How rewarding and utterly satisfying it is for one to find her place and take charge of it completely.
Chioma Nnani has found her place, yet she continues to stretch the boundaries and break new grounds. The love for her own craft has seen her striding through giant doors and making huge impact in the literary world.
This delectable and purposeful Nigerian woman is an experienced writer, Lawyer, communications expert, script writer and lots more. Her debut novel. “Forever there for you”is an exceptional read and is available on Amazon.
Yes, it’s a Konnect Africa Interview!!!
Read, be inspired and take the bold step.
K.A: If you weren’t a writer, what else would you be doing?
That’s a bit difficult to predict. I honestly don’t know. I could say, “I’d be a lawyer or actress or in the Arts” but how do I know for sure? There are some things that are virtually impossible to call, and I think this might be one of those.
K.A: Let us get up, close and personal. Give us a bit of history and ethnicity
I was born and raised in Port-Harcourt, Nigeria. For my secondary school education, I went to FGGC, Calabar – after which I returned to Port-Harcourt. I left Port-Harcourt for the United Kingdom, five years later.
K.A: Education: Where and what did you study? Did you have to take any additional classes to hone your writing?
I studied Law ((LLB) at the University of Kent, Canterbury. I also hold a Postgraduate Certificate in Food Law from the De Montfort University in Leicester. I know this sounds like a clichéd answer – but I didn’t have any formal classes to hone my writing skills. And yes, there are times when I almost wish I could point to a particular Communications-based/Creative Writing degree, or alma mata – to hold it responsible for why I’m able to write. But the boring truth is that I did not have any formal classes – apart from English Language and Literature classes from primary school, all the way through high school.
I just read a lot, write, then read some more 🙂
K.A: Did you or your folks ever imagine you would become a writer?
(Laughs) Unless my folks had access to a crystal ball, I don’t believe they had any inkling. I think if anyone had even prophesied such a thing to them, they would have laughed in the person’s face. In fact, I don’t think some of them actually believe or have grasped (the reality of) what’s happening, even now.
Personally, it wasn’t something I ever considered. Never mind the fact that I’ve written from about the age of 8. Writing wasn’t something that I considered to be a viable career, or any other kind of career for that matter, for myself. I think that was partly due to the fact that I grew up in an era and a culture where the only career ambitions you were allowed to harbour were becoming a doctor, lawyer or engineer. I was also one of those painfully shy children, that a lot of people didn’t expect much, from.
I’m working on a series called The Triple-R Series and I think that being able to find my voice is what makes the series so … unique. I don’t think I would have thought to embark on it, if I hadn’t found my own voice. The series has been written with a different generation in mind – a generation with a different mindset and a different understanding of what’s ‘possible’ or ‘viable’.
K.A: What are your influences as a writer? What influences your writing?
Erm, lots of things and people. Some of the influences are conscious, some even less so. I’m inspired by God, nature, people and events. There are times I’ll witness or experience something; and I park in the back of my mind, even though I just ‘know’ I’ll write about it. I may not know what particular material I’ll use it for, at the time of ‘parking’; but when the time is right, I’ll know to recall it.
I also carry out a fair bit of research. OK, I carry out an obsessive amount of research. The stories I tell are character-driven, so I need to be sure that the characters I create are credible.
K.A: Kindly give us a sneak peek into some of your work?
My debut novel is “Forever There For You”. I like to call it a cocktail of love, religion, sisterhood, cultural clashes, domestic violence and friendship. It’s available on Amazon. There will be more information on other distribution outlets (especially in Nigeria) as soon as we can reveal them.
I offer consultancy services for corporate clients and some other organisations, in the area of communications. The most popular branch of this service, right now, is with clients who require me to put together and/or deliver training programmes. This service is for clients who want to perform at optimum level. I’m based in Abuja and this aspect of my work does tend to involve travelling, but I’m not complaining.
I also offer ghost-writing services. This means that I tell stories of people who don’t have the time or expertise to tell their own stories. In the simplest terms, the way it works is that a client tells me their story and pays me to write it – then, they get credited as the author. Only they and I (and in some cases, my staff) know I really wrote the book. In effect, my ghost-writing clients pay me for my expertise, my time and my silence.
My scriptwriting clients are mainly NGOs, advert companies and clients of advert companies (usually corporate bodies with products or services to sell). Clients for this service are keen on getting tight scripts, which tell their story and resonate with their target markets.
I’m working on my second full-length novel and it’s a truly eye-opening experience because the characters in the second novel are so ridiculously different from the ones in my first novel. It (the second novel) is set in a totally different industry (from the one in the first) and there are things going on that even I find either horrifying or hilarious. “Forever There For You” stretched and pushed me to lengths I didn’t think, existed. But with this second novel is even more tasking. I think it’s safe to say that with this, the boat has been pushed so far out that I’m learning to swim – instead of trying to find the shore. But this book won’t be ready till the end of 2015, at least.
