Nikki Lockwood, a recent graduate of NorthTec Tai Tokerau Wānanga has just published her second book, a creative non-fiction called ‘I Heart Africa Project.’ The book challenges preconceived ideas in society and hopes to place the kiwi author on the international stage.
The book is a culmination of five years of hard work and over fifty interviews with people who either live, work, or have travelled on the African continent. It is through these people’s stories and experiences that Nikki hopes to change the way people view Africa.
We had to ask, why Africa?
“When I was first headed to Africa, everyone tried to persuade me not to go,” Nikki Lockwood, NorthTec Creative Writing graduate and author, remembers. “They would tell me all these horror stories about what goes on over there and why it isn’t safe. There is a lot of negative press about the continent. I found the warnings and scare tactics to be blown out of proportion. I was never in danger or scared while I was there.”
Nikki was primarily inspired by her trip to Africa and the intensity of the peoples’ lives the continent is home to.
“I’ve travelled to many places and none of them had the impact that Africa did,” says Nikki. “Africa awakened my soul. When I left, it felt like I had left part of me behind, and still does to this day. The feeling of being in Africa is hard to describe. The closest I can come to it is that it has a silent drumbeat, like the heartbeat of the land. It carries such a deeply familiar feeling. Perhaps it is because Africa is the cradle of mankind, where the first humans called home, it is a deeply innate feeling of returning home, like that of a mothers embrace.”
Upon returning to New Zealand after four months in Africa, Nikki felt the need to do something to express this experience and feeling with others. It started with a conversation with a fellow NZ author, who encouraged Nikki to continue with the idea she had for the book. Nikki began the interviewing and writing process in 2017 and in 2019 she enrolled at NorthTec for two of their Creative Writing papers. During this time, she also had travel articles publish in the UK based travel magazine ‘Travel Africa’ about her life changing experiences in Africa.
“I already had the book idea before I started studying. I already had the words and the story ready to go. But because this was to be a unique book containing words and images of other people’s lives, what I needed was the guidance and knowledge to bring it to life, basically the tools in my tool kit to achieve what I wanted”, says Nikki. “NorthTec offered everything I needed online. I started with the Diploma in Creative Writing and finished with the Advanced Applied Writing (Level 7) course. The tutors teach you everything you need to know about all the different genres. You also learn about traditional publishing, self-publishing, online writing, and what to avoid.
It really took my writing to the next level and gave me the tools I needed to continue on my writing journey. Doing Level 7 with NorthTec was the supreme reward. I got to work one on one with a NZ author mentor to help elevate my writing and my mentor was a real diamond. I cannot thank her, and the tutors at NorthTec enough for all their guidance, advice, and teachings over the two years I studied at NorthTec.”
Nikki published her first novel ‘Curse of Stone’ in August 2021. The book was written as her manuscript for the Diploma of Advanced Applied Writing at NorthTec. She then moved right back to writing ‘I Heart Africa Project’.
“My initial idea was to highlight the good being done in Africa, the beauty of the continent, and the warmth of the people. In Western society, all we ever hear is the negative side and the bad news that come out of Africa.” Nikki explains. “Once I started interviewing people, I was inspired and incredibly humbled by their stories and passion, and that was the motivation for me to persevere and write this book. I quickly realised that what I had undertaken wasn’t just writing a book, it was the start of an amazing project.”
Along with the book, Nikki has also created a website that includes further information about Africa, her work process, the people she interviewed, and even a podcast of interviews with seven people who tell their stories in the book.
“Writing this book has been completely different from writing a fiction book. It’s not my world or my characters and story. It’s other peoples’ lives and their stories, and I’ve had to be very careful to make sure I don’t censor or alter their words to fit my own narrative.”
“It’s been a very interesting and rewarding process. This book and the people featured in it have changed my life. I am so incredibly honoured to have been given the privilege to share their stories with the world.”
So, what’s next for Nikki?
“I am currently working on a New Adult series that is told from the perspective of eight different characters and follows their lives through their last year of high school, and the journey into adulthood. The draft of the first book is down, and I plan on putting 4 to 6 books out a year in this novella series,” Nikki confesses. “I also need to complete the next book in the ‘Curse of Stone’ trilogy.”
“For now, I will continue my writing journey, but I want to be able to inspire and help other authors along their journey as well. There are many amazing authors out there, that I want to learn from them as well. I did a Masterclass with Neil Gaiman and another with Margaret Atwood, and what I learnt from them added so much value to my writing. I believe that knowledge shared is powerful, so ultimately, I would like to share my knowledge with aspiring writers because you can never stop learning and growing as a writer.”