Sylvanus Bedzrah is a Ghanaian writer. He attended the Dzodze-Penyi Senior High School, Dzodze and then Action Progressive Institute, Accra. He is the author of the novel, ‘The Bloody Ingrate’.
Geosi Reads interviews Sylvanus Bedzrah:
GEOSI READS: The ‘Bloody Ingrate’ is your debut novel, I suppose? And you’re only 23 years old?
SYLVANUS BEDZRAH: Yeah 23! But this is actually my third book, depending on how you may look at it. The first two were Short Stories titled; Had I Known (Volumes 1&2). But when you talk about novel, I will say ‘yes’ this is my first novel.
GR: You solely dedicated this book to your late mother whom we are told passed away at an early stage in your life. She must have been an inspiration to your writing even at two months old? Or any special reason for dedicating this book to her?
SB: Well, you are not far from right to say she is my inspiration. I decided to dedicate this book to her not only because she gave me life but after giving me life, she lost hers and I had never known her because I was only two months old. I thank God I was able to survive and still surviving … It is a pity. Mummy, I love you.
GR: The economic situation of the writing profession in Africa and for that matter Ghana has not been encouraging over the past years but have you always wanted to be a writer? And at what age did you start writing?
SB: I don’t want to say I started writing from my mother’s womb as most writers often say but I wrote my first book at the age of fourteen. Now thank you for this question on the writing profession in Africa. It is true that the art of writing has not been encouraging in Africa, for that matter, Ghana which I always have problems with. Let us come to our country, Ghana. We always complain that, Ghanaians don’t love reading but what have we been doing as a country to solve this? We tend to give much attention to movies and music than reading. We have a whole lot of awards for musicians and actors to celebrate, appreciate and reward them in their field than the art of creative writing. Can you tell me if we have at least any annual literary award in Ghana? If you don’t celebrate, appreciate and reward our writers, how will the people know about them and be more than willing to read their works. They love music and movie because of the popularity and attention given to it and the people, even by the government, to the detriment of literature. So for me, I think we should start giving the necessary attention to writing as well. I think what you are doing now (book reviews and interviews) will go a long way to help and improve on the art of writing and reading and must be commended. Keep it up!
GR: Can you describe your writing life to me? By that, I mean do you have a daily routine or schedule for writing?
SB: Erhm … Yeah… I always involve myself in weekly creative writing exercises, like writing short stories which makes me do more research on different subjects. I will soon release my collection of short stories that I have been writing all these while.
GR: Why do you write and for whom do you write? In essence, do you have a target audience in mind when you are writing?
SB: Sure! For every writer, when your blank page is before you, before you start to write, you must ask yourself the kind of people you are writing for before you put down your first word to start the writing. Very important because it makes you know the diction and the kind of language(s) to use for them. So yes, I have a target audience as well and THE BLOODY INGRATE is mainly for the youth; even the adults can still enjoy it because one Director of a school told me he wept after reading my book and another parent told me she will use the content of my book to advice her children in school.
GR: Now, let me drift towards your book ‘The Bloody Ingrate’? How long did it take you in writing it? And did the writing come with ease?
SB: Hmmm … Believe me; writing is not easy but could be easy if you enjoy doing it. It took me over a year to put this book together.
GR: The story is written through the narration of the protagonist, Wendy Mawunyo Agbanyo and you make an extensive use of the first person narrative. Any special affiliation between the protagonist and the choice of narrative style?
SB: I prefer using the “first person point of view” for this book because it makes the reader find him/herself in the story… It makes them relate to the story and enjoy it most; you understand?
GR: I found the situation of Wendy quite sad by the end of the novel. Wendy as a young woman must have fallen prey to the consistency of pressure mounted on her by Christopher. I gather that ‘consistency’ and ‘pressure’ are two major tactics employed by young men as bait to trap young women. What must young women do to avoid these tactics?
SB: You see, as young women, if you close your mind on something, no matter how somebody tries to influence you, it will be very difficult but it is one thing not wanting to do it and another thing refusing to do it. I think they should refuse to do it; no matter what pressure is mounted on them. When you say No, let it be No and mean it!
GR: At page 126, the narrator makes a quote from the French Poet, Jean De La Fontaine that, ‘Nothing weighs so heavily on us as a secret’. Do you think things would have been much worse for Wendy should she have kept the news about the father of her twin children as a secret? Or did she achieve any relieve at all when she had led the secret out?
SB: Exactly. She was much relieved and achieved a lot by letting it out because imagine she did not and the friend came back to the country, would she lie to her as well? Would she lie when Christopher came back to apologize? Would she be able to retrieve her properties? She wouldn’t have even decided to get married, but still living with the disgusting perception about the male gender. No matter how you decide to keep a secret, it will surely be revealed, a day to come and such a secret was too ‘heavy’ to be kept forever.
