Astha Singh is a Literature major from the prestigious Lady Shri Ram College for Women, New Delhi. She worked in The Pioneer, New Delhi before moving to Cameroon. She continued to write a weekly Sunday column in The Pioneer. Later she taught English Literature in various International Schools in Kinshasa, Abidjan and Accra. Astha Singh now lives in Accra with her husband, two children and a dog.
What inspired you to start writing?
I majored in English Literature and am a journalist so writing comes naturally to me. However it was my husband who inspired me to write this novel. He insisted that I sat down and tell a story that is different. I have lived in Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast and Ghana during the last 15 years. I have met interesting people, encountered the most magical experiences and lived life. So naturally living in such exciting surrounding that inspires and instigates the mind, I had to write this story.
What did you like to read when you were a girl?
I was a voracious reader and was exposed to all kinds of literature by my grandparents. I read the Bhagwat Gita, My experiments with the truth and most of Dostoevsky. My favourites as a little girl were Thornbirds, Gone with the wind, Wuthering Heights, Rebecca and works of Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar.
What is the greatest challenge in writing a book?
The greatest challenge in writing a book is TIME and DISCIPLINE. Personally, I found it very difficult to juggle work, children, home and social commitments. One has to be in the moment yet master the art of isolating oneself to write. Discipline is key that I absolutely lack!
How much research do you do before writing the book?
I did not research! I lived it. I am like a sponge soaking in all that this beautiful continent has to offer. People are story tellers by nature and I am a good listener. Congo A journey is an amalgamation of all the stories and anecdotes that I heard and is peppered with my personal experience.
What motivated you to write the book “Congo – A Journey”?
Congo A journey is my ode to the beautiful Democratic Republic of Congo. I lived in Kinshasa for 8 years and enjoyed everything that the country has to offer. A lot has been written about expats in USA/U.K/Australia but not much has been written about expats who live in Africa and have made it big. No one has documented the struggles, life and history of what life is for expats in West Africa.
Can you tell us more about your latest book “Congo – A Journey”?
Congo A Journey is a story of a man who dreams of making it big in West Africa. The book traces the journey of this ambitious expat man who dares to defy the protocol of the tight knit expat society and makes it big. He experiences the most horrible coup de etats led by the then Vice President Jean Pierre Bemba and yet emerges a winner. Its a rich tale of love, lust and some potent magic set in the turbulent kinshasa, a teeming city fraught with staggering contradiction. It is a rich tapestry that weaves in the lives expat wives, businessmen, prostitutes and voodoo men. It is a sensational tale of love, lust and revenge.
How did you come up with the idea of writing fiction genre book?
Fiction gives the writer to create and world and play with the psychology of the characters. I am a natural story teller and fiction is what I love… to bring to life, characters that could be real.
Who are your favourite authors?
I am an omnivorous ready and lap up world literature. No favourite authors because I read so many books that the book stays in the heart and mind. Difficult to name a few when the world is full of creative authors.
How much time do you dedicate for writing on a daily basis?
I lack disciple and love to ‘hang out’ with friends. What with teaching, children, home, husband… there is hardly any time. If my husband is around then he makes sure that I sit and write… otherwise I am a happy reader.
What words of wisdom would you like to give to aspiring writers?
If you can aspire then you can deliver… go for it!
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