In 2003, I went to Sierra Leone to work on a diamond project, and I visited many times over the next five years. The civil war had finished and the UN had collected the weapons, but the population was still traumatised. I visited the Tacugama Chimp Sanctuary outside Freetown several times. During one of the visits, I bought a DVD about the sanctuary and it mentioned the white chimp, Pinkie. She had lived at the sanctuary for a short while before dying of unknown causes. This has inspired me to use the sanctuary and Pinkie as characters in my latest novel, Africa Green, which follows on from Rebel Green It tells the story of Isabella, the youngest Green Daughter, who has become a journalist. I hope you will enjoy this tale of adventure, love and hope.
|Every week the Self Publishing Formula podcast focuses on a different indie author, and every week they ask them the same five questions about their writing process. |
– Why do you write?
– How do you write – are you a micro plotter or do you just go where the story takes you?
– Are you a full time author?
– What mistakes do you think you’ve made, and what have you got right?
– What’s your piece of advice for authors starting out in indie publishing?
This is the interview I did for the podcast. Click on the link below to listen.
I hope you enjoy it.
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Here is a second installment of famous women explorers you may never heard of. I’m please to say that I am on the final days of editing Rebel Green so I have put it up for pre-order: You can get it here I will be putting it up for beta reads in the near future and I would very much appreciate your opinions and sharp eyes to spot any typos. Watch this space for more info.
Mary Kingsley, the daughter of George Kingsley and Mary Bailey, and the niece of Charles Kingsley, was born in Islington in 1862. Her father qualified as a doctor and worked for the Earl of Pembroke. Both men had a love of travelling and together they produced a book of their foreign journeys, South Sea Bubbles. Her mother was an invalid, and she expected Mary to stay at home and look after her. Mary had little formal schooling but she did have access to her father’s large library of travel books.
When her father was at home Mary loved to hear his stories about life in other countries and willingly agreed to help him with his proposed book he was writing on the customs and laws of people in Africa. Although Kingsley did not consider taking his daughter with him on his travels, he gave her the task of making notes on relevant material from his large collection of books on the subject.
In 1891 Kingsley returned to England after one journey suffering from rheumatic fever. With both her parents bedridden, Mary took complete control over the running of the household. Mary even subscribed to the journal, English Mechanic, so that she could carry out repairs on their dilapidated house.
George Kingsley died in February 1892. Five weeks later her mother also passed away. Freed from her family responsibilities, and with a income of £500 a year, Mary was now able to travel. Mary decided to visit Africa to collect the material needed that would enable her to finish off the book that her father had started on the culture of the people of Africa. Mary also offered to collect tropical fish for the British Museum while she was touring the continent.
During 1893 and 1894 she visited Cabinda, the coastal enclave of Angola lying today between Congo (Kinshasa) and Congo (Brazzaville); Old Calabar in southeast Nigeria; and the island of Fernando Po, now part of Equatorial Guinea, near the Cameroon coast. Around the lower Congo River she collected specimens of beetles and freshwater fishes for the British Museum. Her adventures included a crocodile attacking her canoe and being caught in a tornado.
Kingsley returned in 1895 in order to study cannibal tribes. She travelled by canoe up the Ogowe River where she collected specimens of formerly unknown fish. Several times her canoe capsized in the river’s dangerous rapids. Mary also journeyed through dense forests infested with poisonous snakes and scorpions and wading through swamps trying to avoid the attentions of crocodiles. After meeting the cannibal Fang tribes, she climbed the 13,760 feet Mount Cameroon by a route unconquered by any other European.
News of Mary Kingsley’s adventures reached England and when she landed at Liverpool, she was greeted by journalists who wanted to interview her about her experiences. Kingsley was now famous and over the next three years she toured the country giving lectures on life in Africa. In her talks she challenged the views of the “stay at home statesmen, who think the Africans are awful savages or silly children – people who can only be dealt with on a reformatory penitentiary line.”
|Figure 1 Figure 1 Mary Kingsley sitting between Sir Claude and Lady Rose MacDonald in Calabar, 1895 (Royal Commonwealth Society Library, London).|
Mary Kingsley upset the Church of England when she criticised missionaries for trying to change the people of Africa. She defended polygamy and other aspects of African life that had shocked people living in Britain. Mary argued that a “black man is no more an undeveloped white man than a rabbit is an undeveloped hare.”
