‘Igboland’: Book Group Questions

Igboland cover6 ‘Igboland’ is inspired by my Mum’s diary from when my parents lived out in Nigeria for six years during the Biafran War. Their story is very different to that of Lydia and Clem, but the anecdotes, photos, letters and journal helped me to make the setting and context as accurate as possible. The novel itself explores love, marriage, faith and personal identity. The characters respond to the traditions and culture they find themsleves part of and have some very difficult decisions to make.

  1. How important is it that the narrative voice is that of an English woman?

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  1. What does the novel have to say about female identity? Can a man really write a novel from a woman’s perspective?

1028 Judith Omafu

  1. How is Protestant Christian faith explored? How do you feel about Christian missionaries going to other countries?

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  1. What do you feel you have learned about Igbo culture and ‘Odinani’? Does it have anything to teach us?

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  1. How important is the cultural and geographical setting to the narrative? Have you ever experienced a culture shock? How did you feel?

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  1. The Biafran War continues throughout the novel in the background. Simplistically put, it was a civil war between the northern Muslim states and the Igbos in the south. Is the war typical of any other war? Is it an integral part of the novel or not? Does it symbolise anything?

box 1088 road to Oturkpo


  1. How are the themes of marriage and family explored in ‘Igboland’? Is there a moral or message being offered, or is it left ambiguous?

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  1. Which of the characters are sympathetic or otherwise? What is their purpose in the novel? (Consider: Clem, Grace, Kwemto, Matthew, Mr Okadonye, Charlotte)

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  1. Is the ending satisfactory? What feelings did you have while reading the novel?

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10.  Do you have any questions you’d like to ask the author? (His table manners have improved slightly since this picture was taken)

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I am keen to hear any feedback you may have from your discussions. Please add comments below and I’ll be happy to respond to any questions and thoughts you have.


Author Interview: Charlene Raddon.

 I’d like to welcome fellow Tirgearr author Charlene Raddon to my blog. She writes western historical romances and, more recently, has had a paranormal romance published. Char portrait 2009smer(3)

  1. What are the main ideas or themes in your books?

With love, anything is possible

2.  What is so important about the settings of your books?

My books are all set in the American West. The Wild West is an era I’ve been fascinated with all my life.

3.  Tell us more about the main characters and their dilemmas.

I have five historical romance novels published, all western except one, Forever Mine. Since Forever Mine isn’t western in the usual sense—no sheriffs, no outlaws—I call it Americana. To escape a vengeful relative, Ariah Scott agrees to marry a man she’s never met, a lighthouse keeper on the Oregon Coast. Her intended is unable to travel to Portland to pick her up, so he delegates the task to his uncle, who will be in Portland when she arrives. From the moment Bartholomew Noon sets eyes on Ariah, he’s in trouble. She is everything he’s ever dreamed of in a woman—energetic, curious, uninhibited, enthusiastic about life, giving and loving—all the attributes missing in his shrew of a wife. Ariah finds Bartholomew fascinating. He’s mature, amusing, and intelligent, and shares her interest in birds. Before they ever reach the lighthouse, they are in love. Ariah must decide whether to go through with her arranged marriage and spend her life living next door to the man she loves and seeing the misery his marriage causes him, or to keep running. I call this my Ethan Frome with a happy ending story.

Forever Mine by Charlene Raddon - 200 copy

  1. Why did you write this novel? Any other issues or ‘big ideas’ behind it.

The location of this story is very special to me, a place I used to visit every year. When they first opened the lighthouse to visitors, I saw an old wedding photo in a showcase, a keeper and his wife who were married there just before the turn of the century. I couldn’t get that image out of my head. Neither bride nor groom looked happy. In fact, the bride appeared miserable. I thought about what it would have been like in 1891 to travel to such an isolated spot as it would have been then, and wed a man perhaps unknown to the bride—and Forever Mine was born. The chance to learn the history behind the location and the running of a lighthouse offered extra incentive.

  1. How do you go about writing a novel? Is it a simple or complex process?

I suspect any book produced by an author who finds writing a simple process would likely be less than fantastic. Writing is a complex process, and because I like complex plots and deep characterization, my books are not simple to write. I’m sort of a pantser at heart but I’ve tried several methods of plotting, creating outlines, etc.

  1. ‘Pantser’, for the uninitiated (and British) readers refers to writing by the seat of your pants, or using instinct rather than over-planning. What advice do you have for less experienced writers?

