Chioma Iwunze-Ibiam describes herself as a hopeless romantic. But not that she would want to change that. She lives in Enugu with her lawyerly husband and her pretty, hyperactive daughter. Finding Love Again is her first novel with Ankara Press. She's also the blogger at creativewritingnews. Enjoy our author interview with Chioma on her journey to birthing this book...
- What inspired you to write this book?
The uncertainties of life. I am fascinated about how life throws us into the unexpected situations, how we find love in the most unlikely places and how we resist unconventional love.
Most of us know the pains of a broken engagement (or we know someone who knows) and it is sad to find that there isn’t any guidebook about what to do when you wake up in the morning and realise that you don’t want it to be morning yet. What do you do? How do you continue life. So I imagined Kambi, a wonderful woman and yet a jilted bride, wading through the storms in her life and finding sweet, fascinating love in the most unexpected place—the Obudu Cattle Ranch Resort.
Having spent a few days in the Obudu Cattle Ranch Resort, I was eager to set a romance novel there and to explore the possibility of love blossoming between a native (the smashing, olive-skinned Beba) and a visitor (Kambi).
- What do you like best about the book, who is your favorite character in it?
There are so many things I love about this book; it’s difficult to pick a best. I love the settings best, I think I like the idea on a hot, sizzling romance blossoming in the beautiful sites of the Obudu Cattle Ranch. I’m already imagining Beba kissing Kambi by the natural spring and in the lake. But I’ll stop there. I wouldn’t want to ruin anything for the reader.
- Do you have a specific writing style?
It depends on the project I’m working on. My short stories would be different from my romance novel. These are two different genres.
I employ whatever writing style best conveys the message I’m trying to pass across. But I’m careful to keep things simple enough.
- What are your current projects, any other book coming soon?
I’m working on another romance novel and a short story. The romance novel is a sequel to Finding Love Again. It’s all still work-in-progress and so I won’t talk much about it.
- Do you see writing as a full time career or do you have another day job?
For now, writing is very much a part-time career. In the day time, I go to an office where I work as an IT (User) Support Officer.
- Can you share a little about your writing routine? How does your career impact in your writing?
I do not have a definite writing routine. Because my life is quite full, I have to make the most of what is available to me. Most times, i have to write after dinner. This means I have to give up TV and movies, so that I can write till midnight or thereabout. But I was lucky to have had the chance to rewrite Finding Love Again at the Ebedi Hills Writers Residency. It was wonderful to have my own writing space and all the time I needed. I will forever remain grateful to Dr. Wale Okediran for giving me that opportunity.
My day job gives me a chance to interact with different people and engage with them in ways I find stimulating.
- This is your first novel. Tell us what inspired it, and details about how you got published.
On Easter Monday, a bride was left standing alone at the altar at a certain St. Peter’s Parish, a colleague once told me. And I began to imagine how she must have felt about her groom not showing up, and what she might do with her life afterwards. I also wondered if she might open herself up to love again and how that might happen.
On getting published: I started out querying two of the most prominent Nigerian publishing houses, which I knew were searching for romance fiction. I thank Osemhen Akhibi for furnishing me with all the contacts. One of the Cassava republic editors contacted me and asked for the rest of the manuscript (I’d sent the first three pages alongside my query letter). Few weeks later, she emailed and suggested a rewrite which I completed in a month. I applaud her for her persistence and her encouraging emails. But for her support, it’s possible I might have given up on this project. With time, she sent me a contract agreement which I signed and voila! I had found a home for my baby book.
- Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Writing isn’t something I find tasking, especially when I know what it is i want to write about and how. Perhaps, it’s because I enjoy doing it. But the editing process—another level of writing—can be quite challenging. There were times when I thought, Oh God, I hope I’ll be able to come up with decent enough writing for the editors and the publishers. And there were times when a mean voice in my head would say, hey! Just give up already.
I often forced myself to think positively every time I thought about writing. I still do. Sometimes, i would play an encouraging old-school song (I’m an old-school junkie), or listen to a fiction or non-fiction podcast or I’d read a book, a short story, a literary magazine (I find writer’s digest very helpful).
- When and why did you begin writing? When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I started writing before I turned ten. I used to take my father’s old diaries and scribble my thoughts in them. It was when I first started experiencing long spells of sadness and dread in the first boarding school I had been sent to. I could barely cope. Thankfully, my parents withdrew me from that school and sent me to a much better one, but I’d already found a new love—writing. It was easier for me to express myself in written words especially because I had already been known as the tiny-voiced girl who spoke ‘like an oracle’, as a teacher once said.
When I was twelve, going on thirteen, the teachers in the state went on strike and so our junior WAEC exams had to be postponed. I wrote and completed a YA novel in my spare-time and found a book cover design for it. Although, that book never got published, I began to consider of myself a writer.
- What books have most influenced your life most?
Buchi Emecheta’s autobiography, Head Above Water. It taught me about life: the roles of Free Will, predestination and time and chance.
Nnamdi Azikiwe’s autobiography, Odyssey.
Elizabeth Gilbert’s Memoir, Eat Pray Love
- Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I like several authors. I like Chika Unigwe’s simple, yet striking writing style. I like Buchi Emecheta’s openness. I like Chimamanda Adichie’s writing for its boldness. And there’s A. Igoni Barret’s unique voice which I love so much. And Nze Sylva Ifedigbo whose scifi I can’t forget. I also like Emma Darcy’s romance novels. I am sorry, but it’s difficult to pick a favourite.
- If you had to choose, which writer would you say writes in about the same line or genre as your book? You know, like if you like this book, then you'll also like mine?
I wish I didn’t have to choose. But in some ways, Emma Darcy’s novels have greatly influenced my book.
- Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? What books are you reading now?
Yes, there new authors who have grasped my interest. Ola Awonubi, Sifa Asani Gowon, Oyindamola Affinih, Amara Nicole Okolo and Amina Thula.
- Will you be having a book launch, what other ways is the book being promoted?
There was a book launch on twitter and facebook on the 15th of December 2014. It was a very lively one where people were asked to talk about their first loves.
The book is also being promoted in media outlets all over the world.
- You are working with Ankara Press. How has your experience been with them?
My experience with Ankara Press has been a pleasant one. The staff are easy to work with.
- What do you think of the Nigerian publishing industry?
I think it’s a viable and growing sector which needs to be supported by the government.
- What comments do you have about the reading culture in Nigeria?
Nigerians are ardent readers of text messages, online chats and facebook updates. But it has improved over time. Unfortunately, there’s so much competing for attention these days.
- Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
If you stopped believing in love (or you know someone who has), Finding Love Again will make you believe again. FLA promises to be entertaining and empowering too.
- Where can we purchase the book?
You can buy from the online store at http://www.ankarapress.com/products/finding-love-again