Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Meet The Ashanti Queen, Empi Baryeh!

Hi guys!
Sorry we are a little late this week. We had to go all the way to Ghana to visit sensational Empi Baryeh for this interview, and Oh what a great time we had! I would have loved to do a little introduction but I have an agreement with Empi not to interfere! its her show!

We’re at the Legon Botanical Gardens, nestled right in the city but a great getaway – at least for a few hours. We’re at the restaurant, a lovely dark-wood structure that’s both exotic and rustic. It provides a great view of the vegetation in the gardens.


Hi my name is Empi Baryeh. I'm an author of sweet and sensual African romance. Welcome to Ghana. Ghana is a land known for various things: gold, beautiful women, kente cloth, the largest man-made lake in the world, friendly people, great weather…need I go on? As with any other country, it’s not always fun and games here, and one very negative thing about Ghana is that we don’t seem to appreciate our beaches or make the best use of them. We don’t have much of it and I wish to see the restoration (in some cases preservation) of the little that we have.

 Ghana has so many beautiful places but here are Five exotic places I'd like to show you : )

Cape Coast: when I used to live in Cape Coast, in the Central Region (which isn’t actually in the centre of the country) our house was a five to ten minute walk to the beach. It was an undeveloped/untouched part of the coastline, and I used to enjoy going to sit in the sand and feel the breeze on my face. I plucked this little piece of Cape Coast and planted it in Accra for a scene in my novel Most Eligible Bachelor. I just had to. Aside from that, Cape Coast is one of Ghana’s most popular tourist destinations.


Kakum Park: this is a bit of a cheat, since it is also in the Central Region. As I mentioned above, Cape Coast (and its environs) are a definite must-visit and Kakum National Park is one such place. You’ll be confronted with nature like never before with a guided tour of the forest reserve, and if you’re daring, you can try out the canopy walk. It’s like walking on top of the world!


Aburi: if you’ve read my novel, Chancing Faith, then you know why I’d pick Aburi, a little town in the mountains with perfect weather and a great view of Accra in the distance. It’s a great place to connect with nature and clear your head. While there, you can get yourself some tasty palm wine to go some fufu and light soup by the Aburi Botanic Gardens. LOL 


Kintampo falls: Now, who doesn’t like waterfalls? I’ve been here just once but it was a great experience, and I hope to make that trip again soon. You may have noticed by now that I’m partial to nature, which is why I enjoyed visiting the falls. It’s undeveloped, tourism-wise, but still a definite must-see. But put on your hiking shoes, cos it’s a long trek down a hill to the waterfall – a great reminder to us all to lead active lifestyles. You’ve been warned. If you’re not up for that hike, there’s a smaller one that’s equally great and provides great photo ops.

Kumasi: Called the Garden City, it’s the seat of the Asantehene (king of the Ashanti people) – and that’s a whole cultural heritage you’d want to experience. There’s a certain laidback je ne sais quoi about Kumasi (in comparison with Accra) that makes it special to me. Plus it’s only some 40 minutes drive to my village :-)


Growing up in Ghana ...
I grew up all over the place, to be honest. Until I turned thirteen, I hadn’t lived in Ghana more than a couple of years put together. I’ve been to fifteen countries around the world and I speak French and a little Spanish. I can also say "I love you" in fifteen languages (which is yet to come in handy, but I have hope).

What I love most about Ghana is that it’s relatively peaceful here, and peace allows us to explore the softer things in life: like romance and poetry and music …

Speaking of music, I’m a little old-fashioned in my tastes. I like country, ballads, oldies, soft rock, some reggae (ok maybe not so old-fashioned). On the Ghanaian scene,
my 2 favourite musicians are Kojo Antwi (Mr Music Man) and Daddy Lumba. They have very distinct styles and I love both. Everything else is on a case by case basis. I love the works of some of the newer artistes – Richie, Becca and Sarkodie come to mind.

My favourite Ghanaian authors...
Kwasi Koranteng is worth mentioning, even though I’ve read only one book of his. It was titled “The President’s Son”, my first ever Pacesetter novel. In a sense, he introduced me to Ghanaian fiction. Before then, it had been Enid Blyton and the like…

I love Christine Botchway as well. Her novels have strong romantic elements, and I remember enjoying her books at a time when relationships and marriage were definitely not thought of in romantic terms in Ghana – at least not in popular culture.

Ghana Literature is evolving. There was a time when you could only find educational books and fiction that addressed highly political issues. Today, there’s a variety of fiction available that deal with everyday issues that the ordinary Ghanaian can easily identify with. We also have a lot more writers with more diverse backgrounds and experiences, which only makes for more diversity in Ghanaian literature and better stories.

