This month, WOA spoke with renowned novelist and publisher of ReConnectAfrica.com, Frances Mensah Williams. She discusses the inspirations behind her second novel From Pasta to Pigfoot: Second Helpings.
WOA: Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Frances Mensah Williams: I’m a novelist and since 2015 I have had two novels published: ‘From Pasta to Pigfoot’ and ‘From Pasta to Pigfoot: Second Helpings’ (Jacaranda Books), both of which are set in London and Ghana. I was born in Ghana and have lived in a number of different countries, but spent most of my life in the UK. During the course of my career in Human Resources Management, I worked with a number of international companies across diverse sectors in the UK and also worked in Ghana for several years; initially with the Central Bank, and then as Human Resources Director with a leading Ghanaian commercial and investment bank. Now based in London, I work as an Executive Coach and run a niche consultancy called Interims for Development which has supported companies in Africa and elsewhere with a range of HR, recruitment, training and career coaching solutions since 2003.
WOA: When you released your book From Pasta to Pigfoot in 2015 what were you trying to communicate to your readers?
The idea for the story came to me while I was living and working in Ghana. Although I was very familiar with my country and language, moving from Europe to Africa was quite a transition. I often wondered what someone who was of African heritage but who didn’t know their culture of birth would make of it all. Once Faye, the main character, became established in my mind, the situations that she found herself in started to build and after a few months I had completed the first draft. I also wanted to write about the kind of people I knew and had grown up around – African professionals caught between two sometimes conflicting sets of cultures and expectations – and to treat these serious themes of identity and belonging in a readable and fun way, unlike a lot of African literature that tends to be characterised as rather heavy and serious in tone. In much the same way as the internet series ‘An African City’ has shone a spotlight on another aspect of modern urban Africa, I wanted to write about and to share the ‘fun’ side of Africa and to illustrate our humour as well as the evolving nature of contemporary urban Africa and its growing middle-class. It took quite a few years and numerous revisions before I felt ready to submit the manuscript to a publisher. Luckily, they loved the story and offered me a two-book deal to publish the book and to write a sequel.
WOA: Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind your second novel and what can we look forward to in it?
The protagonist in ‘From Pasta to Pigfoot’ is Faye Bonsu, a young British woman of Ghanaian origin. In the first novel the focus is very much on her journey through reconciling her conflicting cultural influences, learning more about her country of origin as well as experiencing her personal journey of self-empowerment. It has been described as ‘a coming of culture novel’ and we get to visit Ghana and to see the country through her eyes, meeting some unforgettable characters and experiencing some cultural occasions and romance along the way. In the sequel ‘From Pasta to Pigfoot: Second Helpings’, life has become rather complicated for our heroine and her priorities have shifted somewhat. We follow her from London to Ghana as she navigates her evolving romantic relationships, deals with unexpected work challenges and is confronted with a life-changing decision. Faye represents many second and third-generation Africans in the Diaspora who see Africa from a British/Western perspective rather than as native-born Africans, and who have become adept at slipping in and out of their different cultural personas. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that readers like the story and enjoy reading about the Africa that I want to showcase!
Frances Mensah Williams is the Chief Executive of Interims for Development Ltd. and the Publisher of ReConnectAfrica.com, a careers and business website and online publication for African professionals in the Diaspora with over 35,000 subscribers. Her latest novel released on the 19th May 2016 and is available on Kindle and Paperbook on Amazon. Click here to order your copy.
Catch Frances at Africa Writes 2016 this July where she will discuss contemporary work from Africa across the genres of crime writing, international women’s fiction, sci-fi and fantasy alongside writers Leye Adenle and Nikhil Singh. Click here to view more details of the event.