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Kenya: The Cliques by Diana Gitau

 

IMG-20170512-WA0009About the Book

Soila arrives at the new school filled with hope that this may be the place that will provide her with a second chance, a different place where she can fit in and make friends. The beautiful, serene environment and warm reception from her principal and school sister convinces her that this time her story will be different.

But her hopes are quickly dashed when she realizes that her whole school is divided into cliques. To make friends, she will have to prove herself. What first seemed like an exciting fresh start soon turns out to be a fight for her identity and place in this new, hostile environment.

I have always loved writing and over the years, I have published a few short stories locally and internationally. My favorite ones were; The Other Tenants, a short horror story that I wrote after moving to my apartment. I found out that the area used to be a graveyard and that inspired me to write a fictional story about a haunting in our building. Weird thing, the story gave me nightmares for days! The Veiled Woman won me my first writing award. That Stupid Husband of Mine was published in an online magazine. It helped me get a column in a Georgia-based magazine called, The VirtUe. Once the magazine went under, I stopped writing fiction and instead focused more on reading and reviewing books.

Writing The Cliques….

I started writing The Cliques in 2014 after attending a workshop on writing for teen readers. My previous stories were for adult readers so this was my first attempt at young adult fiction. At the workshop, we were encouraged to think back to our teen years and create a story around that. In my case, I thought about my life in high school. I think what stood out to me about my experience back then was the fact that I just never truly fit in with any of the cliques. This led me to the idea of writing fiction inspired by own experiences with high school cliques.

Publishing…

Writing this book took a short time, perhaps just a month or two. It’s a small book at only 267 pages so that is partly why. However, the revisions and editing took almost two years. I worked with one publisher but I had three different editors at different stages. The first two editors stopped working with the publisher (mid-revision) due to various reasons but luckily, last editor worked with me up to the end. Working with different people has its own challenges. They all had different ideas. Some were in line with mine but others were not. In addition, I had to make new revisions with each editor.

For instance, one felt that the protagonist was too young (she’s sixteen) to be thinking about boys. However, I refused to change this because I was thinking about boys at sixteen and so were almost all of my friends. I remember how we used to talk about them in high school; it was one of the main topics back then. So I refused to leave out boys from my book because I didn’t think it was unrealistic although it wasn’t a main theme. There was a suggestion to change titles of the books mentioned in the story. The protagonist was a bookworm and I had mentioned books that I have read but the publisher requested that I use books that they had published so I did that. I agreed to change this because I felt like it wasn’t huge issue. In the end, I made so many other changes and at times, I felt like I was losing the book. Nevertheless, some of these suggestions were necessary and they helped in making The Cliques what it is.

Bookshop images

I was really excited when I saw the book at a bookshop in one of the malls yesterday.

Needless to say, I couldn’t have published the book without Story Moja publishers. They helped turn an idea into a book. The editors spent a lot of time making sure that the book was just right. I am terrible at editing my own work so I appreciate all the work that they did. My book is in stores in almost every town in Kenya. Once again, thank you StoryMoja for the sales and circulation. The Cliques wouldn’t be here today without your support.

The Final Title

The title The Cliques was my fourth pick. I changed my title that many times. The first title was The Outcast and then Outsider which I really liked. Just before publication, the publisher requested that I find a new title for the book because there was already another book called Outsider. I suggested a few titles one being, New Girl but in the end, The Cliques was picked. I am not crazy about it but it does suit the book.

previous covers.png

The birth of a book, some of the previous titles and covers and the final choice. I really liked the first cover though with the two silhouette faces.

Setting

The story is set in Kenya at St. Monica’s Girls High School. The name of the school is fictional. However, rest of it is based on reality. I attended a private, boarding school in Central, Kenya. The school was beautiful. It was on a small hill overlooking a dam against a background of lush greenery. The school was a bit exclusive such that I was the 100th student to join. It had some girls from prominent families in Kenya and you needed references to get in. On the other hand, I came from a different background from most of my peers (my folks were cops) and this made me feel like fitting was a little difficult. Like most Kenyan schools, there existed cliques although there was no hostility or bullying at the school.

