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African Ghost Short Stories | Author Q&A | Best Stories & Writing Practices

Posted by Gillian Whitaker

African Ghost Short Stories is our latest anthology release! Packed with classic folktales as well as new stories by modern authors, it’s a treasure trove of African supernatural writing, with an introduction by Prof. Divine Che Neba, a foreword by Nuzo Onoh and editorial support from Chinelo Onwualu. In the first part of this Q&A, some of the book’s authors spoke about the inspiration behind their story. Now, they return with recommendations of other books, films, TV and short stories on the theme, as well as revealing the various writing methods they use for their own work…

African ghost short stories flame tree

What are your favourite stories from this genre?

Makhosi Sthembi

I grew up on Southern African folklore and my grandmother especially told me all of my favourites. This is why folklore is by far my favourite and obvious inspiration because of its magical realism, horror, and ambiguous morality elements that makes one think and sometimes question their perspective on things. Apart from folklore, I love Freshwater by Akwake Emezi and anything from Nuzo Onoh and Edgar Allan Poe.


Carol B. Duncan

One of my favourites is Jewelle Gomez’s novel The Gilda Stories in which the author reimagines the vampire myth to tell a black woman’s story. Another is the film His House (2020) co-written and directed by Remi Weekes. The film uses the haunted house motif to explore the trauma of a couple from South Sudan who seek refuge in England. I love Nalo Hopkinson’s short story collection Skin Folk (2001) with its blend of Caribbean folklore, horror, speculative fiction and fantasy narratives.


Mwenya S. Chikwa

Any old Nollywood movie involving ghosts and witchcraft. As a kid there was just a level of horror based in an African ‘realness’ you got from those movies you didn’t get anywhere else. The added lesson at the end always made you stick it out despite the inevitable nightmares that follow each watch.


Gabrielle Emem Harry

The first one that comes to mind is ‘The Hollow’ by ’Pemi Aguda. I actually can’t handle horror or ghost stories or anything scary. It’s funny because I actually like gore when it’s divorced from horror.


Peter K. Rothe

In terms of Gothic, my favourite is Mike Flanigan’s adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House. I find most of my horror inspiration in video games, and my favourites are Alan Wake 2, and Silent Hill 2. There is also Bloodborne, a masterpiece of Gothic horror, but tough. There is something quite intimate about being the main character in a horror game that is hard to replicate through other media.


Franka Zeph

The Douen in my Backyard by Roger Alexis features the popular Santana puppets in a hilarious short film sketch. Award-winning short film Douen, by Riyadh Rahaman, offers a cinematic approach that demonstrates the commercial potential of Trinidadian folklore. ‘Douen’ is a soca tune by Blaxx that has awesome video animation to complement its bouncy arrangement. I’m happy that Trinidadian creatives are taking agency for producing culture-relevant content that can appeal to a broader audience.


Lucky Grace Isingizwe

I love a good thrill. So most of my favorite stories are thrillers. My favorites that even inspired some of the things in ‘Come Play with Us’ [my story in African Ghost Short Stories] are Salem’s Lot (the book); We Have a Ghost (2019) – the humor of the ghost is refreshing, & I guess the imagery of blood gushing out through the mouth was memorable; The Exorcist (1973), where you get to speak with a demon/ghost; Bhool Bhulaiyaa (2007), which portrays connecting a haunted place to historic events (but I used the historic figure, Gihanga); plus Lesley Nneka’s Who Will Great You At Home. It’s not a ghost story but it might as well be. It somehow inspired my ending!


Uchechukwu Nwaka

Off the top of my head, the Netflix series Behind Her Eyes. Interestingly, a friend read a draft of my story (in African Ghost Short Stories) and told me it felt a lot like the show, and I totally agreed after watching it! Black Mirror too, in the way every episode is unique and weird and just different. Shutter Island, but without the juju.


Kay Mabasa

I would have to naturally give it to Stephen King, the king of horror. My favourites from him are Misery and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic and White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi are other favourites of mine. In film I would say the adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Jordan Peele’s Get Out. Hopefully more black as well as African horror will be written and I’m glad Flame Tree Publishing has an anthology of African Ghost Short Stories to fall under the plethora of African Horror writings to come.


