Q & A with Foday Mannah

Deana Luchia talks to Foday Mannah about writing habits. 

Q: What do you enjoy most about the writing process? What do you like least?

A: I like the fact that writing is essentially allowing someone inside your head. Although we interact with other people at home, work etc., a significant portion of our time involves being quiet whilst we think. Writing therefore brings inner thoughts to light. I dislike writing myself into corners which often breeds frustration. It’s like having an “A” and a “C” of a story, whilst having no “B” to connect things. I hate being stuck at Point “B” .

Q: Do you write at a set time of day or of the week? Do you only write when you feel compelled to write or do you have set times? 

A: There’s no pattern to my writing. Working as a teacher means summer is usually the best time to write primarily as I have fewer commitments. I absolutely need to be compelled to write and therefore responded well to the Masters I did at Falmouth. Having to contribute a piece to a collection of dating stories also saw me produce something within a short space of time. In essence, deadlines are good for me. 

Q: Is there a theme or are there themes running through your writing? If so what are they and if so is this intentional (are there thing you want to write about above other things) or is this happening sub-consciously?

A: My writing comes across as quite political which largely derives from growing up in Sierra Leone. Issues involving corruption, violence, gender inequality etc., usually permeate the pieces I produce. My writing therefore often takes the form of rants against systems that breed inequality and corruption. I however believe that all stories have universal relevance and resonance if you look hard enough. Literature should always be about linking and connecting people.

Q: Do you prefer writing poetry or fiction? Do you need to be in a different headspace to do one or the other? 

A: Poetry comes across as being produced a little more casually than prose. I like the fact that poetry often involves compressing complex themes and ideas into shorter spaces. One of the best aspects of writing in my opinion is how writers use imagery. I find imagery to be a major component of poetry, which is not to say that it does not apply to prose. The headspace to produce both genres is essentially the same though.

Q: What are you working on at the moment? What are you aiming to do with this work? 

A: I’m currently working on a novel which is a development of my Master’s Thesis. The hope is to see it published, but I’ll be immensely relieved to just see it completed. Any bonus would be most welcome. I also periodically strive to produce the odd poem.

Q: How do you feel about writing women’s characters? How do you go about making your female characters come alive? Do you find it easier to write from a male narrator’s perspective? The women characters of yours that I’ve read have been really good and I just wondered how you went about this. 

A: I thoroughly enjoy writing female characters. I believe that good writing is built on the ability to be a good observer of people. Men and women interact on a daily basis at home, in the work place etc. thereby providing ample material to mould and produce authentic characters, irrespective of gender.



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