The Temperance Society was also angered by Kingsley’s defence of the alcohol trade in Africa. The African, she argued, is “by no means the drunken idiot his so-called friends, the Protestant missionaries, are anxious, as an excuse for their failure in dealing with him, to make out.”
Kingsley held conservative views on women’s emancipation. When the Daily Telegraph described her as a “New Women” she wrote a letter of complaint argued that “I did not do anything without the assistance of the superior sex.”
In a speech she made on women’s suffrage in 1897 she argued against women being given the vote in parliamentary elections. Kingsley claimed that the country already suffered from having a poorly informed House of Commons and believed that the “addition of a mass of even less well-informed women would only make matters worse.” According to Kingsley, “women are unfit for parliament and parliament is unfit for them”. However, women she believed were well informed on domestic issues and fully supported women taking part in local elections.
Kingsley first book about her experiences, Travels in West Africa (1897) was an immediate best-seller. In her second book, West African Studies (1899) she described the laws and customs of the people in Africa and explained how best they could be governed. Joseph Chamberlain, the government’s Colonial Secretary, wrote to Kingsley seeking her advice. However, Kingsley was such a controversial figure he asked her to keep their meetings secret.
Kingsley’s descriptions of the behaviour of missionaries and traders in Africa inspired the young journalist, E. D. Morel, to carry out his own research into the problem. This resulted in a series of articles entitled The Congo Scandal (1900) that eventually had an impact on government policy.
On the outbreak of the Boer War, Kingsley volunteered to work as a nurse. When the editor of the Morning Post heard she was going, he asked her to report on the war. However, her work as a nurse in Simonstown kept her fully occupied. In a letter to a friend in England, Kingsley explained how typhoid fever was daily killing four of five of her patients. She also described fellow nurses dying of the disease and added that she thought it was unlikely that she would survive. Her prediction was unfortunately accurate and she died on 3rd June, 1900. As requested just before her death, Mary Kingsley was buried at sea.
Mary Kingsley once wrote that there were only two things of which she was particularly proud in her extraordinary, though short, life as an explorer: that her scientific mentor approved of the fish she collected on her travels, and that she learned how to paddle a canoe “pace, style, steering and all” as if she were an African. As was her style, she was being far too modest. By the time she died at age 38, after having traveled alone through West Africa on and off for seven short years, she had become the century’s foremost authority on the area.
This was no small feat, given the extreme rarity of women traveling in this part of the world. In fact, many of the African tribes she studied and befriended had never seen a white person, let alone glimpsed an unmarried woman by herself. A passage in her book West Africa Studies portrays this fact best. In the book she writes of walking through the forest and encountering a group of men highly bedecked in shells, beads and other ornaments. Assuming they were a secret society (death is often the punishment for an intruder to such gatherings) she turned and fled, but was caught by one of the men. They were not, in fact, a secret society, but a party of monkey hunters on a hunt. To catch monkeys they covered themselves in decoration and sat in a clearing, waiting for the curious monkeys to come down out of the trees.
Not bound by secrecy, they did not kill Mary. Instead, they had her sit with them in the clearing. Since they thought she was the “queerest object they had personally ever seen,” they assumed the monkeys would react that way, too, and come down to see this strange sight.
This “queer” woman who had no formal education did more, in some ways, for the people of West Africa than anyone had before her. Her two handbooks, Travels in West Africa, and West African Studies, as well as her speeches and lobbying back in England promoted a new understanding and tolerance of these little understood tribes.
Just before her first trip to Africa, Mary had written in a letter to a friend that she was going to Africa to die. Seven years later, her life had changed so dramatically for the better that it is clear she no longer wanted to. But her life ended as she had lived it, tending others.
I hope you enjoy these posts. Let me know if you have any questions about them or any of my books.
I just finished writing Rebel Green and my manuscript is now with the editor and hope to publish on or around Christmas Day. I will put up a pre-order soon and a link for Beta Reader to get a sneak peek. Meanwhile, I thought you would enjoy looking into the lives of famous women adventurers you may never have heard of.
Harriet Chalmers, a California native, was one of the most celebrated American explorers from 1904 until her death in 1937. She became an expert on Latin America, and her knowledge was valued by government and business, and in academic circles. Adams was one of the first American women elected to membership in the Royal Geographic Society of London (1913). She was a prolific writer, contributing twenty-one articles to the National Geographic Magazine.
