Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Week of Tortoise Tales by Kate Iffy - Author Interview

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Kate Iffy Chukwu is the author of A Week of Tortoise Tales. She attended Federal Government Girls’ College Onitsha, before moving to England where she still lives with her family. Kate has a degree in Business Economics and a master’s degree in Creative Writing. Along the way, she's done some TV presenting - reviewing African movies - and she has also featured in a couple of Nollywood movies. Since Kate became and author, she volunteers by reading and telling stories in local schools. In this interview, she shares her writing an life with us...

- What inspires you to write?

My day-dreams inspire me. Reading other peoples work, inspire me. Also, knowing that life is short and that there are so many things I would love to see written in books, inspires me to want to write about them.

- Do you have a specific writing style?

At the moment, my style is clear and simple for the everyday reader.

- What are your current projects?

I’m working on completing my first full length novel at the moment. I’m also working on another children book. That’s why I’ve haven’t completed either!!! lol.

- Do you see writing as a full-time career or will it remain part-time?

At the moment, I’ll keep it as a part-time interest.

- