Top of the day to you Konnect Africans! You know how we love our writers right? If you have any doubt, check out our interviews with Bola Essien-Nelson, Unyime Ivy-King, Chika Unigwe, Chika Oduah, Sammy Sage Hasson, Chris Ihidero and more!
Today we take a peek into the life of author and Architect, Kene Onwuasoanya AKA Kene Ugo as he shares on the perks and challenges of writing, the correlation between Architecture and Writing and the boundless opportunities available for a Writer via Social Media. In his words, “Social media is a virtual courtyard for me. It is the closest thing to the joy of traditional African evening entertainment where you sit among a cluster of others and listen to a storyteller under the open moonlit sky.”
I love his last statement: ‘Get a life and get busy! If something will only serve you immediately, chances are that it is not really worth it. So reset your orientation and place priority on what will serve you for tomorrow also.’
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KA: Welcome to Konnect Africa! If Kene wasn’t a writer, what else would he be doing?
I’d be busy trying to start life all over again, searching for another great business and leisure rolled into one big euphoria. Writing has been my thing from very far back. It is a top medium of expression that gets my adrenalin flowing like nothing. I use writing to create my own fantasies. With my writing, I put things in the shape I think would make a much better world.
KA: Let’s get up, close and personal; Give us a bit of history.
I grew up in Kaduna, Northern Nigeria, in a family of five kids and two loving parents with professional classroom coaching backgrounds. There were very many books at home and it was inevitable that I should be an avid reader. Besides, my dad would drop off the kids at the Kaduna library on some Saturday mornings to keep us occupied. Through that, I developed a desire to do some writing myself, and here I am – writing my own books.
KA: Education; Where and what did you study? Did you have to take any additional classes to hone your writing?
I studied Architecture at the University of Nigeria and work today as an Architect, Interior Designer and Construction Project Management consultant. Architecture, unlike writing, put me through years of formal professional training. Writing came naturally. I learnt writing by putting my pen to plenty of work and reading the works of others to make myself better in what I love to do. I wrote to give wings to my imaginations and to let my fantasies float like an eagle in the sky. The passion to write guided me to many great discoveries and shaped me into what I eventually became. In my secondary school certificate examination, I chose to write a short story rather than a formal letter. At the university, I wrote during every holiday, putting ideas down and drafting storylines. I gathered friends around me at the university and national youth service year to narrate some of my compositions. Add all of these to the early love I developed for reading and you have something close to a prolific writer.
KA: Architecture and Writing; what’s the correlation?
They both have to do with creativity, with virtual representations. As an architect, I develop the design of a building project mentally and communicate the concept to the client through drawings and Building Information Modelling. As a writer, what I do is word modelling. I craft imaginary situations to reflect my perceptions of life and present to the reader thought-provoking actions and reactions by my characters to guide my readers’ decisions in life while satisfying their entertainment needs. Architecture and writing are that related.
KA: What are your influences as a writer?
I love to fantasize, to imagine things, to swim and fly and cruise in an unreal world. In that world, you are in control of things. You tower above fears and tears, circumvent worries or struggles, boldly confront disappointments and despairs. You are free essentially. You can fashion your own universe without constraint. Armed with a pen and a thought, I can’t resist the urge to create something. And that’s the story of the writer in me. As a Christian, writing serves as a great opportunity to share the love of God. And just how more privileged can one be? I mean, I am a storyteller just like Jesus was. Jesus ministered by telling parables. I minister by sharing stories. It is an honour to occupy the line of ministry that Jesus did.
KA: Kindly give a sneak peek into your novels…
My first novel is “Nightmares In Retrospect”. It is about a beautiful young entertainer in Enugu, South East Nigeria, who suddenly disappeared and became a case for an audacious and desperate lawyer, Talamo, who had a history of notoriety. The case led Talamo to a world of organized crime, immense danger to his life, and deep craze for a woman he never thought he would love someday. He acted impulsively in a terrible way like the aggressive chap he was long ago and he found himself under the dreadful siege of Nightmares In Retrospect.
My second novel is “Metropolitan Wilderness”. It tells of the predicament of a young Nigerian dude, Uzoagu, in faraway Belgium. While seeking to circumvent a condition he was required to fulfil before he could receive funding from an NGO to run his late parents’ project, he landed himself in a big and terrible mess he was anything but prepared to face. In the urban complexity of the Brussels-Capital Region of Belgium, he met language barrier, ruthless bias, and mind-wreaking exploitation. And he reckoned he needed to put up a real strong fight or he’d find himself steered from the path of his passionate goal.
KA: What were the challenges you encountered whilst writing and publishing the book?
Time is a key resource of the writer and it was a struggle to have as much of it as I wanted while producing my books. Unfortunately, we only have twenty-four hours in a day. The burden is on you to manage yourself to accomplish all you want to do within that time. As a writer, I have had to learn discipline, sacrifice, goal-mindedness and multitasking. Without these, you can’t put two great sentences down a day as a writer in our time. You can’t get anything done without distraction and constant struggle with self-management except you have the luxury of months of holiday ahead of you in the solitude of a serene hilltop mansion.
