Kofi Nyameye lives and writes in Accra, Ghana. His work has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, The Manchester Review and Cracked.com. He is currently busy being a hermit so alas you cannot follow him anywhere online.
FFGH: We would like to describe you as a Ghanaian writer. We know you have some qualifications to that description, can you say more about that for our readers?
KN: This question has always been an interesting one for me to answer, because aside from my nationality I feel like I don’t have any of the other things people look out for when they’re classifying “Ghanaian” writers. I rarely write about Ghana, or even Africa as a whole; I remember that when I used to post my stories online there would always be someone or other advising me to write more “African” stories.
But I don’t see the logic in that. I consider myself a Ghanaian writer simply because I am Ghanaian. This is the only qualification I need, regardless of what I write.
FFGH: Nicely said. Let’s talk about your work. Your story “The Lights Go Out One by One” published in Asimov magazine made the Nommo 2020 longlist. You are part of a special group of writers in Ghana writing across the speculative fiction, fantasy and science fiction genres. What drew you to these genres?
KN: I don’t know, to be honest. I write the ideas that come to me. And though I do have ideas for stories that aren’t speculative, most of them simply are. It’s what I have, so it’s what I write.
I should mention how funny I find it that because of The Lights Go Out I seem to be developing this reputation as a “science fiction writer”, when science fiction is in fact the genre I get the fewest ideas for!
FFGH: So much in that story lends to that reputation, surely. But we hear you. Okay, so looking back at the first story you ever published online, what are your thoughts on your writing now?
KN: Not that much has fundamentally changed, to be honest. I’ve honed my craft a lot more and attempt longer, more ambitious stories than I used to, but that is merely a result of growth. If I didn’t do these things back then, it’s simply because I wasn’t skilled enough to do them yet.
The core of my work remains fundamentally the same. Even my style at the root is as recognizable to me now as the stories I posted in 2011.
FFGH: Over the years, what has contributed to developing and refining your writing?
KN: My personal growth. My Christian growth. And risk. Safety is the enemy of creative development. I firmly believe that every story you write (or any project you attempt if you’re not a writer) should include something you’ve never tried before, something that makes you go: I don’t know if I can do this. And you won’t always be able to do it. But you’ll grow.
FFGH: Great advice. What writing project(s) are you currently working on?
KN: A novel that spends all its time filling me with joy or driving me crazy. No middle ground. (See: I don’t know if I can do this, above.)
FFGH: What are you currently reading? Any recommendations?
KN: Huh. In thinking about this question I just realized that I’ve read three series back to back. And the next thing on my list is also a series. That’s surprising. I should probably read a standalone next.
I recently read N K Jemisin’s The Broken Earth trilogy, and I highly recommend it for any SFF fans. The worldbuilding alone… chale!
Then I read Maurice Druon’s The Accursed Kings series. It is a dramatic retelling of the events in the French court in the 14th century, and it’s brilliant. If you’re into historical fiction, you should definitely give it a go.
Currently, I’m reading the Artemis Fowl series. Those have been around for a while but I never read them. Then the movie came out and everyone hated it. Out of curiosity, I went and read the first book. Loved it, and now I’m going for all of them. I’m only twenty years late, but still.
FFGH: Do you have any advice for writers struggling to complete writing projects?
KN: Firstly: Be kind to yourself. Take time off if you need to. Pressure is not your friend. Take a step back and try to remember why you began this project. Why does it matter to you? As writers we so easily lose sight of why we do this wonderful work in the first place. If you’re doing this out of love – and ideally you should be – that love will draw you back. So don’t be afraid to step away for a minute.
Secondly: Don’t be afraid to write a really dry, really bland first draft. We’re always trying to get it right the first time but the real craft of writing shows itself in edits. To quote Anne Lammott: “The first draft is the down draft: you just get it down. The second draft is where you clean it up.”
Thirdly: Ask for help. Have you ever seen a musical album completed entirely by one person? No. What about a movie? Or a construction project? So why do writers tend to think we must finish our work all by ourselves? Show your work to people you trust and ask them for help.
Notice I said people you trust, not just people who are smarter or more experienced than you. There is nothing worse for a writer than a smart reviewer or beta reader who is also insensitive. You want someone who will help you dig out the story in your mind, not someone who will look at the incomplete project and start judging it.
You’ll be amazed what you can do when you don’t have to do it all yourself.
FFGH: Any future collaboration or projects you would like to have or see in the Ghanaian literary space?
KN: I’d like to do a story with Akotowaa one day. We write such different things. It’d be fun.