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IRDA Winning Author Augustine Sheriff: “I am motivated by making a difference in people’s lives.”


The Nature of Shadows: An African Memoir was the winner in the BEST FIRST BOOK in the non-fiction category of the 2020 IndieReader Discovery Awards, where undiscovered talent meets people with the power to make a difference.

Following find an interview with author Augustine Sheriff.

What is the name of the book and when was it published?

The Nature of Shadows: An African Memoir, published October 2019

What’s the book’s first line?

The morning of my final interview, I awoke before the sun.

What’s the book about? Give us the “pitch”.

From navigating the often-corrupt Liberian political and educational system to extracting himself from his oppressor’s polygamist network at the tender age of twelve, Augustine’s journey into adulthood was far from typical. When the country’s first civil uprising forced young men to choose-kill or be killed-a series of strangers showed Augustine a powerful third choice: love.

The Nature of Shadows uses the reverence and self-effacing humor for which Liberians are known to craft a coming-of-age, survival story that bears witness to the best and worst of the human condition, no matter the continent.

What inspired you to write the book? A particular person? An event?

The memoir has always been about the people who populated my journey. Many who heard my story in church or during speaking engagements encouraged me to write a book. I put that thought on a shelf for a while. It wasn’t until my divorce, to escape the pain, that I finally submerged myself into writing. This memoir became very therapeutic.

What’s the most distinctive thing about the main character? Who-real or fictional-would you say the character reminds you of?     

A hard question, as the main character is me. I like to think that I continue to share the same positive outlook on things. I stay positive and I invest in people, the true currency in my life.

What’s the main reason someone should really read this book?

Most of the memoir is set in Liberia, West Africa. However, this is not an African or Liberian book. The central theme of this book, yearning for belonging, is a universal desire of the human heart. My story is your story. We are on the same journey; we are just traveling different paths. This book encourages the discouraged and help others find hope in the face of hopelessness. 

If they made your book into a movie, who would you like to see play the main character(s)?

Kevin Hart or Chadwick Boseman are two individuals who come to mind.

When did you first decide to become an author?

My love for the writing process began in high school. Being a published author was not a personal goal until 2014, when I began to write my memoir. This is my first publication.

I have a collection of unpublished poems, some of which I wrote in high school. Poetry excites me. I hope to have a collection for release this year.

What do you do for work when you’re not writing?

I was fortunate to get my degree in social work, and I currently work with individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

How much time do you generally spend on your writing?

Generally, I spend about 20 hours a week writing or involved with some aspect of writing (classes/tutorials/marketing).

What’s the best and the hardest part of being an indie?

The best part of being an indie author is the control I have over my work.  The hardest part of being an indie is promoting my work and fighting for visibility.

Would you go traditional if a publisher came calling?  If so, why?  

Absolutely. The publicity and promotion for future work would open new doors for me.

What motivates you (fame? fortune?)

I am motivated by making a difference in people’s lives. If this memoir changes someone’s outlook on life, I achieved my goal. I tend to shy away from fame. If fortune comes my way, it would be used to benefit others, especially homeless or illiterate children in Africa.

Which writer, living or dead, do you most admire?

Growing up in Africa, my biggest literary heroes were Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Maya Angelou, and Langston Hughes.

Which book do you wish you could have written?

I would have loved to have written the collection of poems in Questions About Angels by Billy Collins.