Welcome back to the Tropical Romance Book Club, an as-regular-as-real-life-permits feature in which I explore reading and writing romance in the tropics by interviewing authors who live there.
If you’ve missed any previous columns, you can find them here:
Bianca Mori, contemporary romance author, from the Philippines
Roslyn Carrington, contemporary romance and literary fiction author, from Trinidad and Tobago
Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, author of fiction and a cookbook, from Singapore
Lydia San Andres, historical romance novelist, from the Dominican Republic.
CR: Thank you so much for talking with me! First, can you tell me about how you first found the romance genre, and the romance reading scene in Nigeria?
KT: I discovered romance novels as a teenager in boarding school through the Pacesetter novels (a multi-genre series of novels by African writers) and of course the Harlequin/Silhouette/M&B novels. [Note from CR: Interested readers can learn more about the Pacesetter books here] I think the first one I read was borrowed from a friend and then I was hooked and started buying them with my pocket money.
These days Nigerian and African romance readers are savvier. They want stories and characters that reflect their experiences and lives. They want to read positive stories about Africa, and there are many romance writers who are telling those stories.
I set up Love Africa Press last year specifically to give all these wonderful writers an avenue to share their stories with the world. With digital platforms like Okadabooks, DigitalBack Books, Bambooks, etc, that focus on getting books to Africans, it is now easier for African romance readers to get access to the stories they love.
CR: You write in an incredibly wide range of subgenres, from contemporary billionaire books (the Essien books) to historicals (the Men of Valor series) to the magic and supernatural elements of the Sacred Amulet books. Do you have any favorites? What is inspiring you these days?
KT: What can I say. My muse is eclectic. LOL.
As someone who writes stories about Africans falling in love, people might consider what I do a niche. But my muse just says “Girl, I don’t want to be put in a box.” And that’s why I love writing romantic stories so much, because as long as there is a central love story and a happy ending, I can do whatever I like with the story. I can take the readers back in time or leap into the future. We can travel to another planet or another realm. I can make readers fall in love with a mythical creature or the sexy hunk next door. Any setting or situation I can conceive is workable.
So where my muse goes, I follow because it always turns out to be quite an adventure. These days she seems to have a thing for crime thriller/romantic suspense and I’m loving it. My latest release, His Captive Princess, is a political romantic suspense. I have two upcoming releases; one about an anti-hero (crime thriller/romantic suspense) and another about a well-known fairy-tale villain who gets to tell his side of the story (romantic suspense).
CR: What is it like being a romance author in Nigeria/in the Nigerian diaspora community? Is it socially controversial? Can you make a living or is it a side job?
KT: I’m not sure why being a romance writer would be any more socially controversial than being a horror writer or sci-fi writer. We all love the written word, that’s why we do the job.
I work full time as a writer and publisher. Writing is what pays my bills. Romance readers are some of the savviest, most passionate readers in the world. And I love them.
CR: Can you tell me a little more about Love Africa Press?
KT: Love Africa Press was born out of the need to provide a space for writers of African romantic fiction to tell their stories. For a few years, I received emails from African writers who wanted to break into the market but didn’t know how or had been rejected by publishers. I could understand their frustrations because I’d experienced the same things. For example, one publisher had been uncomfortable about billionaires in the Essien series – as if Africa couldn’t possibly have billionaires.
At Love Africa Press, every African experience is valid. Our stories showcase the diversity of the people as well as the rich cultural heritage in Africa.
Our first title came out in September 2018 and as of 1 July 2019 we’ve published twelve titles. Our readers are loving these stories. Our one year anniversary is coming up in August 2019 and we have some great events lined up. Subscribe to our newsletter for more information: https://www.loveafricapress.com/newsletter
CR: You’re also a founder of Romance Writers of West Africa.
KT: Writing can be a lonely business. When I started writing I wanted to connect with other romance writers who wrote stories about Africans. I contacted other African romance writers I could find online and we discussed forming a support organisation. We were mostly from West Africa so it made sense to become Romance Writers of West Africa (RWOWA). Also there was another organisation at the time, Romance writers Organisation of South Africa (ROSA)
Back in 2011, there were only a handful of us. We would critique each other’s works and help each other out in any way we could. Over time, RWOWA has grown steadily and our remit also now includes increasing the visibility of African romantic fiction worldwide. For example, in 2018 we were at the Africa Writes book festival in London, UK. We will be there again this year on Saturday July 7. We also have an annual writers award, the Ufere contest, which recognises the best in African romance writing. You can find out more on: https://www.rwowa.org/
CR: Can you recommend some books for romance readers who want to get to know Nigeria and West Africa?
KT: Where do I start?
Amaka Azie – Nigerian | She writes authentic Nigerian stories. Her latest novel Love at First Sound is a must read.
Empi Baryeh – Ghanaian | I love the sensuality and passion in her stories. Most Eligible Bachelor is one of my favourites.
Nana Prah – Ghanaian | She writes sweet and fun romance. His Defiant Princess is absolutely fabulous.
Unoma Nwankwor – Nigerian | She fuses faith and romance in an African settting. I love her Sons of Ishmael series.
I’m going to sneak in a couple of upcoming authors to watch:
Emem Bassey – Nigerian | She writes sexy, intriguing romance
Mukami Ngari – Kenyan | She fuses historical fantasy and romance brilliantly.
CR: Thank you so much for taking time out of what is clearly an incredibly busy and productive schedule to talk to me!
KT: Thank you so much, Caroline and the Tropical Romance Book Club, for the wonderful interview. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Kiru Taye’s web site is www.kirutaye.com. You can also find her on most social media platforms:
And now over to you, readers! Have you read any African romances that you’d like to recommend? What stories she mentions here have captured your interest? Do you read genre-hopping authors like Ms. Taye, and if so do you find you like everything they do or do you prefer to stick with one?
And as always – where in the world should the Tropical Romance Book Club go next?
~ Caroline Russomanno