KA: Do you see yourself as a ‘genre specific’ author?
No. I write to address social issues. I go for whatever genre of writing that will do justice to a particular subject. And the subjects I’ve written on or aim to deal with are wide-ranging. Some of them are human trafficking, modern-day slavery, prostitution, drug abuse, child neglect, homelessness, fundamentalism, relationships, and community development initiatives. Therefore, in an effort to address some of these issues, I find myself writing genres like thriller, mystery, adventure, romance, action, and crime investigation. I am flexible like that. The only constant thing about my writing is that it is inspirational.
KA: Who are your favorite authors and what books have made the most impact on you?
Nicky Cruz is a great writer. He wrote from personal experiences and challenged the creative spirit in me. His book “Devil On The Run” tells of his rough life of drugs and violence in the ghettos. It was a big motivation for me reading this book of his alongside others. Again, Frank Peretti is a writer that has endeared himself to me. I love his book “The Oath” which is a masterpiece of mystery and suspense and the triumph of good over evil. Now I will pounce on anything fresh from the printing press that is branded Frank Peretti.
KA: Have you ever received a negative review of your book? What did you do about it?
I understood very early in my writing career that life is a variety of opinions. I knew I couldn’t please everybody. Trying would have earned me something close to a zero fan base. So I had to discover myself and develop opinions along my orientation. With this done, writing was anything but a struggle for me. I just let my mind loose and my stories begin to take shape. When someone doesn’t give a positive review of my work, I take the lessons there are in their review and regard everything else as a factor of their personal opinion.
KA: Is there something new cooking behind the scenes?
Definitely. I am midway through what shall be my third book. It is titled “Love Notwithstanding” — a story of defiance, grudge, adventure, shock, agony and romance. In the book you will meet Uchendu Odenigbo who dressed women’s hair for survival, a vocation which didn’t necessarily make a wimp out of him. On the contrary, he was widely dreaded as a rough and tough dude around his hometown Ifitedunu in South East Nigeria. And his profile included a bold street showdown with the notorious police that served his community which earned him the credit of an avid defender of civil liberties. In the course of a visit to faraway Luxembourg to pursue an opportunity that suddenly and ironically came his way, he found himself in a commitment that restrained his aggressive tendency to a point of very bitter frustration. This could easily have been the most miserable experience he’d had all his life, yet it was nothing compared to what he faced when a certain course of action tore him ruthlessly away from a chance to have the girl of his passionate dreams.
KA: How do you prod yourself to write on those awful days when it just seems so hard?
When there is no inspiration, there is very little you can do as a writer. For me, I just find something else to spend time on. You can’t push inspiration. Those times when inspiration is low or zero are a perfect opportunity to do other things I love. But I hardly ever need to stay away for too long from my work. When the inspiration returns, I rush back to business.
KA: You are facilitating a Writers Workshop; what do you tell the eager listeners who seek to better their skills?
I will tell them to find a cause in life and pursue it. As a writer, you need to have a cause otherwise you will write many empty words. A cause drives you. It is your passion. It provides you the motivation to deploy your skills. Don’t wait till you have written a book before thinking of a social action or community project to pursue. If you have an initiative in mind before your book comes out, you will be better motivated while developing your work.
KA: What’s the best perk of being a writer?
Doing what I love and being paid for it. I never see writing as a labour or a job. Writing is fundamentally recreational for me and it is double benefit when people have to part with their money to read what I have written.
KA: Do you believe that writers can change the world? What do you hope to achieve with your works?
Writers document facts and history of society for future generations to build upon. We communicate ideas and counsel that help the progress of society. Without the works of writers, the world would experience no advancements. My books are manuals I designed to provoke positive thought and perspective, to promote genuine passion for purpose and truth, and to offer insight and motivation for meaningful living. I definitely hope that the world would be a better place as a result of the scribbling of my pen.
KA: How do you utilize social media to engage your readers?
The opportunities of social media are boundless. Social media offers me the platform to reach out to my readers and to share my thoughts with the world in an incredible way. It offers my fans also the platform to present reviews of my works and to discuss with one another issues of common interest that feature in my writings. Social media is a virtual courtyard for me. It is the closest thing to the joy of traditional African evening entertainment where you sit among a cluster of others and listen to a storyteller under the open moonlit sky.
KA: Life for Kene is…
Life for me is focusing on the goalpost and channeling all my effort in that direction. In the race of life, the goalpost is the cross, and my life’s mission is getting there and leading others I come across to its destination.
KA: Inspire a young African person in one sentence…
Get a life and get busy. If something will only serve you immediately, chances are that it is not really worth it. So reset your orientation and place priority on what will serve you for tomorrow also.
Editor’s Note: To find out more about Kene Ugo’s books, visit his page on Facebook.com/KeneUgo