Protagonist

The protagonist, Soila is a form two student who has just transferred to the school. She is a bookworm and one of the brightest students at the school. Unlike most of her schoolmates, Soila is not from an affluent background which is one thing that sets her apart from the rest. However, she still tries to fit into the school as she also seeks to find her own identity.

About her name: Soila is a Maasai name. I have met two Soilas in the past and I have always loved the sound of the name hence the choice to use it for the protagonist.

Finally…

The Cliques is a work of fiction although inspired by reality. The four cliques described in the book are present in most of the Kenyan schools so they will be familiar to most readers. I hope that this book will resonate with young readers and perhaps inspire someone like me who never really fit into any cliques in high schools. There are many Soilas in the world.

Who am I?

who am i.jpg

I think most of you already know this, I am Kenyan. I work in administration at a private University somewhere cold and hilly. It is an 8-5 job but it is enjoyable and my colleagues are awesome. I spend most of my days writing reports, speeches and organizing events while waiting to go home and read something nice in the evening. I am also a student at University of Nairobi undertaking a Master Degree in Communication and I am currently working on a thesis about how Kenyan Somalis are represented by the media and how this impacts on their ethnic identity construction.

Apart from that, I love reading, writing, watching a lot of true crime shows on Investigation Discovery.  I also travel a lot whenever my budget allows. Mostly, I am a solo traveler (that  is not weird by the way lol). I am currently growing an afro which is quite impressive by the way. The Cliques is my first book.

So that’s it. I wanted to discuss my book to let you all know about it. The book has no online presence at all so hopefully, this will help a bit. I will try and post some mini-reviews someday. If you have ideas on how else I can promote the book and create some publicity for it then kindly let me know. If you are Kenyan blogger and would like to read and review the book, then please also let me know.

Thank you all!

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39 comments on “Kenya: The Cliques by Diana Gitau

  1. noveldeelights
    June 4, 2017

    Wow, you are one busy lady!

    I really enjoyed this post. I honestly had no idea how much compromising you need to do to get a book finished and out there. I totally understand how at some point it doesn’t quite feel like your own anymore.

    And of course sixteen year old girls think of boys. Even at a younger age, these days. Good for you for sticking to your idea!

    Good luck with the book, Diana!

    • Diana
      June 4, 2017

      I really didn’t want to change that bit of my story so I’m glad that I got to keep it 🙂 Yeah,there’s a lot of compromising.I had to rewrite a lot of scenes and change the story a couple of times but I guess the editors know the market better hence some of the suggestions.Some of them were great and helped improve the story in the end.Thank you so much ❤

  2. lbarasa
    June 4, 2017

    Oh wow I so love the book already and I just can’t wait to get an autographed copy soonest.
    I admire your zeal and commitment in what you do. Keep up and good luck with your thesis. I really look forward to more books from you. I bet you’re working on another copy already no? Okay. Waiting on your message. Happy Sunday

    • Diana
      June 4, 2017

      Haha not right now dear.Thesis is really demanding but I’m thinking of publishing a short stories collections by compiling the unpublished stories that I’ve written through the years.I’ll get more committed though after school.I’m out of stock but I hope to get more next week.I’ll look for you.Thank you so much ❤

  3. Renee (Itsbooktalk)
    June 4, 2017

    Some great accomplishments Diana! And I enjoyed reading about the process of getting your book to publication as well as more about you! Wishing you much success on your book and you’re Master’s Degree:)

    • Diana
      June 5, 2017

      Thank you so much Renee for your lovely wishes. I can’t wait to be done with school then hopefully I will be able to read and write more 🙂

  4. JoanaDuarte
    June 4, 2017

    Wow!! I loved to read this! I loved to know more about your book and how it’s based on reality and also more about you! I loved to read about the process of the book becoming a reality and I can’t wait to read it already!
    I also really admire how you stood up for your ideas when it was necessarie, and in my opinion realistic, because what 16yr doesn’t think about boys?! And how you changed the things you though they were right about. I think that takes a lot of courage and what we call in Finland as “sisu” (I think in English it would be something like willpower…)
    This is such an amazing accomplishment! Congratulations and lots of success for your thesis!!

