"Fiction allowed me to mourn between my pages" - Natasha Omokhodion-Kalulu Banda on writing 'No Be from Hia'

29 November 2020 - 00:00 By Natasha Omokhodion-Kalulu Banda

Published in the Sunday Times (29/11/2020)

My book was inspired by my multicultural background - Zambian, Nigerian, Jamaican and British. I wrote it at a time when I was processing the loss of both sets of grandparents, whom I had visited in Nigeria and in my Zambian village, Chinsali.

I was intrigued by the eras which had shaped each of them: my maternal grandparents were freedom fighters in Northern Rhodesia, and my paternal grandparents included a Windrush generation grandmother and a Nigerian student who migrated to England in the 1950s.

I needed to find a way to weave this together, and fiction turned out to be the great escape. It allowed me to mourn between my pages, and eventually the book came to life as I created characters set in their times. Hours, days and months went into this book. Raw emotions and the will to remember.

A great amount of research went into the story as well, because its historical element is the foundation for the contemporary tale. And the facts had to be right. Travelling to each of those places with a writer's eyes was also helpful.

The difficulties lay in the rejections along the journey to publication. Man, there are roadblocks once you have that manuscript in your hands and nobody knows your name. I consider them good obstacles, however, because every rejection for this book came with great insight, and a couple of times it reached very advanced levels of decision-making from publishers before it was returned with feedback. That feedback fuelled me and helped shape it to what you see today. In the end, I was confident once it was truly ready to be shared with the world.

My biggest surprise has been the response from my readers, specifically the Zambian market, as well as people in other countries reaching out on social media or via e-mail. I just wanted to put my story out, and for some reason I didn't anticipate what would happen on the other side of completion.

No Be from Hia by Natasha Omokhodion-Kalulu Banda is published by BlackBird Books, R250