Nigerian author Chioma Nnani on her first novel 'Forever There For You'
Chioma Nnani is a Nigerian writer and a producer who runs a full writing and publishing service for her clients across the globe. Our very own WOMEN & AFRICA contributor, she is also the author of Forever There for You now available on Amazon. In this interview, Chioma Nnani talks about her novel and more.
|Nigerian author Chioma Nnani (Photo: Nnani)|
Chioma, you are a well-established writer with a Law degree from the University of Kent located in Canterbury, United Kingdom. How did this happen?
I graduated from university at the time when The Recession really hit. Law firms were closing down or downsizing. Law had always been a competitive venture anyway. But with the employment market being affected by the recession, it became even more competitive. The burning passion for the field wasn't there anymore. It was difficult to face because that meant I had to re-evaluate my entire life. It took a while and serious soul-searching to face up to the possibility of taking a step back from a career in Law. Even when I gave up my place in Law School, I needed a push because I couldn't bring myself to take that leap. That push came in form of an experience that wasn't very nice.
How did you go about publishing Forever There For You?
I made a number of mistakes. I allowed some pieces of my writing, including the original manuscript for Forever There For You, to get into the hands of an individual, who then tried to steal them from me. I honestly didn't realize how serious it was. I just knew that I was not amused that someone was trying to steal my work. A childhood friend successfully halted the theft. Shortly after that, someone told me “If your writing is good enough for someone to go to all this trouble to steal, maybe God is trying to tell you something”.
Was it tough to find a publisher?
When I started looking for a publisher, or an agent, I got so many rejections. I lost count. So, I decided to go down the self-publishing route. I think that self-publishers get a bad rap, because some people think that it's a mere case of putting on any cover and voila! The book is ready. But it wasn't the case with Word2Print. The process was long and thorough. And there 'may' have been some tantrums. It took a year and a half, and I ended up re-writing the manuscript seven times. When I finally saw a physical copy of Forever There For You, I knew it was worth it. I actually said, “Oh my God, it looks like a real book.”
How important are your Nigerian heritage and your experience in the UK in your work as a writer?
The influence of my Nigerian heritage in my writing style is a bit more subconscious than it appears to be for some other writers with a similar background. While as a writer (or any kind of artist), you produce work that is in your comfort zone, sometimes you do incorporate stuff that may require you to step out of your comfort zone. I think that's where being able to carry out great research, comes in. I believe that being able to effectively marry these two, in a way that is relatable and cohesive, is what puts a stamp on you as “this kind of writer” or “that kind of artist(e)”.
How will you describe your writing style?
I write stuff that I tend to describe as “Afro-centric”, even if it is the case that my work doesn't only appeal to those of a Nigeria, or even African heritage. However, I think that producing good art is mainly about being true to who you are. I believe that if someone wants to read something that is essentially European, or American – they won't pick up my work.
Do you think your work will stand out from the crowd?
For one thing, the name I bear (in relation to all my work) isn't English. I have an English name, but it's a middle name. Therefore, nobody is going to see my book and think “Oh, that's an American writer”. So, it would be surprising for them to expect American stuff from my writing. Part of being an even halfway decent writer is to be versatile. But I think that certain stories are best left to their owners to tell. That's why I don't understand how an American or Brit, for instance, can visit Lagos, shoot one documentary, and show that to the rest of the world as the Nigerian story. I think that's an insult, because I'm going “You're not Nigerian. You don't know our story. Sure, you have an opinion, a perspective. Everyone is entitled to that. But don't you dare act like this is your story to tell, and this is all there is to us!”
Based on what you said, you freely incorporate your Nigerian heritage and your experience abroad
I feel absolutely no shame in incorporating some parts of the various cultures in Nigeria, into my writing. Forever There For You has words and phrases in one of the Nigerian languages (Igbo). During the preview stage, I remember there being a concern about how that people who weren't, or didn't understand Igbo, would not understand the words. So, I put a glossary of Igbo words at the end of the book. In terms of the time I spent in the UK, noticing the culture and lifestyle did (and continues to) play a role in my writing style. But even that wouldn't have been possible without painstaking research. Some of the geographical locations mentioned in Forever There For You, I have not actually physically been to.
How would you describe the state of the publishing and writing industries in your homeland, Nigeria?
I think that, like with everything, there is room for improvement. I choose to see any flaws as a plus because that flaws invariably create a market that demands the services of those who are passionate about and dedicated to excellence.
Your debut novel Forever There For You has received strong reviews on Amazon since its release in 2012. What is the book about?
Forever There For You is a fusion of a variety of themes. From the readers I've asked, “What do you think it's about?” they have come up with different answers. Some of those answers aren't even what I had in mind, when I started writing it. In my mind, it was to be a novel with a theme of domestic violence at its core. But the other themes – love, friendship, cultural clashes, religion, sisterhood – resonate with different readers for different reasons. So at this point, I would say Forever There For You is a blend of all of them
What do you hope to accomplish through the novel?
I hope that people can get some kind of education in a sense, from reading the book. I also hope to get people talking (even more loudly) about certain difficult issues. Difficult in the sense that talking about them, currently seems to be more of a taboo than their occurrence. It would also be good to have these conversations metamorphose into, or form the basis of legislative changes in some climes.