    • Diana
      June 5, 2017

      Thank you Joana and I like the word Sisu 🙂 Sometimes, the changes were tough. I think every author thinks that they have done such a wonderful job when they complete a manuscript. Its tough to be asked to change so much and rewrite a lot but at the same time, some of the suggestions given by publishers are usually great. Others like the boys in the book, I had to fight to keep because I agree, most sixteen year olds do think about boys:-) Thank you so much ❤

  5. Annie
    June 4, 2017

    I LOVED reading this post. I agree with you completely, how is 16 too young for thinking about boys? I was thinking about boys when I was 12 lol

    I know you already told me most of this but it was such an inspiring post, I hope to write a story one day… The workshop thing has me curious, maybe I could try to join one of those!

    I had no idea they’d try to change so many things! I guess that’s their job haha But changing the book titles? That made me laugh

    Traveling alone is awesome, you’re so brave, I was super nervous one time I had to fly by myself!!

    P.S The afro is really cool indeed

    • Diana
      June 5, 2017

      hahaha yay Annie and yes, boys had to stay in the book. I felt like it would have been unrealistic to have the girls just focused on school work. I know I didn’t when I was that age.

      Thank you. If yo have such writer’s workshops then its definitely something to consider. You get a forum to explore different ideas and it becomes easier to write. However,I think inspiration can be found just about anywhere. For my short stories, I used to think about random stuff and then just develop the story in my mind before putting it on papers. It used to be like daydreams but I turned them into stories. I think you would do great as a writer. Just give it a try. Try out short stories perhaps. I would definitely like to read something that you have written.

      Yes they do, it can get crazy. I remember telling my friend that I was no longer excited about the book because it started feeling like someone else was writing it. However, I managed to keep most of my original ideas and even the sections that I rewrote actually turned out well in the end so its okay. However, it is quite a hectic process.

      As for solo traveling, I don’t have a lot of people in my life who like traveling. So i travel with travel groups/companies and make new friends. I can’t wait to hear all about your upcoming travels.

      Thank you, I do love the afro ❤ Thanks for everything dear.

  6. Thank you for sharing your writing journey with us Diana. I have two questions:
    1. Is there any online site I can purchase it from here in the states?
    2. Would you mind if I reblogged this? I’d love to share your story and experience with my followers!😊

    • Diana
      June 5, 2017

      Thank you so much dear. Its 9am here, II have just seen your comment. I hope its not to late to respond but yes please. You can reblog. That would be really great.

      The book is only available locally for now but I will talk with the publishers to find out how we can expand the circulation to reach readers outside the country. Thanks 🙂

  7. FictionFan
    June 5, 2017

    Even back in the middle ages when I was young, we were thinking about boys well before we reached 16, so well done you for holding out on that change! Best wishes for the book – will you be making it available outside Kenya at any point in the future?

    • Diana
      June 5, 2017

      haha thank you. I am glad that I didn’t lose that part because it made the story more realistic. Right now, it is only in Kenya but I will consult with the publishers on making it available internationally. Thank you so much 🙂

  8. Anonymous
    June 5, 2017

    Hi Diana congrats!
    Hehehe great piece of work here i have fallen in love the books one question can I buy from you directly.
    Keep up the good work.

    • Diana
      June 5, 2017

      Thank you so much and yes you can. Are you in Kenya? Your name just showed up as anonymous

  9. Reblogged this on By Hook Or By Book and commented:
    ONE WRITER’S JOURNEY.

  10. What an impressive post! I love how you describe your book, stories and your journey, thank you so much for sharing with us. I love the sound of The Cliques, and love that I can feel the passion behind your words here.

    • Diana
      June 6, 2017

      Thank you so much Donna 🙂

  11. Little Bookness Lane
    June 5, 2017

    Thank you for sharing your publishing journey, I’m so happy for you! And what a wonderful experience to see your ACTUAL book on sale! Here’s wishing you every success. xx

    • Diana
      June 6, 2017

      I am still not used to it. I walk into bookstores just saw that I can see the book on the shelves 🙂 Thank you ❤

  12. This book sounds terrific. I can relate to not fitting into any of the cliques back in my school days. It does take a lot of people to write a book, doesn’t it? I believe it’s all worth it in the end.

