Dr. Mary Asabea Ashun‘s bio is as inspirational and impressive a read as her new book Tuesday’s Child promises to be. The Biochemistry Ph.D has written multiple books across a myriad of genres including children’s/YA, inspirational advice, and romance. Somewhere in between writing, raising three boys, and her duties as a professor at Redeemer University in Ancaster, Ontario, the good doctor finds the time to lead global learning initiatives promoting cultural exposure for students and teachers. Oh, and she’s at the helm of a school project in Ghana which provides literacy classes to women in the village of Asamankese.
Set in Ghana, Ashun clarifies Tuesday’s Child is “not about living in Africa and suffering any devastating disease or marriage — it’s about finding yourself,” she says. “I just happened to do it in Africa.”
Tell us about the process of writing Tuesday’s Child.
I was approaching 40 and, for the first time, experiencing depression in a way I’d never felt before. One of the reasons why it was so hard to understand was because I had ‘everything’ — happily married, had a job, my kids weren’t driving me too crazy, and no one close had died, morbid as that sounds. I thought I didn’t like my job (teaching hormone-riddled high school kids), and thought I needed to change jobs.
On a trip to visit my parents in Ghana, it hit me that I’d never visited my Grandma’s grave; I’d been away in England studying when she died. Mum suggested we go together. I was chicken for a few days, and then I finally went. The night before was restless, as I tried to remember her and everything she’d meant to me.
That evening after the visit, I woke up in a sort of panic attack, grabbed my Mac and started writing…and crying…and writing. I finished the first draft in a month…200 pages.
In general, what is your process for starting a new project?
I do use detailed outlines, but I allow myself to wander also. Tuesday’s Child was the only thing I’ve written without an outline. This is probably because it was so personal, and I was afraid I’d lose some of the authenticity if I boxed it in with outlines. After it came in as quarterfinalist [for] the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards, I sent it off to an agent and once we got working on it; I began to see the need for structure…but not too much.
Does the blank page/screen titillate or terrify you?
It depends. I always go to the blank page to start something that has had some time to foment so I think it’s more of a titillant (hey, I made a new word!).
How did/do you stay motivated past the euphoria of getting those first words on the page/screen?
Competitions! I look for places to send my work to, and those deadlines make me move my lazy bones towards the goal. The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award is my favorite since it’s free and pretty competitive. It tells me I’ve got something good in there when I make it to the quarterfinals stage.
Who is your intended reader?
With Tuesday’s Child, I didn’t even think once about it. After the Amazon success…I realized that selling it as an African story was doing it a disservice.
Non-African readers are sadly notorious for wanting the poverty-ridden stories and I don’t do that without contextual reason. For Africans who read it, it’s a re-connection. I had to find a reader who would identify with both of these and that’s when I started asking myself what my story was really about.
It’s not about living in Africa and suffering any devastating disease or marriage — it’s about finding yourself…I just happened to do it in Africa. My reader is therefore anyone who has had that experience in Africa or elsewhere, or is looking for a reason to make that journey to self.