About 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. The Veiled Woman which 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!