Ghana-born author, Ekow Duker, is an oil field engineer-turned-investment banker-turned-business developer, with three published novels under his belt: Dying in New York (PanMacmillan), White Wahalla (Picador Africa) and The God Who Made Mistakes (Picador Africa). Having globe-trotted for studies and work, he has now made Johannesburg his home.
LERATO MOTSOALEDI speaks to this versatile talent about his successful part-time writing career.
Q: How did you become a writer?
A: I wouldn’t call myself a writer because I write primarily for pleasure. I’m a happy dabbler in several things, including writing.
Q: What are you currently busy with?
A: I’m helping to run a data science firm called Ixio Analytics, which uses advanced analytics to guide organisations to make better decisions from their data.
Q: Does writing for pleasure make it easier?
A: Not always. There are times when things don’t flow, when it’s not easy to string words together. There’s no formula for making it easy; you just need to keep going. But writing for pleasure does take away some of the pressure and helps me to relax and focus while writing.
Q: How did you develop yourself as a writer?
A: I read, listen and observe a lot. I’ve also learnt great tips through a couple of writing courses I’ve taken, including their thirty day online writing challenge and an eight-week course.
Q: What helps you to inhabit your characters’ world and bring them to life so richly?
A: It’s a trick I’ve learnt and honed through the writing courses I took.
Q: How do you juggle writing with your career?
A: I make time for writing, mostly in the mornings from 04:30. The trick is to write regularly.
Q: What do you regard as your greatest writing achievement thus far?
A: A book I haven’t written yet, and two articles I wrote for the Mail & Guardian three years ago, the first about losing my first wife and the second on dementia. The articles allowed me to express strong emotions that have shaped me and the characters involved. I’m also pleased with my latest book, The God Who Made Mistakes, because my editor pushed me to take my writing to the next level. So, my writing style wasn’t as spontaneous as it had been with my debut novel, Dying in New York.
Q: Is it easy to make a living as a writer?
A: No. You need to write because you enjoy it. In the early days of your writing, which may be very long, you need another source of income but keep improving your writing, take courses and if possible, get a mentor. It can be a long and lonely journey.
Q: What tips can you give an aspiring writer about getting published?
A: Be prepared for rejections but do not be discouraged by them. It’s easier to get published in South Africa than overseas. If you receive feedback from publishers, work with it. Self-publishing is also an option on Amazon and other platforms but there’s usually no marketing for your book so it’s tough to reach a wide audience and get sufficient exposure. Your book can be a grain of sand on the beach, with slim chances of being found.
Q: What’s the most important writing tip you ever received?
A: When my book didn’t win an award, I was told, ‘just write another one.’
About the Author
Lerato Motsoaledi is a clinical psychologist with a doctoral degree in consulting psychology, currently working in private practice. A desire to transform a wider audience has seen her dabbling in diversity management and executive coaching. When she’s not writing or speaking to angels, she dreams about ballroom dancing.