GR: The story seems to be one of the great moral tales told to young women to be specific. In brief, can you explain the moral the story seeks to tell these young women.
SB: The main moral behind this story is that, we should “runaway” from campus love relationships and pre-marital sex because if you look at and compare the separate lives of Wendy and her friend Samira, you realize that Samira kept herself from that and never gave in to any distraction in the name of love and was able to achieve her aim in life. But what happened to Wendy, who was blindly and immaturely in love? We must be focused, determined and chaste! “That time” will come so while you find yourself in school, do what you went there to do.
GR: A theme in the novel I find most interesting has to do with the relationship between the well-to-do in the society and the poor. Do you think the poor deserves to be helped by well-to-do in the society considering what the poor Bloody Ingrate, Christopher did to Wendy upon all those major sacrifices and help from Wendy?
SB: Call me a future Philanthropist and I will gladly respond. I think the poor really need help from the well-to-do in every society because we all need help in one way or the other to get there. Even the affluent you see today might have been helped before. I always say that, “What is the importance of your wealth if you don’t use it to influence and change the lives of others around you?” Coming back to the Ingrate, Christopher, I think he was really an “ungrateful ingrate”.
GR: Education is also a major theme in the novel. We see Samira and Noble grow to become very responsible in the society after schooling abroad. Unfortunately, Wendy messed up her chance after all those sacrifices for Christopher. Does education win at all times?
SB: That is what I am talking about. Education really wins most of the time because only a handful of people make it in life without education. Imagine Wendy’s parents were not well-to-do and her Auntie was not accommodating and caring? Her life would have been a complete tragedy, disgrace and a disappointing one.
GR: There is another theme about the struggle of properties between different factions who all claim ownership. In the case of Wendy, his friend Samira had to fight in court on behalf of her. Is the court the only rightful place to settle matters concerning the struggle of properties?
SB: Not really the court only but it all depends on the society in which you find yourself. In a country/society where the rule of law is operating, I think we must resort to the court, especially when it comes to properties, if only you don’t want any bloodshed. Yeah…
GR: Why do you choose the title ‘The Bloody Ingrate’?
SB: I know this title is quite hash and kind of swearwords but it was for the purpose of emphasis, and I think it is catchier and the subject –more related, than the other titles I was considering.
GR: The issue of publishing a book could be quite hectic especially with the economic situation in a developing country like Ghana. Can you share with me how you got your book published?
SB: It is true. Getting your book published could be the most difficult part of writing. It is even worse in a country where the people don’t seem to believe in books for that matter, are not ready to invest. It was difficult publishing this book because it took me over two years to get a financier, if I may say so. I t was not until the ‘ZAIN TOUCHING LIVES TV REALITY SHOW’ that I was blessed to have ZAIN print the first 1000 copies for me for free… Zain has actually turned my imaginations into a glorious reality. You know, Zain is a wonderful world!!!
GR: Do you have any role model(s) you look up to?
SB: Yeah, I admire our own award-winning writer, Lawrence Darmani. He is a great African Writer. The first time I read his novel “GRIEF CHILD”, five years ago, tears flowed down my cheeks. I also admire the Nigerian prolific and renowned writer, Chinua Achebe.
GR: What book(s) have influenced you most in your writing?
SB: Almost all the wonderful books in the African Writers Series I have read so far and other books/notes on creative writing from the internet.
GR: You are a campaigner for creating awareness for the need to developing the habit of reading among the youth. How far with the campaign and is it true that Ghanaians don’t read. If yes, then is there any hope in the future?
SB: If we should call a spade by its name, Ghanaians don’t love reading other than watching football and movies. So far, we are making an impact with that campaign from school to school. The students are now seeing the need to love and cherish reading- “No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time to read or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance,” according to Atwood H. Townsend.
GR: Do you write full time or part time? And when you are not writing, what do you do?
SB: Full time writing is what I want to do. I will proceed with my education to offer courses on creative writing; like Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) and make it one of my professions, even if I find myself doing politics. When I am not writing, I love watching movies, but not more than reading… (Laughs)
GR: What is on your writing table now? What should your readers look out for in the near future from you?
SB: Actually, I am preparing the movie script for this book, which will soon be shot (Except for financial impediments). But my next book will be coming early next year and its working title is … UNTIL ONE SUNDAY EVENING… It has a strong African setting; a lovely piece with lot of lessons to learn from.
GR: Where can readers get copies of your book?
SB: O.K … From next month, they can get copies at the Silverbird Bookstore and other bookstores around… But it will also soon be on Amazon for my foreign readers.
GR: Your parting words?
SB: I must have to thank you for having me and I will talk to you again when my next novel is out. Thank you once again.
Click here to see my review of The Bloody Ingrate.