Monday, May 23, 2016

Beneath the African Sun: Interview with Historical Fiction Author Maria Lynch

Maria was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. After graduating from Dr. Ribeiro Goan School and with secretarial skills and her experience as a School Secretary she arrived in London, England in 1967 in the midst of “hippie world.” She studied at Pitman’s College for a Commercial Teacher’s Diploma which she successfully achieved in 1969. Due to the tenuous political situation in Kenya she had to find a new home. In the autumn of 1970 she emigrated to Canada in search of a home to put down her new roots. This she did with her husband, Tim who immigrated to Canada from South Wales, UK.

To Maria and Tim, Canada became a land of opportunity and new beginnings. In pursuit of these opportunities, they lived in Hamilton, Montreal, and Toronto. Tim pursued post graduate studies at the University of Toronto while Maria achieved a B.A. in Economics from York University followed by a B.Ed. from the University of Toronto. During this time, she and Tim nurtured their two sons. When they reached school age, Maria taught Business Studies’ courses  at high schools in the City of Toronto for fourteen years. In 1999 she achieved an M.A. (Leadership and Training) from Royal Roads University, British Columbia.

Maria is an avid reader of fiction and non-fiction books. The latter enables her to delve into her favorite topics of social justice issues, community development and philosophy. In 2009 she began blogging, visit This deepened her interest in writing novels and is author of Beneath the African Sun; for details visit She also enjoys nature trail walking and traveling.
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When Sabby Mendes leaves Portuguese Goa aboard the dhow Monsoon Wind bound for British East Africa in 1916, he has one dream—to find work as a tailor in the relatively new capital of Nairobi. Sabby is a young man, still a teenager, but he is determined to build a life for himself, and he knows
that the opportunities in the British Protectorate are better than those facing him at home.

A bright, affable young man with a genuine passion and talent for tailoring, he is not prepared for what he is about to find beyond the Arabian Sea. The Protectorate, which will become British Colony of Kenya, is a highly segregated society with the British firmly ensconced at its top; below them are the “Asians” like Sabby; and at the very bottom are the native African population who are regarded as little more than savages in need of civilization.

Beneath the African Sun offers, through the eyes of its protagonist, a street-level view of the changing social and political climate of Kenya between 1916 and 1970, including the ‘Mau Mau’ Uprising of the native Kikuyu, the eventual independence of Kenya in 1963, and the political fallout that followed.

More than a history, it is a story about family, home, social justice, and what it means to truly belong somewhere.

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Thank you for this interview!  I’d like to know more about you as a person first.  What do you do when you’re not writing?

I spend the winter months in a warm country where I explore different sights, sounds and cultures. I love walking along the sandy beaches for my morning exercise. During the spring, summer and autumn I walk along nature trails, in city parks, attend lecture series on my favorite topics—philosophy, social justice issues and community development as it relates to leadership. I enjoy theatre plays, orchestral music concerts and meeting friends for a beverage, lunch or dinner. I am most relaxed when I escape into the world of reading fiction and non-fiction.

When did you start writing?

I started creative writing in 2009. Before that I wrote reports, minutes of meetings, academic papers and a post graduate thesis. To venture into creative writing I created a blog that I use as a personal repository of my writings. I post my personal reviews of the books I read. Sometimes I add reviews from other reviewers with my added comments. Also there are my descriptions with photographs of our travel adventures. I sometimes post commentaries on my favorite topics mentioned above. From blogging I took the leap to writing my first novel, Beneath the African Sun.

As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life?

The most pivotal point was working with a writing buddy and editors who gave me important critical feedback and umpteen suggestions for me to work through and determine their suitability for my novel  and my style of writing.

If you could go anywhere in the world to start writing your next book, where would that be and why?

I would go to two places; live in a condo in a bustling city to be inspired by the sights, sounds and activities of an urban environment, and the second place would be in a quiet country cottage overlooking a body of water with a long stretch of beach to walk along and absorb the healing powers of the blue water that would relax my mind to become curious in my writing.

If you had 4 hours of extra time today, what would you do?

Read more fiction to grasp different writing styles of a variety of authors. It would help me create my own style of writing to a form that is unique to my way of telling a story.

Where would you like to set a story that you haven’t done yet?

I would like to take the protagonist on a journey across Canada including the cold northern part of Canada. She would discover what it means to truly belong to a country.

Back to your present book, Beneath the African Sun, how did you publish it?

I used FriesenPress, a self-publishing company, to produce my book. I chose a package that closely resembled a traditional publisher. I was assigned a team led by an account manager who coordinated all the activities of the team; editor, book designer, book promoter and book distributor. I worked very closely with each member of the team during the whole process of the production of my novel.

In writing your book, did you travel anywhere for research?

I travelled to Kenya, specifically to Nairobi, Nakuru and Mombasa to reinforce my memories of these places that are clearly evident in my novel.

Why was writing Beneath the African Sun so important to you?

I wrote Beneath the African Sun to honor the memory of my father. The story resembles many facets of his life. Also I wanted to highlight the social justice issues of the early 20th century in British Colonial Kenya, a country in Africa—a continent which was commonly referred as the dark continent.

Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that is?

My best ideas come from reading fiction and non-fiction, personal experiences, witnessing experiences of others, listening to personal stories and formal lectures on philosophy, social justice issues, and the impact of community on individuals.

During these settings I become curious and want to know more and reflect on how I could turn what I hear and read into a story that would portray the issues from a street- level viewpoint of an ordinary person.

Any final words?

I framed Beneath the African Sun around social justice issues and the impact of a close-knit community in a faraway land all of whom wanted to belong to a beloved yet troubled country but couldn’t due the political turmoil that surfaced during that time.

Thank you for this opportunity to be interviewed by you.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for telling us about this author. I read her books when preparing for my first trip to the African continent. I must say that the image of modern Africa does not coincide with what we see on TV and in the movies usually. It is a conglomerate of strong and rapidly developing countries now. I enjoy visiting Nigeria. I just do it through online flight bookings - Yes, there is a certain difference in mentality and etiquette, but Nigeria is very quickly moving along the path of globalization and integration into the world community.