    • Diana
      June 7, 2017

      I like how you put it, it really does take a lot of people to write a book. Apart from the publishing process, we also borrow from our own and other people’s experiences to imagine different scenarios. It really does take a lot of people. Thank you 🙂

  13. Jasmine
    June 6, 2017

    That’s really awesome that you share your writing journey with us Diana. It’s interesting to see the process it takes to publish a book, even a title takes many steps before finalize. You are a really busy lady! I hope you enjoy everything you do 🙂

    • Diana
      June 7, 2017

      Thank you so much Jasmine and yes, there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes. It makes me appreciate publishers even more because I can only imagine the amount of effort that they put in to give some of our favorite titles. Thanks once again 🙂

  14. faithrivens
    June 6, 2017

    Thanks for sharing this journey with us Diana! I am so happy for you, so excited that you can walk into bookstores and see your book on a shelf! It must be an amazing feeling. I’m hoping to feel the same one day but for now I will be inspired by you and your talent and keeping wishing you all the best in the future ❤

    • Diana
      June 7, 2017

      Thank you dear and I admire all the progress you have made with your writing. I do believe that you will soon be seeing them in bookstores too. Thank you for your kind words and best of luck too ❤

      • faithrivens
        June 11, 2017

        Thanks Diana! You are always so kind as well 🙂

  15. Darkowaa
    June 7, 2017

    This is wonderful! 267 pages is not a small book oh! Congrats on publishing this book, Diana 🙂

  16. Yvo
    June 7, 2017

    I really enjoyed reading this post and learning more about the progress! Congrats on such an achievement. ❤

    • Diana
      June 7, 2017

      Thank you so much Yvonne ❤

  17. Grab the Lapels
    June 8, 2017

    I didn’t know that you wrote in addition to reading, Diana. You read so much that I don’t know how you have time to do it all! I knew there was a lot of compromising in the publishing industry and that authors rarely get to pick their covers and lose control of the titles of their books, but it feels icky to me that the publisher asked you to have your character read books they’ve published.

    • Diana
      June 9, 2017

      I admit, that did feel a bit weird and it still does. I hadn’t read any of their YA fiction so I just googled the titles and threw them in. However, this was a bit of a challenge because in my story, the teens attend a literature symposium whereby the protagonist has to answer questions about a certain book. It was crazy writing this bit and using a book that I was unfamiliar wit. However, the publishers were doing so much for me already and so I just thought that the comprise wasn’t too high a price to pay but it definitely was weird.

      • Grab the Lapels
        June 9, 2017

        Do you think the choice to include the publisher’s books affect your novel? I also wonder if readers will notice that the character reads books by the publisher and what they will think! Either way, COMPLETING a novel is a huge deal, and I’m very glad that you’ve let us share your joy with you 🙂

  18. Kerry
    June 23, 2017

    Sorry for the belated comment. Your book seems quite interesting especially because when I was growing up, I read alot of the common suspects: Sweet Valley, Nancy Drew etc and they did feature a lot of romance and other causes of teenage angst which some Kenyan writers then seemed to gloss over. I think the closest that I got to teenage romance novels in the Kenyan context was Cynthia Hunter’s Truphena the Student Nurse and City Nurse and Pamela the Probation Officer. Yes, I just dated myself.

    Please let us know where we can purchase your book as well as the price (bookshops and online) so that we can support you.

    • Diana
      June 23, 2017

      hehe you have just reminded me of Truphena. I really loved those books. I remember others too like Across the Bridge and The General’s Daughter.I also loved the Nancy Drews and Sweet Valley High.

      I don’t think the book is available online yet but I will confirm with Storymoja. Its available in all Text Book Centers. At Two Rivers, its 406bob. Its also being sold at Savanis and a number of others local bookshops across Kenya. I will compile a list and share. You can also get a copy for me and I will be sure to sign it 🙂 Thank you so much dear ❤

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