Tara Campbell

One that sticks out to me is ‘Second Chances: A Short Story’ by Lesley Nneka Arimah, published in The Butter in 2015. It’s a hauntingly beautiful story about family, mistakes, and regret. But I’m looking forward to this book to further my education in this genre!


Can you tell us a little about your writing process?


B.T. Karuma

I used to plot my stories before writing them (a written outline for novels and the entire plot in my head for short stories). Toward the end of 2022, I discovered winging it. Since then, I’ve not been outlining my stories. If I get an idea and a general feel of where the story is going, I just start writing. This fully taps into my imagination and creativity. I also edit as I write because the idea of a rough first draft terrifies me.


MaryAnn Ifeanacho

Unfortunately, my writing process isn’t fixed. It varies from story to story and month to month. Today, I’d write while Yanni, Andre Rieu or Dwin the Stoic do their thing in the background. Tomorrow, I’d want to write in spine-tingling silence. There was a time when I loved writing in the middle of the night. Now, I aim to write first thing in the morning. I generally write on Google docs but that doesn’t stop me from writing bits of my story on my phone note app, my journal or my best friend’s WhatsApp DM.


Rutendo Chidzodzo

All of my stories start as questions. I am a very curious person and I am always asking questions. I love asking absurd questions because I think they have the best answers. Once I have a question, I formulate a story around that answer. It’s trial and error for me. I love writing outside in the sun (I know it’s bad for the eyes and probably why I wear glasses now but I just love the sun). For short stories, I write the whole piece at once then delete it after a few days and re-write it again. The first story I write is never the real story; it’s just me playing with ideas. So, I try to be as lax as possible during the drafting stage. The revision stage is very painful for me. It’s a lot of re-writing and doubting but it’s always worth it when the story is complete. For novels, it takes me a few weeks to draft one, sometimes it takes me months. Whether the novel is good or not, is another question!


Ivana Akotowaa Ofori

I typically write first drafts longhand. I love the feel of paper beneath my hands and the weight of a pen between my fingers. Afterwards, I transcribe what I’ve written into Scrivener, and then go through two or three drafts before I’m ready to let anyone else look at it. My tendency is to over-write in the initial drafts and throw out as much chaff as possible during the editing process. I usually lose thousands of superfluous words that way.


Michael Agugom

Not sure I have a defined process or have a preferred location. I have once written a full short story draft in a crowded busy public bus in Lagos. The story is often half or fully developed in my head before I sit down to handwrite it. It can start with a story-idea or thought inspired by an issue or something I had seen or had heard someone mention even in passing that troubled me. I think a lot about it, forming a question around it that I try to provide an answer to using fictional characters or plot, depending on whether a long form or a short form will better encapsulate the answer. I develop the characters/plot hence the creation of a story.


Bekwele Chuku

I write the way I cook. And the way I cook is that I keep seasoning the food until it tastes just right. So, there’s a constant tweaking and adjusting and reading until the story reads just right. And the way I know that a story is well ‘seasoned’ is by how it feels when I read it after letting it sit a while, and also by the feedback I get from fellow writers.


Stanley Gazemba

My writing process it is rather chaotic. I am not a very disciplined writer. I only write when the story jinnee has gotten a good hold on me. Most of my novels were written at crazy midnight hours, the hour of the witches when it is dead quiet! This habit of writing at night almost cost me my marriage – my wife thought she had hooked up with a looney who suddenly sprang out of bed and got banging on the typewriter (I used to write on a manual typewriter back in the day). You can imagine the racket it used to cause just when she was drifting off to sleep. Now, sometimes I will be seated at a crowded pub and a character pops up from the people I am with and, boom, I’ll fish out the phone and get cracking – thank God for smartphones!


Anjali Patel

With short stories, I tend to write the first draft all in one sitting by hand, then I type it up and revise on the computer. I write best in the mornings before work when I’m fresh. Since I read every draft out loud to myself I mostly write from home, but I do enjoy taking my dog to local coffee shops to write on the weekends!

African ghost short stories flame tree

The book is available to buy now – get your copy here!


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