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Novel set in Zambia (where there’s a will there’s a way) Plus Author Q and A

3rd December 2013

The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison, novel set in Zambia.

A brutal sexual attack takes place on a vulnerable young person whose age has to be proven. Who is she? Where is she from? Why was she out to be abducted? Who was the perpetrator?

1782063307.01.ZTZZZZZZThis second novel by lawyer Corban Addison is set in Lusaka, Zambia. A human rights lawyer, Zoe Fleming working in Africa takes up this case and follows it through despite putting herself in danger. She is menaced, threatened, followed and tracked wherever she goes. All because she wants justice and the right outcome for the young victim, Kuyeya. Zoe is tenacious and committed to the end despite personal issues she has to deal with involving her father, a senator running for presidential office, the legacy her mother left and the relationship she has with her father’s new wife.

This book brings home the cultural differences between Europe or America and those in Africa. We regularly rely upon DNA evidence in forensic science to build a prosecution or a defence. This is not the case in Africa. Legal battles ensue for this to become practice, only to be thwarted when the evidence goes missing. AIDS and HIV are highly prevalent but there are still taboos around using conventional western medicine, and witch doctor methods are still believed in; and there is so much more.

I enjoyed this wonderful thought provoking book. It is a page turner urging the reader to follow the relationship Zoe wants and eventually builds with Joseph, who is investigating on behalf of the police. The testimony of a good book for me is being drawn into the characters, wanting to get to know them, understand their values and how they play them out. I came to admire Zoe. There are many emotions aroused in this story, anger at what seems to be an unjust legal system in Zambia, frustration that violence and corruption interfere and the huge divides between the rich and poor. But also compassion for people who fight and continue to fight for justice for a young victim despite the dangers they put themselves under.

I have not visited Africa and the author seems to be very familiar with Lusaka, naming streets and describing in detail road journeys. Not having the same familiarity, I found this irksome, however, I enjoy reading books where I do know the places as I can picture them, so this is very much a personal observation.

This book is a story with a serious message. It questions the ethics and morals of individuals and the societies that we live in. I hope there are people like Zoe and Joseph out there fighting for justice for vulnerable people and trying to make the world a better place.

Ann Reddy for the Tripfiction Team

Corban Addison very kindly agree to answer some of your questions, so we hand over to him:

TF You have chosen two different continents for your two novels. How do you select the location and how well do you know each of them before you write?

CA Each story I write is inspired by an issue or set of issues. Once I have that framework in place, I consider the context in which to set the story. With A Walk Across the Sun, I chose India as the primary setting because human trafficking is a huge problem there and because it’s a fascinating place and I thought readers would enjoy it. With The Garden of Burning Sand, I picked Zambia as the primary setting because I ran across a story about an adolescent girl with Down syndrome who was raped on the streets of Lusaka and who got justice against her abuser thanks to the help of a non-profit group of lawyers who came to her aid. I don’t start writing until I’ve spent months reading everything I can get my hands on about a place, interviewing people connected to it, and spending time on the ground there. I’m committed to bringing real places to life in my stories. The way I do that is through exhaustive research.

TF You are a lawyer and clearly have a passion for human rights, why have you chosen to use the medium of fiction to express this?

CA Story is the universal language. We use it to shape the moral imagination of our children. We do this because story is inherently powerful. It connects the mind and the heart in a way that nothing else does, opening the hearer (whether a reader or viewer) to new perspectives, prompting her to care about things she may not otherwise have any connection to, and even (in the best case) encouraging her to take conscientious action as a result of the story. I write fiction because I believe in using this power to promote meaningful social change.

TF The main characters in both the books are believable, how did you go about creating them?

CA Characters are people, though they happen to exist on the page. I’m a student of human nature, and I write my characters based on my observations. I create extensive character sketches during the research process. I ask questions about my characters—who are they, what motivates them, what skeletons do they have in the past, who are the most important people in their lives, what pain are they living with, what do they love to do in their spare time, what would they like people to think of them—and I answer them thoroughly before I start writing. Then I place the characters in the story and watch as they come to life, responding to the scenarios I’ve created in authentic ways.

TF How do you fit in your writing with your legal work? What would be a typical writing day for you?

CA I’m no longer practicing law. My first major book deal opened the door for me to try writing full-time. So far, the experiment has worked. It’s my hope to do what I’m doing now for the rest of my life. As for my writing day, I keep ordinary business hours at my office. I arrive at 8:30 a.m. and write until just before 5:00 p.m., with breaks for lunch and a trip to the gym. When I have deadlines, I burn the midnight oil, but only then. Otherwise, I’m very deliberative and structured. I strive for a good work-life balance.

TF Are you involved with any human rights organisations yourself?

CA In researching my books, I’ve had the great privilege to connect with many human rights organizations doing great work around the world. I did my research in India with the International Justice Mission. I did research in Zambia with IJM and Special Hope Network Special Hope Network. I did research in South Africa with Oasis Oasis. These organizations did me a huge favor by giving me access to their work and their people. In exchange, I’m committed to using my platform to promote their work, and my wife and I support them as much as we are able.

TF What sort of books do you yourself read and when is your favourite time to do so?

CA I used to read a great deal of fiction. In fact, I tell young writers that I learned how to write by reading great books. These days, I read a tremendous amount, but almost all of it is research for whatever book I’m working on at the time. The last novel I read and loved was The Last Child by John Hart. I highly recommend it.

TF What is your next writing project?

CA I spent seven weeks overseas in the fall researching my third novel. I’m keeping the plot line and issues close to the vest at this point because I’d like to devote my attention to promoting The Garden of Burning Sand. However, I can say that it’s the most ambitious project I’ve taken on to date, and I’m having a blast writing the story. I hope my readers enjoy it as much as I am.

Thank you to Corban. You can follow him on Twitter and via his website. And you can connect with TripFiction on Social Media – TwitterFacebook and Pinterest and when we have some interesting photos we can sometimes be found over on Instagram too.

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Enter the inaugural TripFiction 'Sense of Place' Creative Writing Competition!

750 - 3000 words with strong 'sense of place' theme

Short story, travelogue, or memoir

Top judges to decide the winners

Cash prizes totalling £500 / $600 

Winning entry published on TripFiction site and publicised on Social Media

Entries close 15th November 2020