Interview with debut author Dr Nat Tanoh #TheDayOfTheOrphan
1. When did you first start writing and what inspired you to keep writing?
I started writing last year. I wrote a lengthy WhatsApp message to a cousin of mine describing a particular incident. She replied saying she found the message quite gripping and thought I ought to try my hand at writing. Work was slow at the time so I said, 'Why not give it a go' and I did. And once I started, it all began pouring out. And the more I wrote, the more I felt the inspiration to share the stories that I had in me. My sister, who is an avid reader, then read the first few chapters and gave me an encouraging thumbs-up. I have been writing ever since.
2. The Day of the Orphan is a fictional, contemporary novel set in Africa, how much of the vivid descriptions and situations included within the book, are based on your own experiences and time in Africa?
Indeed a source of inspiration for writing 'The Day Of The Orphan' was the thought to share a few coming of age experiences I had together with those of friends, family and colleagues and weave these into an exciting fictional collage with contemporary relevance. Thus, it is true that I personally experienced some of the things I wrote or variations of it. As examples, both my father and elder brother were at various times arrested and detained for opposition to military dictatorship. As a student leader I was also once very badly beaten up by government agents posing as students. On student demonstrations we were sometimes assaulted with police batons and also with thick leather belts by horse-mounted policemen. And the police always arrived with guns. But such is not at all the current situation in Ghana. Sadly enough, the same cannot be said for the citizens of other African countries experiencing stark state oppression.
3. What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a Science Fiction / Fantasy novel in which the world, or what remains of it after a nuclear holocaust, is given a chance to create a new world order devoid of the gravest mistakes of Erstwhile Earth. In honour of the #MeToo movement, my superhero and leading protagonists are mainly female, representing the principles of creation, life and its everlasting continuity. Thus, we have a predominantly female leadership ruling significant parts of the New World and calling the shots in an effort to establish a blissful, egalitarian and happy commonwealth. But will they find it easy or must they struggle heroically against dark and uniquely sinister forces, who seek to restore what was essentially the dehumanised old world order of unbridled greed, terror, domination and war? We remain to see what happens. Hopefully, we will know before autumn.
4. The protagonist in The Day of the Orphan is a teenage boy…why did you choose him? How much of your teenage-self did you pack into the character?
In truth I chose to use teenage representation as the main protagonist for two main reasons. Firstly, teenagers are in the true bloom of youth. They are at that spectacular coming of age period. In a sense they are at a crossroads. That is when they are best poised to liberate the better angels within themselves. Saga and Zara in my novel were decidedly privileged. Zara's family was actually stratospheric within the highest echelons of wealth and power. And yet they both chose not to simply relax, wallow and remain ensconced in their privileged existence. Rather, they stood up and worked against what that kind of inimical stratospheric power represented. My second reason was because of some of the experiences I went through as a teenager with many of my contemporary teenage compatriots. In our own manner we protested against military dictatorship and some of us got into serious trouble for our efforts.
The Day of the Orphan by Dr Nat Tanoh is out now, published by Acorn on May 25th 2018
The magnificent new coming-of-age novel by Dr Nat Tanoh that shines a light on what it's really like growing up in Africa. The Day of the Orphan tells the story of what unfolds when a chubby kid from a charmed background becomes the reluctant revolutionary his country so desperately needs. Can one happy-go-lucky schoolboy really stand up to a murderous regime? How long can he stay one step ahead of the Zombie soldiers that will do anything to stop him?
Childhoods can be snatched in an instant…especially when you live in a dictatorship.
President-For-Life-Until-Further-Notice Field Marshal Brewman knows he cannot hold on to power for much longer. Stirring up a civil war against the Muslims in the north certainly bought him a bit more time, but now too many mothers are demanding to know why they must lose their husbands and sons to a cause they don't believe in. Having built a nation on fear, he, himself is terrified. He has a whole army of personal bodyguards and military police are everywhere, keeping civilians afraid. But when he demands boys are conscripted, the schools and the youngsters turn against him.
A boy named Saga becomes an unlikely revolutionary when he commits the serious crime of speaking up against the regime. It starts at a low-level - a club of school boys with grand ideas - but as the political situation ramps up, the school kids have to get their acts together and fast; they are wanted men now after all.
This powerful and emotive story touches on so many themes that are sadly a reality for many African nations – from human rights abuses to corrupt dictators – Dr Nat manages to both make you laugh and seriously consider the current state of affairs in African.