Perhaps the lack of a son created the then unusual situation of Harriet’s father Alexander treating his younger daughter as he would have treated a boy. At age eight, Adams and her father travelled on horseback throughout California and the Sierra Nevada. When she was fourteen, they journeyed to Oregon, and from there to Mexico before returning to Stockton. She later declared these journeys made her over “from a domestic little girl fond of knitting and skipping rope to one who wished to go to the ends of the earth and to see and study the people of all lands (HCA 1914).”
As an adult she managed to tum her passion for adventure and exploration into a successful vocation. Adams’ formal education lasted only until age eleven, and from that point consisted of exploration with her father, voracious reading, and lessons with private tutors. During this period, she developed keen powers of observation and a systematic thoroughness that later garnered the respect of other geographers and explorers.
Adams possessed an affinity for language and was fluent in Spanish and French, and conversant in Portuguese, Italian, and German. When the Spanish dictator Primo de Rivera asked whether she spoke Spanish, Adams responded, “Ungrammatically and enthusiastically”.
In 1900, Adams went on her first major expedition, a three-year trip around South America with her husband, during which they visited every country, and traversed the Andes on horseback. The New York Times wrote that she “reached twenty frontiers previously unknown to white women.” In a later trip she retraced the trail of Christopher Columbus’s early discoveries in the Americas, and crossed Haiti on horseback.
In 1907 her husband Frank began working for the Pan American Union, and Adams published her first article in National Geographic Magazine and delivered her first public lecture. Adams’ relationship with National Geographic lasted until the mid-1930s, but, despite her loyalty, they treated her as an adventurous traveller rather than a serious explorer, refusing to fund her expeditions.
Adams served as a correspondent for Harper’s Magazine in Europe during World War I. She was the only female journalist permitted to visit the trenches.
In 1925, Adams helped launch the Society of Woman Geographers. The New York Times wrote “Harriet Chalmers Adams is America’s greatest woman explorer. As a lecturer no one, man or woman, has a more magnetic hold over an audience than she.” She was the third American woman asked to join the Royal Geographical Society in England. However, the New York-based Explorers Club gave her and other prominent female adventurers the cold shoulder. (The Explorers Club didn’t allow women to join until 1981.)
Men “have always been so afraid that some mere woman might penetrate their sanctums of discussion that they don’t even permit women in their clubhouses,” Adams once said, “much less allow them to attend any meetings for discussions that might be mutually helpful.”
When she and her husband visited eastern Bolivia during a second extended trip to South America in 1935, she wrote twenty-one articles for the National Geographic Society that featured her photographs, including “Some Wonderful Sights in the Andean Highlands” (September 1908), “Kaleidoscopic La Paz: City of the Clouds” (February 1909) and “River-Encircled Paraguay” (April 1933). She wrote on Trinidad, Surinam, Bolivia, Peru and the trans-Andean railroad between Buenos Aires and Valparaiso.
By the end of her life, Adams had travelled more than 100,000 miles in South America, mostly on horseback, and spent time in every country. She later visited most Indian reservations in the United States to study linguistic and cultural similarities and differences among tribes of North and South America.
For more than twenty years, Adams captivated audiences as she recounted her adventures in lectures all over the U.S. She was widely respected by her peers, male and female She was called the “Mrs. Marco Polo of the Americas,” and the “world’s greatest woman explorer”.
While her written work initially made her famous, her lectures sparked a love affair with her audiences and the media. The combination of personality, delivery, knowledge, and visual aids made her programs enthralling. She always spoke to packed houses, sometimes to 1,500 people at a single lecture. Handbills announcing upcoming programs claimed there is no greater lecturer today, man or woman, who possesses a more magnetic hold over the audience nor a greater personal charm than she.
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Ireland in the 1960s and 1970s is the setting for Rebel Green which is the book I’m working on. I went to Ireland as a 6 year old child with my English parents and siblings, and stayed for almost 20 years. We lived through the years of the Troubles but were never directly affected by them. As teenagers, we did drink in a pub frequented by members of the Provos but the landlord used to advise us if any of them arrived so we could leave discretely.
The book will examine how being moved to a new country can affect a whole family. Small incidents can colour a childhood and create false perceptions leading to tragedy. I hope you will enjoy these photos of that time. Do you have any similar experiences to share? You can do this on my Author page at https://www.facebook.com/PJSkinnerAuthor/ or send me an email.