How did you come up with the idea for the storyline in TWWBK?
Quite frankly, I worked backwards from the messages that I wanted to deliver. It was important to me to deliver a high-level story that helped people in the western world understand Africa and some of the challenges she faces. So I thought “In what scenario would a leader of a country character in a story really want to effect change in his or her home country, rather than continue a succession of leaders who act in a self-serving, selfish manner of governance?” and “Maybe someone who wasn’t born into a life of privilege would act in the best interests of his or her people.” After that, I had to imagine a storyline where a character would be born with royal blood but grow up as a poverty-stricken commoner, only to then be transplanted into a role as King. With that scenario thought through, I then had to imagine circumstances under which somebody who grew up poor could then become King. And so on and so on.
Have you always been interested in Africa? How did this come about growing up in Canada?
In my high school years in Sussex New Brunswick Canada in the early 1980s, a Canadian government development agency and the Province of New Brunswick embarked on an ambitious program: to develop a modern dairy farm in a central African country. As it turns out, a modern dairy cow in Canada produces 5-10 times the volume of milk of an African zebu cow. Great idea; however, the first family from NB that went there for a two-year period came back after just over a year. Multiple other families took their place, and after 10 years a large-scale, thriving, modern dairy farm was turned over to the local government. Five years later it was done. Kaput. The machinery had all broken down and the cattle were starving. I was close to the first family that moved there, and I marveled at their stories of how kind, friendly and happy the people of this country were, despite their abject poverty and low standards of living. The country was the third poorest in the world by GDP per capita, and yet the people were incredibly nice and giving. Thirty years later, a book called Dead Aid by a Zambian Ph.D., Dr. Dambisa Moyo, piqued my interest in Africa again, and I was much dismayed to learn that the country had not progressed at all since this family returned in the 80s. What was it that kept this country from progressing? Why had democracy failed it, as an elected government took over in 1996 but had not managed to move its people forward?
Have you travelled to Africa?
In April of 2022 I travelled to Africa for the first time. It will not be my last trip. It was an eye-opening, mind-blowing experience. I felt that as a Canadian born white man I simply could not write a novel about Africa without travelling there to get a sense for the countries, their peoples and, frankly, whether or not I got it “right”. I was in the final stages of my “developmental edit” of the book with my publisher, Greenleaf, and my lead editor, Erin Brown. The developmental edit is pretty much the last opportunity to make substantial writing changes to a manuscript, so I had to go. I think I had about 85% of the “feel” right. But my accuracy on the socio-economic and political environment in the subject country of my fictional story benefited significantly from my visit. I met with many business and political leaders who were interested to share their perspectives. I am happy to call these people my friends, all of whom are eager to read my book, fictional or otherwise.
What is your background?
My father was a mining engineer, and virtually every year my parents moved the family to a new small mining town in the middle of nowhere. So I grew up in towns all across Canada-Saskatchewan, interior of British Columbia, Vancouver Island, Canada’s North West Territories, Northern Ontario, New Brunswick, Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary. After completing an undergraduate Bachelor of Arts degree at a small university called St. Thomas University in Fredericton NB, where I learned my love for history, economics and writing, I moved to Toronto to complete a joint JD(Law)/MBA degree at Osgoode Hall Law School/Schulich School of Business. I practiced Mergers & Acquisitions/Securities law in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary before starting my own executive search firm focused on corporate finance professionals and senior lawyers. My interest in developing nations as always been strong, and I LOVE a great story. My professors at St. Thomas always loved my research essays, and told me that I “could make money writing stories” (direct quote from Dr. Dan Gleason, department of History, STU, 1986). I’m not sure about the making money part of this, but I do love researching and telling a story.
Have you always been a storyteller?
According to my parents, and I’ve heard them say this so often I think that I might even remember it, ever since I was two years old I would tell stories to whomever would listen. “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” was my early fave, and I told it as if it were my own story rather than a much loved and well-known children’s story. When I wrote historical research stories, I always chose factual but interesting subjects, and enjoyed captivating the readers in a tale while conveying historical information. My favourite papers were on Benedict Arnold, a US General in the War of Independence who turned coat as a traitor and was caught on board a British ship of war. He was exiled to Saint John New Brunswick when Britain lost the war, where he was reviled and run out of town. I also remember a particularly heart-wrenching essay about a leper colony in Northern New Brunswick on an isolated coastal island, which essay told the tale of a young girl suspected of having leprosy who was banished to the island, where years later she died of malnutrition rather than leprosy.
I LOVE a good story. And I love telling them even more.
What would you consider to be a “success” for this book?
I have always focused on doing things that leverage what I do. I think that telling a story that is super-compelling, exciting, interesting and engaging gives my book a chance of reaching many people and shedding some light on the developmental challenges of sub-Saharan Africa. I have tried to incorporate various social, political and economic reform ideas into my novel with a hope to informing readers, at a very high level, of some of the challenges and potential solutions for developing nations in the region. This was of course no easy task-if my objective is to inform as many readers as possible, I had to keep the “teaching” elements of the book high level and engaging. I hope I achieved the right balance, because the more people that find the book compelling and enlightening, the more I will consider it a success. My plan is to fund economic initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa with part of the proceeds of this book.
How and When can I buy Those Who Would Be King?
- If you want a kindle/ebook version, that will be available for order mid-March, but will not be e-delivered until the publication date (July 11).
- If you want a hardcover copy, please wait until July 11, my book’s official publication date, before you order (you can even cancel your pre-orders before then if you’ve already ordered it). This becomes important to the overall success of the book as it will help push it to “best-seller” status on Amazon and elsewhere, which of course can help drive exponential sales growth.
- If you want to wait on ordering the ebook ‘til July 11, that too will have a positive effect on ebook “best-seller” status.
- If you are in Canada, please be patient (as I am trying to be) while we wait for Amazon’s algorithm to load the book up to Amazon.ca. Apparently it has been uploaded to amazon.UK, Germany and Indonesia, but not Canada yet.