readers to grasp?
Yes. The importance of communication in a relationship was what started this story; and how the lack of it can turn a simple situation into a big problem. When I was done writing, I found other questions had sneaked itself into the story: Is love the only important thing in a relationship? What about other factors like trust and respect? Can we really move on without facing the demons of our past? These questions became the theme of the two other stories embedded within the main story.

Are your stories based on people you know or personal experiences?
I get asked this all the time. No. My characters are purely fictional. Any similarities to any real life people or situations are purely coincidental. Just had to quote that. I’m not even tempted to write about people I know or personal experiences- although they’d make for some juicy read (Laughing).

Are you involved with any charitable projects?
Well, some friends and I started the Omanjor M.A Basic School Project. We’re still working on it. Praying hard. We’re yet to complete the final phase, which is to receive sponsoring for a school block for the Omanjor M.A Basic School. With the help of a lot of friends, including LSG’s involvement in getting the word out there, we were able to organize the party and donate some clothes to the school children.
Also, I plan on donating two cedis from every book sold to the Christian Medical Missions Resource Foundation. This organization puts together medical aid for people in the rural areas who don’t have access to health care, can’t afford it or are ignorant of their ailments. So, anyone who buys Against the Tides would have contributed to improving the health of someone who needs medical aid.
I have other plans like the Sister-Sister Educational Project where private schools help or sponsor schools like the Omanjor M.A Basic Schools and worse schools. Not a small project. I’ll just have a lot of juggling to do since I’ll be earning my Clinical Psychology degree at the University of Denver.

Who are your personal and/or professional role models?
Role Models? Nope. I want to stand out. I will stand out. Not modeling anybody. There are people whose work I admire. Ama Atta Aidoo is one. Personally, I admire anybody who has broken out of the mould or status quo. People like Kofi Annan and Obama, of course. I admire Prof. (Dr.) Danquah, an unsung hero in the field of clinical psychology in Ghana. And I’m also blessed to be surrounded by friends with traits of selflessness, encouragement, support, good counsel, innovative thinking and God-centeredness, which I admire-Sarah Ofori-Adjei, Lois Safo, Jeffrey Manu, Kike Thompson and Obaabeng Adjei-Maafo.

Do you have any advice for other Ghanaian writer-hopefuls?
Don’t give up the dream. Don’t let anybody tell you, you can’t. It isn’t easy but you’ve been given this gift for a reason. God could have given you any of the other zillion talents out there, but He gave you this. Use it in glorification and honour of the one who blessed you with it. And let this gift be a way of blessing others- whichever way you can, whatever little way you can.

Launch date of Against the Tides is the 26th of August at the International Press Centre, Accra, Ghana.

This interview was conducted and edited by Abena Anoff, Assistant Chief Editor of LifeStylzGH.


ernest said...

beautiful!!! I 'll be coming 4 my autographed copy!

kike said...

I can't wait to read this book

JP said...

A special Thank You to Kike Thompson!!! And Evelyn... cant wait to read the new book.. loved the exclusive LSG excerpt... Kept me wondering what was going to happen...?!?!? Hmmm... I need one autographed.. Holla!

Jeffrey said...

I love this piece.God bless every word you pen