Never give up. Getting published is a matter of getting the right manuscript on the right desk at the right moment. And luck. But be prepared, because getting published is only the beginning. Once you reach that goal, you must keep publishing, and your books must sell. Neither task is an easy feat.

7.  What are you working on currently?

I have several projects going at the moment, a full, western historical novel which is completed but under revision, a new time travel I just started, and a short story for the blog I run with two other authors, Stilettos at High Noon. This is a site for lovers of westerns and western romance, where they can find articles about the west as well as short stories and pre-designed western themed book covers, designed by my alter-ego, Jennetta Dodge.

  1. If you could leave a message to the world, what would it be?

Happiness, longevity, and good health depend on a good attitude.

  1. What would your perfect day be?

A day when I have no activities scheduled except writing, and an empty house to do it in.

10. Name a book or a film that means a lot to you.

First one that comes to mind is Lonesome Dove.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Charlene. I wish you all the best with your future projects.

Charlene Raddon

For more information visit Charlene’s Website here.

Click on the cover image of Forever Mine above for more details.

IGBOLAND : The Diary of Janet Gardiner

IGBOLAND is a romantic novel of passion, conflict and adventure. While it is a work of fiction, it is inspired by the diary, photos and stories of my parents who lived out in Nigeria for six years.

Igboland cover5

My Mum’s diary is full of intriguing details and incidents, although it is important to note that IGBOLAND is a work of fiction with characters very different to my parents, Janet and Gerald Gardiner. Below is an extract from my Janet’s diary. The Igbo girl, Rachel, became the inspiration for the character Grace in IGBOLAND. Although Grace’s character experiences different challenges – the tone and the mood made a big impression on me, and I hoped to capture that same sense of suffering and hardship. Read the novel to see how I went from this, to the story of Grace.


3rd December 1967

“Gerald took us up to Oturkpo hospital to visit an Igbo girl. She must have been brought up from the east for treatment (a caesarean operation). She was a pitiful sight, trembling and in a completely confused state; she must only be around 18. It must feel awful for her with a new baby (a tiny sweet little thing – pinkish brown) and in enemy territory, separated from home and family. People treat her kindly although the nurses don’t seem to do much for her – she is unkempt and looks a mess. There are flies everywhere in the ward. It tears your heart out to see her. She wants to go home, but the doctor won’t allow her to be moved as she is too ill and weak. She wept when Gerald read her some letters from her family.

1025a  Mother&child

10th December 1967

“The war continues with heavy fighting still at Nsukka, Enugu and places along the border – casualties are heavy on both sides. The turnover of wounded soldiers in the hospital is very speedy. One soldier proudly showed us the ‘Biafran’ bullet which was removed from his shoulder – a souvenir. The Igbo girl, whose name is Rachel, is making little progress. Hospital patients out here are fed by their relatives, so the only food this girl gets is what we take. Her hair had to be shaved off it was such a mess, so we gave her material to make a head square. Her husband has been killed and no-one knows whether her father is okay or not.”

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3rd January 1968

“General Gowon announced a new and large campaign to be launched against Biafra unless they accept a settlement on federal terms.”

13th January 1968

“Rachel has been transferred to Ikache to be looked after by the Dutch nurses. She is worried about her family and her father, whom she believes has been killed. Poor, sad girl, she seems to have no will to live even though her baby is getting stronger.”

14th January 1968

“Rachel, the Igbo girl, has died. Her operation wound never healed. Someone is going to try to get the baby to her family in Biafra. We are going to spend the money we got from mum and dad on the baby.”

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Jeff’s Website: http://jeffgardiner.com/

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Igboland-Jeff-Gardiner-ebook/dp/B00IGQPG1S/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1392887194&sr=1-1

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Igboland-Jeff-Gardiner-ebook/dp/B00IGQPG1S/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1395168674&sr=1-1&keywords=igboland

Crooked Cat Books: http://www.crookedcatbooks.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=126

Igboland cover6


Interview with an author: Sue Barnard

Sue Barnard author picI’m delighted to welcome fellow Crooked Cat author Sue Barnard to my blog. Her novel, ‘The Ghostly Father’, is an interesting take on ‘Romeo and Juliet’, with a postmodern twist. It’s a fascinating idea for a novel.

Here is the blurb:

Romeo & Juliet – was this what really happened?

When Juliet Roberts is asked to make sense of an ancient Italian manuscript, she little suspects that she will find herself propelled into the midst of one of the greatest love stories of all time. But this is only the beginning. As more hidden secrets come to light, Juliet discovers that the tragic tale of her famous namesake might have had a very different outcome…

What are the main ideas or themes in your book?

