A young woman runs away from her native country because of war. She travels across deserts and oceans in the hope of finding a better life in a new, promising place.
That’s the elevator pitch of my first novel in English (I wrote one in French a few years ago).
I started writing this novel about a year ago. I finished the first part–and when I say finished, I mean only the first draft–last July while participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, but then I got blocked and turned to other projects (short stories and poetry). I chose to participate in Camp NaNo again this April to find back my motivation to work on this novel, and it has worked pretty well until now. I’ll have finished part two by the end of April, and thus I’ll be halfway through the first draft.
The genre of the novel is hard to define. The first part contains some elements of the western genre without being set in the American South-West characteristic of that genre. But my protagonist’s long journey across beautiful landscapes, in the midst of wild animals and with a dog’s company is loosely inspired by western novels such as Cormac McCarthy’s The Crossing for instance.
Njila woke up with the sun in the early morning. For a minute, she was lost. She looked around her until the unfamiliarity of her surroundings had become familiar. She stretched, got up, and rolled her blanket. Today was exactly the same as yesterday: same weather, same landscape, same company. Rikamba was wagging her tail in anticipation of the journey ahead. Njila caressed the dog’s head while shouldering her bag.
“Hm, let’s see,” she thought out loud. “The wind’s coming from there, and the sun just emerged over there, so we should go that way.” As she was pointing directions, Njila pirouetted like a ballerina. It was easy in the morning to find her way, as she was caught between the west wind and the rising sun. All she had to do was walk on the middle line, with the warmth on her right cheek and the gusts of breeze on her left.
The third and fourth parts (which I have yet to write) contain elements of melodrama and romance, but also suspense and some thrilling episodes. As all of these pieces from different genres serve to construct my character’s life and experiences, I decided to put my novel in the box called Coming-of-Age. Indeed, my novel is the character driven type, and each scene adds to the complexity of characters and social relationships.
Njila risked an eye through the window. The three men had separated to look for her in the houses around the square. She could see two of them on the opposite street. The third one had disappeared. Njila crawled to the garden. She stopped in panic when she saw the man’s boots stepping over the fence. On all-fours, she went back inside, hoping to find another exit.
“Freshly turned garden,” he noticed with his cold voice. “And probably freshly eaten food.”
Njila climbed a small flight of stairs leading to a room where a naked bed served as sole piece of furniture. There was nowhere to hide.
“Oh look here,” the man continued talking to himself. “The mark of an ass in the dirt.”
Njila heard him spit. She was terrified. Her sense was abandoning her, leaving her head empty, with no idea of what to do and no plan of where to escape. She moved on tiptoe to the window. It was on the other side of the house and she couldn’t see the square. The other two men weren’t there.
Njila passed one leg over the window parapet. She sat on the wall to get her second leg over it, and she saw the man appearing in the door frame. Njila let herself fall on the ground below her. She hurt a knee and an ankle, but she didn’t care. She ran. Ran as fast as the wind in the glorious tempest, as unpredictable as the sand in the tremendous storm, as swift as the bullet through the small canon.
And she heard it. The bullet. She heard several of them flying by her ears. Shots fired as if to punctuate the insults yelled at her by enraged rebels on her track. Njila kept running without looking back. She had no idea how much distance separated her from the rebels. She had no idea where Rikamba was. She was only aware of her own bruised feet hitting the ground with such power that her shoes were coming apart.
If all goes as planned, Into the Trap of Freedom should be published in the fall of 2018.