Nana Prah is a Ghanaian author of contemporary multicultural romances. Prah, who is also a nurse educator, has published about five romance novels. She shares her views on love, romance and other issues with The Interview.
Writing all these romance books, you must lead an exciting life, yes?
That’s one of the funniest questions I’ve ever been asked. My life is not exciting, unless you count teaching, shopping in the market and hanging out with my friends and family as enthralling. I write because I know people need an escape from the ordinary, not because I live an extraordinary life.
How do you research for your books?
I rely on the internet a lot. When one of my characters has an occupation that matches mine or a friend’s it makes things easier. I just have to ‘harass’ my friend for information. Once they find out my research is for a novel they open right up.
You train nurses and also write romance novels and I am wondering what the connection is.
There is no connection. My two occupations are worlds apart and I like it that way. Being a nurse educator is what keeps me fed and housed, while writing keeps my soul happy. My students don’t know that I write. I’m sure that if they did, they’d be impressed that I’m published but shocked that their teacher writes romance.
Can you describe yourself in five words?
Intelligent, loyal, snarky, industrious and kind
Can you briefly describe your writing style? Define briefly?
Just kidding. I write romances that I like to read – those with quick-witted dialogues and a pace that moves quickly so the reader gets absorbed into the lives of the characters. The romance aspect in my novels moves at a slower pace, in order to build the tension between the hero and heroine to nail-biting intensity. When they do get together the reader is more than delighted, because they know the characters are meant to be together and why.
How long does it take you to write a book?
This depends on what’s happening in my life. On average, I’d say one to three months for the first draft. Then the real work begins when I start working on the second, third and sometimes fourth drafts. Editing sometimes seems to take forever.
What is your impression of writing romance in Africa; does it really sell?
First let me share that I’ve been publishing books for over three years and I still work a full time job. Not because I want to, but because I like being chubby rather than emaciated. My books do sell. I was surprised at one of the royalty statements I received from the second book in my Destiny Series, Destiny Mine. It has sold more than any of my other novels.
What is your view about the male/female stereotype of men coming from mars and women from Jupiter?
If I’d read the book I could answer the question better. Men and women are so different in the way we think, and sometimes behave, that I wouldn’t be surprised if we came from different planets (so to speak). But then again we complement each other so well even through our differences that it seems like a ludicrous thought. The most important thing is that we learn to communicate effectively. I believe that Africans who like to read romance appreciate characters in an environment they can relate to. There is a market for African romance; the trick is letting people know the books exist.
Is anything in any of your books based on real life experiences or it’s purely all imagination?
A combination of the two. Most of the circumstances and characters in my novels are purely my imagination. Every once in a while, I’ll slip in one of my experiences or one someone has told me about because it helps the story flow.
Who has influenced your writing the most and how?
At this point in my career I’m influenced by all authors that I read. If forced to give names I’d say Nana Malone, because she is a phenomenal writer and I’d love to be like her one day in terms of my success. KiruTaye is an amazing writer who writes novels set in Nigeria. She teaches me how to incorporate culture into romance and that I shouldn’t be afraid to add a sex scene or two in my novels (I wish you could see my wink).
Tell us a little more about yourself; how long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing for over eight years. I wrote an autobiography of sorts many years ago, thinking someone would want to read about my life. Nope (see why from my answer to your first question). The first romance I wrote never got published, but three years ago, my novel Love Through Time got accepted by Black Opal Books and I’ve been publishing ever since.
Five books in total and lots more to come. Do you ever experience writer’s block and how do you deal with it when it happens?
I am happy to say I’ve never had writer’s block. I try to write every day. Sometimes, all I get out is fifty words of nonsense. It’s okay, because at least I have written. There is always an idea percolating in my mind that wants to get out so I don’t concern myself with writer’s block. Usually, as soon as I sit in front of my computer I write.
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way while growing up or as an adult?
Long before I had any desire to be a writer, when I read books by Dorothy Koomson I thought that I’d want to write like her, if I ever had the chance. She weaves a tale that carries the reader into the story and doesn’t let them out until the very end. Even then, we still want to be part of the characters’ lives. Those are the kinds of stories I try to write.
Is ‘romantic’ a word you would use to describe yourself?
No (laughing).I love all things romance, but I’m not a romantic person. The little gestures that romantic people do as second nature tend to bypass me. I can appreciate them when they’re presented, but I wouldn’t expect it, only because I just wouldn’t think of it.
You say you are not romantic; what about love? Are you in love? Can you share your love story with us in the spirit of Valentine?
I have been in love a couple of times, but right now the only thing I’m in love with is life. This might sound odd, but I love, love. It’s the best feeling in the world and I hope to experience it again one day soon. For now I am keeping my eyes and ears open for that right guy. In the spirit of cupid, I’ll share my favourite Valentine’s Day with you. My boyfriend at the time had flowers delivered to me, gave me this cute little karate (I’m a martial artist) bear that said “hee yaa” when it’s belly was pressed, and he also took me to a party. Sometimes I think about that day and sigh.
Have you always wanted to write?
Not at all. As I think back on my life, writing never featured, unless you count my journal. As an avid reader, I thought getting published was for the “experts”, so it never crossed my mind that I could do it. One day I sent an e-mail to a friend, telling her how she’d meet her husband one day and I couldn’t stop writing the story until I had over 60,000 words down and a happily ever after ending. It was never published, but the experience instilled in me the idea that I was indeed a writer.
There is this fascination African women seem to have with Nigerian men, is it same with Ghanaian women? Do they also find Nigerian men interesting?
Are you fishing for compliments for your Nigerian men? (Laughing).
If we’re discussing Nigerian celebrities we can all see just why women in general would be fascinated with them.
(Laughing) So you think Nigerian male celebrities are hot?
No doubt about it.
What are your plans for Valentine; how do you plan to spend it?
Maybe if I had a man in my life I’d tell you that I’ll be going out and having the time of my life. Dinner, chatting until our mouths are tired, gifts given and received, and maybe a lovely stroll on the beach. You might think me a spoilsport if I told you the truth of what I’ll actually be doing (it may or may not include creating lesson notes, editing my latest book, and eating chocolate) so I’ll let you believe what you want, it’s more romantic that way.