This author interview shares advice from published author Seeta Begui. To learn more about Seeta, visit her website. You can also find more ways to connect with Seeta at the end of this Q&A.
Eighteen Brothers and Sisters, a memoir by Seeta Begui, is an inspirational message of the power of sacrifices, mentors, education, and training to make a difference. The book chronicles Seeta’s upbringing, struggles to become educated, and her accomplishments, thanks to the teamwork of her phenomenal extended family and the angels in the right place at the right time to guide her. As the story unfolds, the voice, attitude, and intonation reflect the age Seeta was at the time. The voice changes as she transforms from a scraggly three-year-old to a battered wife, to the beautiful, accomplished woman of influence and means she has become today. Seeta’s coming-to-America story will warm your heart.
Q: Can you share a little bit about your backstory and how you came to be an author?
Begui: I was born in Trinidad and Tobago, and I immigrated to the United States in 1982. I was always a very observant child who asked a lot of questions, and I also grew up with a lot of siblings. Before my parents met, my dad had seven children, and my mom had four. Then together, they had seven more children. And in terms of the challenges we faced as children, even here in the U.S., we grew up experiencing everything under the sun. From poverty and domestic violence to fighting with family, fighting for land, fighting for homes, fighting for shoes, fighting for clothes – I saw it all as I grew up.
So I wrote 18 Brothers And Sisters partly because I just thought we had a very interesting story to tell. But above all, being privy to my mother’s journey on planet earth inspired me to write. Her struggles and challenges, on top of having so many kids.
Q: What were the most challenging aspects of writing your memoir?
Begui: The most challenging aspect was having to condense the book from over 1,000 pages to about 200 pages. I also had to take out a lot of stuff because I didn’t want to hurt people. When you write a memoir, like the one I did, you have to be mindful of the people about whom you’re writing. Like how, for example, many of my sisters and brothers didn’t want the world to know my father was a very violent man against my mother. Although he was a wonderful father and a good man and didn’t beat his children, he hit my mother behind closed doors. So even when you’re merely telling the truth, the challenge is how you tell the truth because the truth can hurt a lot of people.
My ex-husband is another such example. When I ended up a victim of domestic violence during my first marriage, I had to take out some horrible, violent episodes against me. Because even though he’s my ex-husband, he’s still the father of two of my kids, and they still love their dad.
Q: What were the most rewarding aspects of writing a memoir?
Begui: Getting the reaction of readers was inspiring. Hearing people say, “Oh my gosh! I loved the book!” “I read it in one shot!” “I never put it down!” – and knowing that it resonated with people was very rewarding. I had a book signing in the U.S., and we had over 150 people that came. Then I had another book signing in Trinidad. And I think what I mainly did there was instilled in my little nieces and nephews and my beautiful grandchild, Maddie, that for anything you want to accomplish, if you set your mind to it, you can do it.
Q: In your opinion, who should write a memoir?
Begui: Well, people like feel-good stories. Not everybody wants to hear about how to make money. Not everybody wants to hear about why they should go to Ethiopia. But most people like it when human beings can overcome tragedy. People like to see that you came from somewhere that was not a good place, but you used your spirituality. You used your faith. You used whatever resources you had available to come out of the situation, and hold your head up high, and say, “Look, I’m confident that my past is behind me. I’m living in the present. And my future looks bright!”.
To write a memoir, you need to have a story to tell, but you also need to have a reason why you’re saying it. At any given time, somebody is going through something in life, and if you could inspire that person to pick themself up, you might be on the right track to writing a great memoir.
Q: Do you have any tips for facing emotional roadblocks when writing your own story?
Begui: Well, to write, you have to have already moved past the emotional roadblocks. Take me, for example. I had two pairs of underwear when I was little. My mother had to wash one pair and put it to dry while I would wear the other one. We didn’t have running water or electricity. We had an outhouse. But that was part of my life. That’s how it was.
Am I alive and well today? Yes. Now I’ve moved past the painful parts of my past, and I appreciate everything I work for, and life is good to me because poverty made me stronger. So my history helped to make me who I am today. And it’s a powerful thing! When you can use your past in such a way that it taught you such a life lesson, it’s powerful. But you have to be able to handle the painful aspects emotionally. You have to take the story as something to be learned from and focus on the fact that you lived to tell the story.
Q: What about your writing hangups or hurdles? Did you have any writing rituals that helped you get over any humps?
Begui: I found it was very easy for me to write at night when everything was calm, and everything was quiet. Sometimes I would get ideas by watching a TV show and seeing someone with a story I can relate to, but for the most part, I would write whatever came to my mind, kind of like a journal. The process itself was mostly just going back into my memory bank, and then getting my thoughts out quickly.
Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors, especially those looking to write their first memoir?
Begui: Just grab a pen and a piece of paper and start writing, or get on the computer and start typing. Don’t wait. Now it is your chance! So just start. Go ahead! Why wait?
Q: You also host your radio show. What is the scoop there?
Begui: My show is about people making changes in their personal life or the community or in the world. I’ve had guests call in from Ireland, India, Canada, England, and all over. I’m grateful that the station gives me that opportunity to have such a voice, and to speak to different people with different opinions. I do have to be very careful, though, because I’m on live radio and there’s a record of everything I say. So freedom of speech comes with responsibility.
Q: Is there anything else you want readers of this Q&A to know?
For me, I swore if I were ever in a position to help women and children, I would do it. That was one of the main reasons why I started the book and why I kept writing. I’m all about believing in faith and family and terrific friends. Not to mention, the people you meet along the way, and how they can change your life, you know? Michelle Campanelli is an excellent example of that. I love Michelle! She’s a fabulous friend. Also, I’m so proud of her going back to school. What a great proponent for “be the change you wish to see.”
Learn More About This Author
Seeta Begui is an Indo-Caribbean author whose work focuses on the feminine experience, resilience, and healing, and was recently named one of Brown Girl Magazine’s 15 Female Authors of Color You Need to Know. To learn more about Seeta, visit her website.
Read Her Book
Begui’s memoir, Eighteen Brothers and Sisters, details the compelling story of her struggles and successes — from childhood to womanhood. Find more information on this book.
Listen To Her Radio Show
Catch Seeta Begui’s radio show, Viewpoints with Seeta and Friends, every Monday from 1-2pm, on http://www.seetamediainc.com AM 1510 WWBC, FM 94.7, 99.9 , and 100.7. Or listen to her Viewpoint with Seeta and Friends (podcast).