Nana Awere Damoah was born in Accra, Ghana. He has formal training in Chemical Engineering from the University of Nottingham and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, (KNUST). A British Chevening alumnus, Nana works with PZ Wilmar in Lagos, Nigeria. Nana started writing seriously in 1993 when he was in the sixth form and has had a number of his short stories published in the Mirror and the Spectator. In 1997, he won the first prize in the Step Magazine National Story Writing Competition. His short story Truth Floats was published in the first edition of African Roar Anthology. He is the author of Excursions in My Mind, Through the Gates of Thought and Tales from Different Tails. Nana keeps a website at http://www.nanadamoah.com/.
Geosi Reads: Permit me to begin the interview with your association with the Joyful Way Incorporated. How did you get yourself involved with this Christian Music Ministry?
Nana Awere Damoah: Thanks, Geoff. To learn from you, may I first say thanks for this opportunity, I am honored by this interview and inspired by your passion in promoting African literature and writers.
My association with Joyful Way goes back to my secondary school days in Ghana National College, Cape Coast and in 1989 when I joined a singing ministry of the Scripture Union (SU) in my school – Burning Fire. At the time, the patron of both SU and Burning Fire, John Gordon Egyir-Croffet, was a former music director of Joyful Way and a patron of the Mfantsipim branch of Joyful Way, so Burning Fire got affiliated to Joyful Way. My first official meeting at Joyful Way was in 1992. I must say the ministry has had a great impact on my life and even on my writing, because we used to write poems and sketches for our crusades and concerts.
Geosi Reads: Some literary critics label you as an inspirational/motivational writer. What is your response?
Nana Awere Damoah: I prefer being referred to as a reflective rather than a motivational writer. I will explain. I like being motivated to being inspired to develop speed. A person can move fast but in the wrong direction. A quote I love – ‘It doesn’t matter how hard you row if you are headed in the wrong direction.’ When your speed comes after reflection, what you have is velocity – speed in a specific direction. That is what I aim to achieve with my writing; for my readers to pause, think and act. I hope to think motivation is encapsulated in this.
Geosi Reads: One of your first short pieces, ‘The Showdown’ was published by the Mirror in the mid-nineties. I am wondering how you felt at the time to see your story published?
Nana Awere Damoah: My goodness! I can still remember that day in 1995! We were supposed to be in first year at (Kwame Nkrumah) University of Science and Technology but were at home due to a year-long lecturers’ strike. I submitted the story to a family friend who worked at Graphic, he gave me his thumbs up and asked me to put it in an envelope. I have been a regular buyer of the Mirror since my teens and when I saw my name in the national weekly – my name! – I almost passed out! My greater joy was seeing the pride on the faces of my parents. I still have the cutting from that day’s Mirror!
Geosi Reads: Do you think the publication of ‘The Showdown’ motivated you to carry on with the craft of writing?
Nana Awere Damoah: Absolutely! It gave me the confidence that my writing can be appreciated. That was, however, my first attempt at fiction writing; my first piece of writing was non-fiction, and that article was later published in my second book.
Geosi Reads: In your view, has Ghanaian print houses done enough to promote the literary scene in the country?
Nana Awere Damoah: No. I can’t even say they can do more, as they are mostly involved in textbooks for schools where the returns are assured. The greater percentage of books released by Ghanaian authors in recent years are either self-published or by foreign publishers.
Geosi Reads: How has marketing your books online (e-reads) been like for you?
Nana Awere Damoah: I have been working at honing my online marketing skills since 2008. I look at it with a long term view: not just marketing books but creating an online brand name, which hopefully should translate into offline recognition. So I use all the outlets: Facebook, Twitter, emails and via my website.
In between release of my books, I ensure that two things are happening: writing and sharing articles, stories and anecdotes plus one liners as well as interacting with my readers. So far, it has been fruitful in terms of brand building and with my third book, the economic dividends are beginning to show.
Geosi Reads: The title of your first book ‘Excursions in my Mind’ was taken from Samuel Taylor Coleridge. What compelled you to pick this title?
Nana Awere Damoah: I am a quotations buff. In 2004 when I started writing the series of articles from which my first two books ensued, the idea was to write about my daily experiences and the lessons I derived from them as I reflected. So you realised that the articles are as eclectic as their settings. Coleridge’s words ‘From whatever place I write you will expect that part of my ‘Travels’ will consist of excursions in my own mind’ aptly captured the essence of what I was doing. It is interesting how that expression has stuck with a lot of my friends and readers. On good days, when interesting issues come up as they do often in Ghana, we have fun taking excursions in people’s minds!
Geosi Reads: In my review of ‘Excursions in my Mind’, I noted that there is ‘…a thin layer of difference…between the author and the narrative’. It must have been painful putting down your own personal experiences?
Nana Awere Damoah: That is right and this buttresses my previous answer. I have had readers tell how bold I am to share such personal experiences and thoughts. Yes, some of them have been painful, such as the chapter ‘Loss Taught Me’ – that article took me three years to finally put down. In some way, I see writing as therapy. When I write, it is like transferring the pain from my heart to the paper and when I do encounter similar situations again, I go back to read and minister to myself. I can say that I take the prescription ‘Physician, heal thyself’ very seriously.
Geosi Reads: Your second book ‘Through the Gates of Thought’ combines poetry, stories, articles and aphorisms. Were you trying to experiment with all the genres of literature?
Nana Awere Damoah: For my non-fiction books, I try to mix most of my varied styles. Story telling is natural to most Africans and even when we sat by the fireside to listen to our parents, a lesson was delivered in the form of a story. I have been doing poetry both in print and on stage for some years, and I don’t want to do a book of only poetry, which I think is usually for a specialist audience. I like to experiment and not pigeonholed. My pieces are diverse – this writer can be described by the same word.
Geosi Reads: Your most recent book, ‘Tales from Different Tails’ is a departure from your first two books. What memories run through your mind when you pick up the eighteen year old short story ‘The Showdown’.
Nana Awere Damoah: ‘The Showdown’ got a new title – ‘Guardian of the Rented Well’. The feeling is nostalgic, and I remember that day in 1995 anytime I read that story, and bless my God for this creative journey so far.
Geosi Reads: Music and Writing? Which of the two do you love doing most?
Nana Awere Damoah: Writing! Writing – I create. Music – I consume.
See my review of Nana Awere Damoah’s Excursions in My Mind.