My latest book, Gloria: the Archbishop’s Wife, is out now, published by Zondervan in the US and Hippo in the UK/Africa.
The book was a first for me on many levels. It was the first time I’d ever collaborated with someone on a book. The first time I’d ever written a memoir, and the first time I’d ever met someone like Gloria – but more about that, later.
So, let’s just say that there was a lot of firsts.
For the most part, writing is a solitary exercise. And when you’re a fiction writer, as I considered myself, you’re used to manipulating real-life events to suit the purposes of your story. However, Gloria Kwashi’s book is not fiction. It’s very much her life story and an incredible one at that.
Who is Gloria Kwashi?
Gloria Kwashi lives in Jos, Nigeria, in a region that’s also known as the Middle Belt. It is a region that has had its fair share of ethnic and religion tension, and also suffered more than a few bomb attacks from militants.
However, what is remarkable about Gloria’s story is not so much the work that she and her husband, Ben Kwashi, the Archbishop of Jos, do in the area of mediation and peace-building in the region (as great as that is), but their wonderful ministry with children.
They have adopted a LOT of children (okay, 300 and counting), armed with nothing, but faith in God and the belief that all children deserve a chance in life. And, the inspiring story of this ministry is shared in the book.
As you can imagine, it hasn’t been an easy ride. Not least the fact that she survived two assassination attempts that were meant for her husband.
Writing the book
Her life story sometimes seems like a movie (she was born on the roadside), that’s littered with events that range from the traumatic (she had to shove her mother’s intestines back into her stomach, when her post-op stitches came undone by mistake), and the really quite ridiculous (her college romance with the bishop has officially become the stuff of legend).
Writing the book required hours and hours of intensive interviews, with her, the bishop and others who knew them both.
For Gloria, that meant going back and revisiting some painful memories. And for me, it required gaining some crash-course skills in sensitive interviewing.
For the writing itself, although I was aware that I was telling someone else’s life story, I was also aware that it had to be told in a way that would appeal to the target readers, without sensationalising/corrupting/trivialising certain events in her life that were nothing short of extraordinary.
Of critical importance was capturing her tone of voice and extremely vibrant personality, for Aunty Gloria is definitely no shrinking violet!
I stayed with Gloria whilst researching the book and, I have to say there were moments when I truly believed I was in a mad house. There is a never a dull moment. It is a busy household. When Gloria is not settling squabbles between the children, she’s driving round looking for land to build schools for local children, dealing with the day-today business of being the head of the Mother’s Union in her diocese, and a myriad of other surreal events that could only ever happen to her.
Writing Gloria was a step of faith, because I was so out of my comfort zone (I’d never written a memoir before). But, I’m glad I took the chance, because in the process, I gained a new family and new writing skills.
Not bad at all, I say.