Dr. Mary A. Ashun was born in Ghana and attended school from grade four till grade twelve in the small West African country. Prior to that, her father served in the diplomatic corps and for three years the family lived in London, beginning when she was six. She left Ghana for university in England when she was eighteen, and managed to hang on to earn a B.Sc. from the University of East London! Read the rest of her biography here.
Geosi Reads: I just can’t begin this interview without first asking you about why you write under pseudonym names. Could you tell us why?
Dr. Mary A. Ashun: I felt that there were different parts of me that contributed to the stories. Dr. Mary Ashun is the official me – the Scientist/Writer so that was easy. Asabea Ashun is my multi-cultural self – the one who has lived in Ghana, US, UK, Canada and has had such broad experiences that she has no choice but to bring these experiences into her writing. Abena Apea is my fully Ghanaian self – the one who writes Ghanaian stories that Ghanaian children can relate to because she used Ghanaian expressions.
Geosi Reads: You’ve been living and working abroad for some time now. How are you able to plug into the Ghanaian environment to write stories set in Ghana?
Dr. Mary A. Ashun: I visit very often and I am still very much in touch with my family back home. Even though I’m in Toronto, you won’t believe how many stories I hear from Ghanaians here, how often they evoke memories of what it was like back home; sometimes I feel like I never left at all!
Geosi Reads: You seem to write different genres of fiction, say Fairy Tales, Science-Fiction, Plays, among others. From where do you get your stories? (Interviewer is thinking aloud)
Dr. Mary A. Ashun: I get stories from people I meet. My husband always jokes that people have no idea what’s going through my mind when they talk to me! I also read a lot but I would say my listening skills are so well honed that I make a mental note of everything I hear to include in future stories.
Geosi Reads: Your first published work was ‘22 Blessings in Disguise’. Could you tell us what this book was about? Was it your first breakthrough into the writing industry?
Dr. Mary A. Ashun: Yes it was. 22 Blessings was self-published at a time when I didn’t think anyone would be interested so I went solo. It’s a set of devotionals targeted to the busy professional – women mostly – who want to be able to get their minds on higher things before work begins. I think I wrote it for myself really since the whole process was highly therapeutic. It has short 5 – 10 min devotionals that focus on real life but always ends with a reason why I now see it as a blessing…and it’s available on Amazon!
Geosi Reads: You have lived, studied and worked in countries like England, United States and Canada! Have you, by any means, marked the reading culture between these countries and Ghana?
Dr. Mary A. Ashun: Most definitely. In all those places I’ve lived in, books were readily available and of good quality. Libraries were in abundance and the books were varied. Ghana has still got quite a long way to go but it is gratifying to see that literary groups like Writers Project of Ghana and the Goethe Institute are doing such a superb job at re-focusing us on readings – its joys and benefits.
Geosi Reads: In your field as a speaker, you have achieved many successes. For instance, in 2008 you were honored to win an African Canadian Women’s Achievement Award for your work in education within the community. From where came the speaker in you?
Dr. Mary A. Ashun: Oh my – I think it’s innate actually! My mother has told me that as a child, I never shut up! I guess teaching for much of my adult life has honed the skill of public speaking and I never shy away from an invitation to share my experiences and thoughts!
Geosi Reads: Speaking and Writing? Which of the two are you likely to be caught doing most? In other sense, do you have a first love between the two?
Dr. Mary A. Ashun: Wow – you have me in between a rock and a hard place here but I’m going to have to go with speaking. Reason? I’ve had writer’s block before but never ‘speakers block’!
Geosi Reads: As a writer who writes different kinds of genres, I am curious to know your reading interests?
Dr. Mary A. Ashun: I must admit I’m not a huge fan of NON-fiction. Having said that, there are many books on my shelf that are non-fiction but I’m not likely to go searching for one unless its recommended to me or has particular interest for me. I love historical fiction, infact I’ve written the first chapter of a novel about the siege at the Kumasi Fort during the Yaa Asantewa war…one day I’ll finish it! I am NOT into love stories unless they are subplots. I am a huge fan of Jeffrey Archer ‘esque books and I’ve taken to reading a lot of contemporary African authors – short stories and all. My latest ‘find’ is Mamle Kabu – just read “The End of Skill” which was shortlisted for the Caine prize in 2009…lovely story that I haven’t stopped raving about. I also read “The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears” by Dinaw Mengestu and Tricia Nwabani’s “I do not come to you by chance”…all beautiful stories that are not poverty or child soldier ridden but still authentic.
Geosi Reads: How have your books been received by the Ghanaian community?
Dr. Mary A. Ashun: Fairly well I would say. Many are thrilled that there is something like that and written by a Ghanaian too – well researched, fast paced and authentically African. I’ve had comments about the pricing that the bookstore slams on it…that may be a huge detriment so I am talking with the Publisher about how best to get the books cheaper. One of the options we are exploring is offering them on mobile phones for mobile reading. Stay tuned!
Geosi Reads: I was delighted to have read one of your science-fiction books, ‘The Adventures of Kobby Badu-Smith which I tremendously loved. In your own view, has the purpose for which this book was intended for been achieved? What feedbacks have you been getting from readers?
Geosi Reads: You seem to have so many books up your sleeves. How many books have you written and where can readers get copies to buy.
Dr. Mary A. Ashun: All the books are available at the Silverbird Lifestyles Store at the Accra Mall and also on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk
Novels: Available at Silverbird Lifestyles Store and Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk under the pseudonym Asabea Ashun
1. Mistress of the Game: Politics of Oil, Life with AIDS, Infertility and Mother-in-laws…which is the worst?
2. Serwa Akoto’s Diary: A peak into the life of a 20-something, self-obsessed Ghanaian girl who embarks on a daring experiment to snag the man of her dreams.
Novellas: Not yet available (2012) but excerpts are online; under the pseudonym Abena Apea
1. The Funeral: Ridiculous family shenanigans at a Ghanaian Funeral
2. The House: What do you do when squatters have moved into your beautiful, hilltop house in the Akropong Hills and you are three thousand miles away in Canada?
3. The Brother: A man thinks he has seen his long lost brother at the Ahenfie Hotel. Is it really him? After forty years?
4. The Medicine Man: Selling herbal medicine on a bus is a tedious job; Sometimes a death can make all the difference!
Plays: Will be available in 2012
The Story of an Hour – African Adaptation of Kate Chopin’s classic.
Pre-teens: Available at SilverBird Lifestyles Store and on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk
Science Adventure Chapter Books
Children 0 – 6years: Available at SilverBird Lifestyles Store and on Amazon under the pseudonym Abena Apea
Fairy Tales: Western Fairytales re-set in Africa – Not yet Available. Pseudonym – Abena Apea
The Chief’s New Clothes
Review copies are available and excerpts can be read at the website of Kente Publishing.
Geosi Reads: It is unusual for Ghanaian writers to write Science-Fiction books. Why do you decide to take up this task?
Dr. Mary A. Ashun: My Ph.D was in Biochemistry and for several years, I taught science to children from grades 1 all the way through to university level. In the past five years, I’ve been teaching teachers HOW to teach science so that it is meaningful and so you see…I’ve been immersed in science almost all my life! The need to make it understandable was what drove me to develop the series.
Geosi Reads: You have the last words!
Dr. Mary A. Ashun: Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my love of reading and writing! I think you’re doing an awesome job of giving writers a voice, especially writers of African descent so I applaud you. Readers, thank you for your support!!!!