But there’s a nice literary surprise from me, for the end of 2014/beginning of 2015. That is all I am allowed to say (laughs)
There’s also The Triple-R Series, which is aimed at teenagers. The release of the first trilogy (the first three books) has actually been shifted, due to circumstances I didn’t initially anticipate. Because the trilogy will be released first in Nigeria, the release date will be after the 2015 elections.
I have been offered a new column in a South African-based business magazine, which I’m really excited about. That gig officially starts in January 2015.
K.A: What are the challenges you encountered while writing and publishing?
(Laughs) Thinking about them now … there are lots of things I encounter, that have a way of stretching my patience beyond anything that has come before.
One major challenge was in hooking up with the right support. For instance, I was eager for the right management company/deal; one that I feel comfortable with. I think one of the things that living in the United Kingdom did for me, was that it made me a bit more discerning and ruthless. I don’t think it’s news that for many artistes, the first deal they usually sign is usually a truly ill-advised one. I’d seen some things and made some mistakes of my own – mistakes that it cost me time and money to extricate myself from. It was (and continues to remain) important to me that my management company is proactive, ‘gets me’, understands where I’m coming from, can give me what I want (as opposed to time wasting and empty promises).Suffice to say, there are lot of crazy people in this industry.
K.A: Do you see yourself as a ‘genre specific’ author’?
If a ‘genre specific author’ refers to an author who writes purely or thrives mainly within one genre, then “No”. I am not a ‘genre specific’ author. I am in a truly privileged position – where I am able and get to tell different kinds of stories. Because I also work as a consultant and ghost-writer, I am able to hear and replicate stories that can be the stuff of legend. Some of the stories are such that I wouldn’t usually hear, if I wasn’t working on them. So, from novels with pieces of history that I wouldn’t normally know, to autobiographies, to non-fiction material. Then, there are corporate organisations and NGOs whose success stories I get to be a part of, because of the position that I’m in.
Having said this, there are some kinds of work that I don’t touch – anti-Christian material, misogynistic material, and pornography. I do a lot of secular work (including for non-Christians), but material that’s actually anti-Christian is a different ball game. Undertaking misogynistic material, would be hypocritical and undo all the work that I’ve done in my writing career. There’s also the fact that it’s just … insulting. As for pornography, it’s very different from work that happens to have one or more sensual scenes in it. I believe that’s a completely different industry – it’s not one that I am a part of.
K.A: Have you ever received a negative review of your book? What did you do about it?
I am not aware of any negative reviews of my work. I’m not implying that everyone gives my writing a 5-star rating. There are people for whom, my writing is just not their cup of tea. If you’re not my audience, you’re not my audience. It is what it is. But … it depends on what you mean by ‘negative review’. Does that mean someone didn’t like a particular character I created? The way I ended a certain plot? Is it that someone doesn’t agree with a view point I have? Or is it the case that they are an attention-seeking troll (because I do get some of these)?
The characters I create aren’t perfect – I wouldn’t know what to do with a ‘perfect character’ because I don’t know anyone like that. The characters I create, get up to all sorts for all kinds of reasons. That’s just life. If it’s that someone doesn’t like the way I ended a certain plot, they can always campaign to have me write a sequel (laughs).
K.A: How do you prod yourself to write on those awful days when it just seems so hard?
There’s no hard and fast rule. On some days, I tell myself how bad it would be, if I missed a deadline. At other times when that sensible approach doesn’t work, I just check my emails, go on Facebook, read a good book, daydream of Swarovski crystals and eat white chocolate (laughs).
K.A: You are at a Writers Workshop; what do you tell the eager listeners who seek to better their skills?
Read, read, write, then read some more.
K.A: What’s the best perk of being a writer?
Apart from being paid, you mean? Seeing people (who don’t even know me) engage with something that’s a complete figment of my imagination. That’s a very powerful position to be in. Sometimes, I’ll update my Facebook status or blog, and some commentators will go absolutely spare.
I think because of the nature of social media – where people are used to reading (what used to be) others’ most private thoughts – it’s very easy for some people to miss the line between fact and fiction. With some of the comments I get for some of the things I write, I just think, “Do you think I’m actually crazy enough to spill my personal business on social media, like this?” On one level, I believe it’s a testament to my skill as a storyteller – I write something and people think, “This is real. It has to be”. On another level, it’s interesting to see people who would probably never speak to you in real life, ‘chop liver’ because they’re tapping away behind a computer or a phone.
K.A: Do you believe writers can change the world?
I believe that changing the world is meant to be a collaborative effort of everyone who lives in the world; not a burden to be borne by individuals who just happen to be writers.
K.A: Where can your books be purchased, online and offline?
Forever There For You can also be purchased on Amazon. More outlets will be announced soon.
K.A: Africa will arise when?
When she stops being afraid to take responsibility for her own well-being.
K.A: Inspire an African writer in one sentence …
“Don’t be afraid to do you!”
© 2014 – 2017, Jennifer Nkem-Eneanya. All rights reserved.