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JJ Barnes The Table Read

Written by JJ Barnes

I interviewed Anni Domingo about her work, her life, and what inspired her to write her new book, Breaking The Maafa Chain.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

I am an Actress, Director and Writer, working in Radio, TV, Films and Theatre. I was born in London but grew up in Freetown, Sierra Leone where I grew up with several descendants of Sarah’s. I trained to be an actress and qualified also as a teacher of Speech and Drama in my early twenty’s.  In my mid 50’s I went back to university and in seven years gained a BA Honours (First Class) in Literature, another BA Honours (First Class) in Humanities with Creative Writing from The Open University and then an MA in Creative Writing from Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. I was later awarded an honorary Doctorate – Doctor of Humanities.

Anni Domingo, author of Breaking The Maafa Chain, interview on The Table Read
Anni Domingo, author of Breaking The Maafa Chain

My poems and short stories are published in various anthologies and plays produced in the UK. An extract from my novel Breaking the Maafa Chain won the Myriad Editions First Novel competition in 2018 and is featured in the New Daughters of Africa (2019) anthology edited by Margaret Busby.

I recently won a place at Hedgebrook Writers Retreat in Seattle and Norwich National Writing Centre’s ‘Escalator’ programme enabling me to start working on Ominira, my second novel. My debut novel, Breaking the Maafa Chain, is scheduled to be published in 2021 by Jacaranda.

When did you first WANT to write a book?

I have always wanted to write. From around seven years old I made up stories for my younger brothers.  Later I started to write the stories down and much later still I wrote stories and short plays for my children and godchildren, for my nieces and nephews. Although I wrote, many short stories, and poems I certainly did not think then that I could ever write a whole novel and get it published. Writing was just an enjoyable hobby.

When did you take a step to start writing?

My writing journey did not really begin until I was in my fifties and enrolled on Open University. I had to take a creative writing course and I was surprised and encouraged by the positive comments from my tutor after my first assignment. This gave me enough confidence to do my MA in Creative Writing at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. It was during that course that the idea for my novel was born.

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How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

My novel has changed quite a lot since the start, and it has taken eight years for me to complete from first idea to publication.

What made you want to write Breaking The Maafa Chain?

I wanted to write a book about Sarah because of her connection with Sierra Leone, where I grew up.  She has always been someone I’ve known for some of her descendants have always been in my life. I wanted to find out whether some of the stories I had heard were true. I started researching and found her fascinating and knew that her story had to be told.

What were your biggest challenges with writing Breaking The Maafa Chain?

The biggest challenge I had in writing the novel was to find a way to blend historical facts with fiction.

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Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?

When creating my main protagonist, I was inspired by Sarah herself because the character was based on a real person.

Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?

The women in Victorian England inspired me when creating the Antagonist who is a white middle-class girl. She was determined to get rid of Sarah after she was forced to accept the black, ex-slave girl who was being treated as a princess.

What is the inciting incident of Breaking The Maafa Chain?

The inciting incident in my novel is the death of Captain Forbes, Sarah’s surrogate father. After his death everything change

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What is the main conflict of Breaking The Maafa Chain?

The main conflict comes from Sarah’s fight with herself. She desperately wants to find her sister, but she also wants to stay with her new family. The feeling of disloyalty to her sister and her need to find her place in the new world pulls her in different directions

Did you plot Breaking The Maafa Chain in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?

I had a very loose plot but mostly left myself open to discoveries of situations, places, and people. That was part of the joy in writing this novel, surprising myself with what could or did happen next.

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Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Breaking The Maafa Chain need?

I did a lot of editing, cutting, change, tightening before the manuscript was sent to the publishers. Later I did yet some more work with the editor.

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?

Write, write, write. Put it down on par or a document on your computer. Do not worry if it is a rough first draft, get it down and then edit, edit, and edit some more.

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

I have already started to write the follow up to Breaking the Maafa Chain. This will be about what happens to Sarah when Queen Victoria sends for her to return to England

And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

I am extremely proud of my accomplishment. I went back to university in my mid-fifties and three degrees later, a lot of hard work, coping with some horrendous family issues I have a novel about to be published in my seventies! And it was really worth the effort for I now have something to show for all the hard work

Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:

978-1-4466-5200-8                       Secret and Silent Times – Fiction                Poem        Sling Ink   2010

978-1-910061-01-5                       Words & Women One  – Fiction                 Chapter    Unthank Books         2014

978-1-909762-85-5                       War to Windrush – Non- Fiction                Chapter    Jacaranda Books      2018

978-0-573-11597-4                       Bullet Hole                                                          Poem        Samuel French          2018

978-1- 912-408-01-9                    New Daughters of Africa                              Chapter    Myriad      2019

978 -1-48590-407-6                     Wild Imperfections – Anthology               Poems      Penguin 2021

Facebook:  anni domingo, 

Instagram: annidom4,

Twitter:       Domingoanni

Linkedin:      Anni Domingo

Breaking The Maafa Chain by Anni Domingo is published by Jacaranda Books and is available to buy now.

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