If you are new here, first of all welcome. Secondly, Wema is my first book, coming out in a few days, and I am here to tell you all about it. First of all, I will give you a sneak peek into the book.
Wema, the book, is staged in Nairobi, covering the two extremes of affluence and poverty. From open sewers to expensive wines in Diani. From guns to holding hands under the moonlight. From left-over githeri to Italian Cuisines, it has a little bit of everything.
Born of a slum criminal and a 16-year-old downtown twilight girl, Wema is quickly thrust into a life of uncertainty. Mary and Omosh, Wema’s parents are on a roll of bad decisions, which slowly entangle those around them. as Bethi, the bartender, and Terry the kibanda owner watch the drama from their establishments, Janet, Nalla, and Bilal have to make Lemonade from the truckload of Lemons they are dealt.
How far is Mary willing to go to survive in the Concrete jungle?
I chose to not have a crowd for the cast, just the necessary people to tell the story. There will be other people along the way, who will help the main characters, and in some moments, to lighten up the plot and bring comic relief. These are common day people, from drunks staggering from their drinking dens to women selling foodstuff in their vibandas. When I almost finished the book, this crazy idea of linking my book to my blog came to mind, and the best way to do that was to copy one character from the blog to the book.
In my series, The Mugos, Bethi is this crazy woman bartender. She is feared by those who visit her pub and generally depends on the fear she has instilled in those around her. In the book, we have Bethi, who runs a chang’aa den in the heart of the slum. She is also feared by the people around her, including the gang members. These two women are one in my head, and they have the same body structure. I like how both of these characters show that women too can run things with an iron fist. Somehow, they now feel like real people to me, like i have interacted with them before, and i know i will have more fun writing Bethi in the blog series going forward.
From the start, I knew my book would be a one-word title. What I didn’t know was whether to name it after a character in the book, or after a virtue. To bridge this gap, I decided to choose a name that is both a virtue and a person’s name. The book was to be named ‘Hope’, which is a calm name to listen to, we can say it’s calm as the waters of the Chinga dam. Hope was a name that would fit perfectly to the plot and would blend in with the ending, but still, it did not bring out the African touch I wanted. I, therefore, opted for a Swahili name, which is both a virtue and a person’s name. Wema fit the description immediately. It was however motivated by the fact that one of my beautiful nieces is called Wema, and since this is a little beautiful book, why not?
After I finished with the book, I noticed something strange. Wema is Swahili for goodness, and my main character really needs a lot of good acts in her crazy life. One of these good things is her daughter, who she sees as a good gift in bad wrappings, and an awfully bad timing too. In short, the main source of goodness for Mary is her daughter, who is called Wema! Did you see what I saw? That is how I stuck to Wema, and I can say, it has a sweet African touch to it.
Then came the cover.
I shared the name with a few of my friends, and most of them had one question – ‘is it a Swahili book?’ Like I could get the balls to compose a Swahili novel! I really respect people who do Swahili books for real, people like Wallah Bin Wallah, the late Ken Walibora, Kithaka wa Mberia, et al. Maybe someday I will get back my Fasihi knowledge and coin down a Swahili book! When am old, with a hunched back and huge thick-lensed glasses that is. This question made me add the line ‘The Novel’.
The cover illustration is a simple photo of a lady (Mary) and her daughter (Wema). If you look at it for the first time, you will see the two of them just about to hold hands, but then, on reading the book, the illustration brings out the disconnect between mother and daughter. I don’t intend to spoil my own soup, but in the book, there will be a number of times the two disconnect. So, do they finally connect and bond as mother and daughter? You will tell me. The illustration was done by Washington and the result was as perfect as I wanted it to be.
The back cover is a photo of Nairobi nightlife blurred away. The whole of the book is plotted in Nairobi, in both spheres, from the slums to affluent suburbs. Nairobi had to be featured, and I did not want to have a busy front cover, so the option was left for the back cover, carrying the blurb.
Nahashon, (remember the dude from Harry’s publications we discussed in my previous post?) tells me the book is in binding now, and he is still enjoying making fun of my sweaty palms. I still can’t wait to lay my hands on this book. Finally, I have the chance of supplying you with my work in paperback.
To pre-order a copy:
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