Today’s Q. & A. is something a little different for me, a memoir! It’s about author Andy Christofferson‘s two year journey in Tanzania, Africa volunteering with the Peace Corps.
I may very well be the only Peace Corps Volunteer in the history of the organization to sincerely, foolishly, and romantically propose marriage to a local girl…and have her say no.
In addition to my failed romance, I taught advanced chemistry at an all-girls school, kayaked my way into Zimbabwe, and learned just how little water a human being can survive on. I also once woke up completely covered with ants.
My goal with this work is to give a very raw, straightforward, analytical – but also humorous – picture of both what a typical Peace Corps experience is like, as well as offer some insight into the current conditions of life in East Africa, going beyond the superficial mentality of “look at the stupid things those crazy Africans do” and trying to explain why they do the things that to us, from our Western perspective, seem strange. Because there is a reason.
The Peace Corpse: Misadventures in Love and Africa
was a really interesting read about a Montana boy’s journey to Tanzania for a 2 yr stint with the Peace Corps. Honest, interesting, educational and entertaining. Written in a familiar conversational style. Although the book was largely written after his “tour” was over, original emails that were sent to friends and family at the time pepper the book to lend authenticity along with amusing quotes from the author and others he met on his journey.
If you’ve ever been curious as to what goes on the Peace Corps, this memoir gives the reader a good, detailed idea of one man’s journey.
Q: Is this the first book you’ve written?
Technically no. That would be a high fantasy novella I wrote when I was 16—which of course has not been read by anyone but me. This is, however, the first book I’ve written that I’ve been foolish and egotistical enough to put out there for other people to see.
Q: What prompted you to write about this experience?
Ants. Also, there are a lot of misconceptions out there about both the Peace Corps and about Africa in general. My goal with this book was to help people understand more about the nature of the organization and the experience a Volunteer goes through during their service. In addition I wanted to explain a little about the culture of East Africa and try and look at the reasons people did things that to us often seemed illogical or counterintuitive.
But I use lots of humor to keep it interesting.
Q: It was a very honest retelling. Did you ever consider leaving out some of the more…embarrassing parts?
No, not really. One thing I observed in Tanzania was that so many problems were caused by secrecy, by people who withheld or covered up the truth. It bothered me a lot, and it seemed to me that I would be defeating the purpose of everything I was trying to do if I withheld information or left anything out. Also, I apparently have no shame.
Q: What’s the one thing you want your readers to come away with after reading your memoir?
A greater understanding of the problems facing Africa. The entire continent is going to be dealing with complicated issues for many years to come, and as much as I love to joke around, this is something I do take seriously. I don’t think trying to look at the problem from a solely Western perspective is going to give us the answers we need, and if I can do even a little to help people see things from an African angle, I can feel like I’ve accomplished something.
Q: If you could have changed any one thing about your experience in Tanzania, what would it have been?
If I said that here I’d be giving too much away. So I’ll settle for the number two choice: getting dysentery.
Q: What prompted you to make the “Stan” character?
Everything that “Stan” says or does in the book was said or done by a real person, but it seemed needlessly distracting to introduce each one as an individual if they had no further role in the narrative. Thus “Stan” is a “stand-in” for all the people who crossed my path, said or did one or two funny or interesting things, then went on their way.
Q: Who are your writing influences?
Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, and Jose Cuervo. For humor I look to Dave Barry, Patrick F. McManus, and Scott Adams, but for more serious stuff Hemingway, D.H. Lawrence, and Somerset Maugham.
Q: Did you read a lot of other memoirs before deciding to write your own?
No, should I have? Well, yeah, I guess I probably should’ve. To be honest I never intended to write a memoir when I started out, but I wanted to include some events that really occurred and I realized that unless I specifically stated that it was non-fiction, some of the things that actually happened to me would just seem contrived and poor plotting if they were to appear in a work of fiction by a novice writer.
Q: What can we expect from you next?
Peace Corpse: The Musical. I’m also releasing a collection of short stories in the beginning of August, entitled Bits of Paper—which is kind of ironic since it’s an ebook.
Q. Where can fans contact you and where can they purchase the book?
I would love to be contacted through my fake publishing company, Videlicet Productions
, because that page could use some more hits. The book is available as an ebook or paperback through Amazon
, and in a variety of electronic formats at Smashwords
. I also have a blog specifically dedicated to the book, with lot of pictures and funny quotes, here
Q: Lastly, for fun, if they made a movie out of The Peace Corpse, who would you want to play you and why?
Orlando Bloom. Not just for the uncanny likeness, but also because they’d have to use expensive CGI to make him look 22 years old, virtually guaranteeing that the movie wouldn’t be a financial success. Then, 30 years from now, future hipsters can talk about Peace Corpse: The Movie as the greatest underrated film of all time, “but you probably haven’t heard of it.”