Beneath the African Sun: Interview with Historical Fiction Author Maria Lynch

Maria was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. After graduating from Dr. Ribeiro Goan School and with secretarial skills and her experience as a School Secretary she arrived in London, England in 1967 in the midst of “hippie world.” She studied at Pitman’s College for a Commercial Teacher’s Diploma which she successfully achieved in 1969. Due to the tenuous political situation in Kenya she had to find a new home. In the autumn of 1970 she emigrated to Canada in search of a home to put down her new roots. This she did with her husband, Tim who immigrated to Canada from South Wales, UK.

To Maria and Tim, Canada became a land of opportunity and new beginnings. In pursuit of these opportunities, they lived in Hamilton, Montreal, and Toronto. Tim pursued post graduate studies at the University of Toronto while Maria achieved a B.A. in Economics from York University followed by a B.Ed. from the University of Toronto. During this time, she and Tim nurtured their two sons. When they reached school age, Maria taught Business Studies’ courses  at high schools in the City of Toronto for fourteen years. In 1999 she achieved an M.A. (Leadership and Training) from Royal Roads University, British Columbia.

Maria is an avid reader of fiction and non-fiction books. The latter enables her to delve into her favorite topics of social justice issues, community development and philosophy. In 2009 she began blogging, visit This deepened her interest in writing novels and is author of Beneath the African Sun; for details visit She also enjoys nature trail walking and traveling.
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About the Book:

When Sabby Mendes leaves Portuguese Goa aboard the dhow Monsoon Wind bound for British East Africa in 1916, he has one dream—to find work as a tailor in the relatively new capital of Nairobi. Sabby is a young man, still a teenager, but he is determined to build a life for himself, and he knows that the opportunities in the British Protectorate are better than those facing him at home.

A bright, affable young man with a genuine passion and talent for tailoring, he is not prepared for what he is about to find beyond the Arabian Sea. The Protectorate, which will become British Colony of Kenya, is a highly segregated society with the British firmly ensconced at its top; below them are the “Asians” like Sabby; and at the very bottom are the native African population who are regarded as little more than savages in need of civilization.

Beneath the African Sun offers, through the eyes of its protagonist, a street-level view of the changing social and political climate of Kenya between 1916 and 1970, including the ‘Mau Mau’ Uprising of the native Kikuyu, the eventual independence of Kenya in 1963, and the political fallout that followed.

More than a history, it is a story about family, home, social justice, and what it means to truly belong somewhere.

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Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

In the past I wrote reports, minutes of meetings, academic papers and a post graduate thesis. In 2009 I created a blog, that I use as a personal repository of my writings. I post my personal reviews of fiction and non-fiction books that I read. This kind of writing shifted my focus to creative writing. Apart from personal book reviews, I write about our travel adventures and other topics of interest. From blogging I took the leap to writing my first novel, Beneath the African Sun. The more I read the more I discover different writing styles. It helps me create my own style of writing to a form that is unique to my way of telling a story.

I wrote Beneath the African Sun to honor the memory of my father. The story resembles many facets of his life. It is about a migrant who travels from Portuguese India to British East Africa. Also I wanted to highlight the social justice issues of the early 20th century in British Colonial Kenya, a country in Africa—a continent which was commonly referred as the dark continent.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

I did not find it hard to write Beneath the African Sun  as I drew on my experiences of living in Kenya, childhood stories and recollections from family members and friends. The one challenge was to sort out the different stories and choose the ones that would suit the characters I created in the novel and yet maintain authenticity.

Tips for other writers: Listen to your inner self. Reflect on your writing and modify as you move along the story.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

I used a self-publishing company, FriesenPress to produce my book. I chose a package that closely resembled a traditional publisher. I was assigned a team led by an account manager who coordinated all the activities of the team; editor, book designer, book promoter and book distributor. I worked very closely with each member of the team during the whole process of the production of my novel.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

The book design component was a surprise to me. I did not anticipate the many facets to designing the book—from the book cover to every part of the inside of the book.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

I am working on a sequel to Beneath the African Sun and anticipate having it published in two years.

Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

Twitter, Facebook and my blog

Q: What’s your nightly ritual before retiring for the night?

I watch the 10pm news with a cup of camomile tea.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

Beneath the African Sun is framed around social justice issues stemming from the segregation laws imposed by the British Colonial Government of Kenya and also the impact of the Goan community caste system. The political turmoil that arises from decisions made by political leaders who do not appear to be cognizant of the heart-breaking impact of their decisions on an ordinary family.
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Thank you for this opportunity to present  my thoughts on writing and specifically on publishing my first novel, Beneath the African Sun.

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