What’s the craziest writing idea you’ve had?
Errr…writing erotica? Lol!!…nah….I don’t think I’ve had any crazy writing idea so far…besides, crazy is a relative term really. Writing about a story about gay people may be crazy for some people but perfectly normal for others so…No crazy ideas for moi!
Can you see yourself in any of your characters?
Certainly; I think there is a piece of me in every character that I create. Most of the time, my feisty female characters are projection of the woman I know I can be. My character in bloodied hands is an example. I’m getting to the point however where I create characters that bear no resemblance to me whatsoever and while it’s a tasking exercise, it’s also totally fun and challenging.
When and why did you begin writing?
Let’s see….I began writing when I was twelve years old. My Primary six teacher, Mr. Inyang noticed something about my writing I guess and encouraged me to try writing poetry. He had this huge unpublished manuscript of poems that he showed me and told me to give it a try. I did and I was hooked. By the time turned thirteen, I had a forty leaves exercise book filled with poetry on different topics! As to why I started writing, I found out that writing helped me express my emotions better. I wasn’t much of a vocal person in public but I was a strongly opinionated person and I let my writing give voice to my opinions. For me, writing initially started out being a way to purge myself of strong feelings. I’ve evolved since then; it’s now a way for me to change how people think about certain societal issues.
Who are your favorite authors of all time?
I’m not one of those writers who have a favorite author unfortunately. I go with the flow. I can read a really good book by Chimamanda Adichie and go ‘this is my girl!’ then turn right around and read a book by Sarah Ladipo and change my mind. I wasn’t really a huge fan of African writers when I was younger. I grew up reading Jackie Collins, Daniel steel and my father’s vast collection of reader’s digest. But if I were to make a choice, I would choose Chimamanda Adichie. She’s got talent!
What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
The best advice I ever got was from Jackie Kay during a creative writing workshop.
‘Don’t write about what you don’t know’, she said, ‘always start writing about what you know and proceed from there.’ That was particularly good advice for me because while I knew I had the talent to write, I had always stayed within the confines of poetry for fear of messing up with short stories. I would whine about not having anything to write about but when she said that, it made perfect sense. After that workshop, I started writing short stories about things I knew of and it’s really working out for me.
What inspires you to write?
People and their stories. I’ve found out that my best stories are those written about other people’s experiences. I hear about a man who beats up his wife and I begin to think, there’s an idea. Just the other day, a friend of mine came over to my place and was talking about his life as a cultist and I bluntly told him, ‘you’ve just given me an idea for my next story’ I don’t necessarily write about the details of what I hear. My imagination creates the scenes and conversations but it always starts with the stories of other people.
Do you have a specific writing style?
My writing style for poetry is specific. There’s always a climatic build up in all my poems and the use of rich imagery. I won’t say I have a specific style for my fictional pieces though. I don’t think I’ve discovered that yet but it would be really interesting to find out what other people on the site think about my writing style.
Do you have a major theme that runs through most of your work?
Yep! Most of my works are laced with the theme of equality for women or social justice. I’m a strong advocate of equality and fairness for everyone especially women and that tends to show up a lot in my work. Can’t silence that one! Lol
What books have most influenced your life most?
Francine River’s ‘Redeeming love’, I read that book and it changed my life forever. I never knew how strongly a book could affect a reader until I read that book. Francine’s book moved me from being a writer with a talent to a talented writer with a purpose. Really awesome experience; other books include Reader’s digest magazines. The stories they contained were brilliant, informative and inspiring.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Definitely Chimamanda Adichie; I’m not just saying that because she seems to be the cliché of the literary world right now but she has a depth of intelligence I know I can glean something worthy from and that keen wit that experience and the right attitude to those experiences give you. Under her I could learn a lot and I believe I could even teach her a thing or two.lol!
What books are you reading now?
I just finished Sara Ladipo’s ‘In dependence’ and I’m reading a foreign author now, Mark Frost’s ‘The list of seven.’ It’s a book about the powers that be in the lofty planes of society. Loads of intrigue, murder and tons of new word I’ve never seen! The guy dey help me upgrade my vocab die! Lol!
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Well, I’ve heard a lot about Onyeka Nwelue’s ‘Abyssinian boy’ and I would love to read it. The reviews I have read so far have been stunning. Oyinda Halima Affinnih’s ‘two gone, still counting is a book that had caught my interest as well. I’ve read the reviews and I’m also looking forward to reading it. I believe she is going to be a force to reckon with in the near future.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Oh Lawd yes! I find that I am somewhat poor when it comes to vivid descriptions of scenery be it a man made or nature. It’s easier for me in poetry but in prose? Nah! I admire people who can give descriptive details of people down to the type of chair in their living room or the shape of the fireplace. I doff my cap to em! Reading more and writing more seems to be helping me overcome that though but gradually.
Who is currently your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I don’t have a favorite author. Right now Mark Frost is the ‘it’ person for me. I’ve read two of his books so far and I must say that he has an amazing imagination and his plot twists are out of this world plus I love the way he moves effortlessly from one event to the next and his use of certain words to pass across ideas. And need I say he is a whiz at detailed description? He is good!
What do you think of the Nigerian publishing industry?
Personally I think the publishing industry is limping behind in an era where fantastic books and ideas are exploding all over the place. We have a long way to go especially with the reading culture of the nation in dire danger of being extinct. Most writers these days want to be published abroad because they don’t believe in the ability of the Nigerian publishing industry. I think the challenge we face is an obvious lack of structure in the whole industry. If there were some sort of structure in place, self publishing or ebook publishing would not be a preferred choice of most writers. Private publishing houses like cassava republic are doing a great job but like I said, we are limping and limping is a long way from walking so, we have a long way to go.
What comments do you have about the reading culture in the country?
I would say that there is a stir of interest in reading again among our youths and by reading I don’t mean leisure reading. I have a younger sister who is reading literature English and she read voraciously even when the books are not part of her recommended texts. She loves to read. I think that with the profusion of more Nigerian authors on the rise, our reading culture will be better than what it is right now. I think more people are realizing that reading is more than just fun, its education.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?”
Yes please….thank you all for reading my work. If you hadn’t I wouldn’t be the writer for the month of April which happens to be my birthday month by the way! Also, I would like to say that you don’t have to go too far to get an idea for a story. Stories are all around you; in your neighbor’s eyes and your pastor’s speech, in the angry cry of a child or the scène of an accident. There are stories all around you, you only have to stop being immersed in your own world long enough to see them. Good luck!