The main theme of The Ghostly Father is one of forgiveness and reconciliation. This is portrayed not just with reference to the infamous feud between the Montagues and the Capulets (who have Italian names in this version), but also, on a more personal level, by the way the main character comes to terms with his own demons.

TGF Front Cover

What is the setting or context of the narrative? Why is it important?

The setting of the main story is 15th-16th century Italy – specifically Venice, Verona and (briefly) Mantua. The context is vital because it’s a retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet story, which is set in Verona. There is also a present-day narrator (also called Juliet) whose comments provide a modern framework for the story.

Tell us more about the main characters and their dilemmas.

Romeo and Juliet – the original star-cross’d lovers – need no introduction. But the book concentrates mostly on the character of Friar Lawrence (Lorenzo), who has a number of significant issues and dilemmas of his own. I can’t say a great deal about those here, because it would give too much away, but suffice it to say that he didn’t willingly become a Friar…

He’s a very interesting character, I agree. His strange decisions in Shakespeare’s play are intriguing, and keep the story moving. He is definitely an ambiguous character.Why did you write this novel? Any other issues or ‘big ideas’ behind it?

It was in answer to the exhortation Write the book you want to read. When I first wrote the book, I was writing it originally for myself. I wanted to give Romeo and Juliet an alternative ending to their story – one that I could read privately, and in doing so, be able to think that perhaps things might have worked out for them after all. But judging by the way the book has been selling, it seems as though lots of other people also want to think the same way!

How do you go about writing a novel? Is it a simple or complex process?

I’d like to be able to say I sit down and plan things out beforehand, but that would only be partly true. I start out with an idea, but the writing itself is very haphazard. And sometimes the characters themselves take me completely by surprise. In my novel Nice Girls Don’t (due out later this year) one of the characters said something which I hadn’t anticipated, and which went on to change the entire course of the subplot! Which was probably just as well, because with hindsight I don’t think my original idea would have worked.

I like plot and characters that are malleable too, and am always open to change half-way through writing. What advice do you have for less experienced writers?

Keep at it. The more you write, the more you will learn. And find some writing buddies (either online or in a writing group). It’s very easy to lose all sense of objectivity with your own stuff – a fresh pair of eyes can work wonders.

Sound advice. What are you working on next?

I’ve always been fascinated by the paranormal, so I’m having a go at something in that genre. It’s still very much at the concept stage, though!

If you could leave a message to the world, what would it be?


Absolutely right. Thanks for your thoughtful answers, Sue, and good luck with the novel.   If you’d like to read ‘The Ghostly Father’ then please click on the cover image below.

TGF Front Cover



Crooked Cat Books

Sue’s Blog

NIGERIA in the 1960s

My novel ‘IGBOLAND’ is inspired by the photos and tales of my Mum and Dad, and by my Mum’s diary from their six years living in the Nigerian bush. I was born out there in Jos in the middle of the Nigerian Civil War.

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My Dad, Gerald Gardiner, was a Methodist missionary out in Idoma. My Mum, Janet Gardiner, was a young,  newly married wife.

1053 J with manse cat

1054 G  with canna lilies

They lived in a bush village called Iga; the only white residents for many miles. Even in the 1960s, they still encountered people who had not seen white folk before.

1015 Iga village

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My Mum felt she could offer a little help by opening a tiny dispensary to help with simple medical complaints.

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Dad helped run local schools, churches and teacher training colleges. School buildings and resources were vey basic.

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My parents always commented on how friendly, welcoming and happy the villagers were. They were always welcomed, spoiled and treated with the utmost respect. Even though the Nigerian folk had little in terms of possessions, they would often give gifts of yams, chickens or fruit

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Below is a picture of the village elders.

1115a village elders

The road were treacherous and often just muddy rutted paths. If Mum and Dad’s Beetle ever broke down, locals would appear magically from the bush to help out.

1078a crossing the stream

Mum and Dad are still in touch with the Omafu family out in Nigeria, who run a maternity clinic, supported by kind donations from my parents.

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I felt I should end with a photo of myself out in Nigeria. Here goes:

1131b Jeff

An early shot of Jeff Gardiner, author of ‘IGBOLAND’, a novel of passion and conflict inspired by my parents’ years in West Africa.

To find out more about ‘IGBOLAND’ ‘like’ my Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Igboland/595879100465696

To buy a copy of ‘IGBOLAND’ click on the cover image below.

Igboland cover6