In Ghana if a young man wants to marry a young girl, he'd say, “will you allow me to marry you?” and not “will you marry me?” (same difference, if you ask me)

I love you in Twi is: Me dɔ wo.

The traditional wedding rites in Ghana are more of a gift-giving ceremony; there are variations depending on the tribe. The most important thing is a bottle of Schnapps for the engagement (which is called the aponoakyebɔ - literally “knocking at the door”) as well as the traditional wedding. In the simplest sense, the man’s family presents gifts to the woman’s family at the wedding. Nowadays, the woman is asked if she wants her family to accept the gifts (in the past the woman didn’t have much of a say if her family wanted the marriage). If she does, then the family accepts the gifts and basically seals the deal. Like I said, that’s saying it in simple terms. In reality, there’s a whole lot of pomp and pageantry surrounding the gift-giving and the gifts are specific items, rather any random thing the man chooses.

If I were to rewrite Ghana's history, the part I'd rewrite is where Yaa Asantewaa loses the war against the British Empire and gets captured.

Something in Ghana's culture that a foreigner will find romantically appealing...if I tell you, I’d be giving away the plot of my next novel, so…sorry :-)

My novel, Chancing Faith, Chancing Faith is an interracial romance about an American ad exec, Thane Aleksander, who travels to Ghana on business and finds love. My heroine, Naaki Tabika, is a woman who’s prepared to give up love for career. When they meet, neither of them expects to fall in love, but they learn soon enough that love comes without warning.
Here’s a blurb:
He didn’t do short-term relationships…
American ad exec, Thane Aleksander, doesn’t date co-workers either—until business takes him to Ghana,West Africa, and he meets Naaki. Now he’s at risk of breaking all the rules. Can he stop this headlong fall before it’s too late?
Until he met her!
Naaki Tabika has a burning need to prove, to herself and others, that she’s more than wife and mother material. To do so, she’s prepared to give up everything for her job. Meeting Thane, however, makes her want to get personal. But falling for her boss could destroy her career. Will she be willing to risk it all for the one thing that can make her truly happy?
Two divergent cultures, two different races, two career-driven professionals, only one chance at true love—will they find the faith to take it, or will their hearts be sacrificed on the altar of financial success?
The story started with a scene involving a kiss (that incidentally never made it into the story), but set the tone and premise for the story. My usual signature is to give a little twist on a familiar theme – in this case an interracial story that wasn’t about colour.

It took me years to complete Chancing Faith, because there were long breaks in writing while in grad school. But that also means I got to know my characters over a long period and the story became very personal, which I think is a strong point for the story.

A scene that really connects with me in the story is one where Thane and Naaki are in his hotel room and he has his fingers in her hair and you know he’s already fallen for her. It’s such a romantic scene, because it’s so innocent – and you really get to see into his mind to how he feels about her.

If it were in pre-colonial Ghana, Naaki would probably be a timid young nurse and Thane would be a missionary doctor, in this setting. Their first kiss is likely to happen after a very trying surgery. It would be emotional and spontaneous. (If you want an actual scene, you’ll have to give me a little more time)
The major conflict in their relationship would be similar to what it is now – i.e. the possible inappropriateness of their relationship vis-à-vis their working relationship, the fact that he’s only visiting etc.
Inter-racial romance is more about culture than colour so, I made it a point to showcase that instead of spending half of the book trying to justify why a white man was falling in love with a black woman.  

The meanest thing I've ever done to a character in my book is kill him. Even now, I’m struggling with it as I love this character very much. The book is unpublished, so I can un-kill him, but the story is so much better this way, so, unfortunately, he needs to take one for the team.

My other book (as mentioned earlier) is titled Most Eligible Bachelor, and it's
a contemporary romance about a magazine columnist who’s been burnt by love and is afraid to risk her heart again. She meets the hero, a reputed playboy, on Valentine’s Day, and despite her best efforts, she can’t help falling for him. The story is set in Accra, Ghana, which I think gives it a unique flavour.


You can find my books on the internet at as follows:

·         Smashwords:

·         Bookstrand:

Aside from writing I love reading, music, puzzles, browsing the internet and driving. (I know, I’m just such a fun person)

The best food I've ever eaten in my life is (surprisingly) a bowl of mussel and a glass of wine in Paris (ooh la la).

And on that note, I want to thank you Chidi, for hosting me on your blog. And thank you, readers and fans, for joining me today for this chat. If you have any questions I haven’t already answered, please go ahead and ask them.

Have a wonderful day!



  1. Thanks for the great interview, Peace. I hope readers who've stopped by have enjoyed it.

  2. This is great, Empi. Just great. I love the expositions on Ghana. Having read MEB, I can only say that you are also a great romance writer. Kudos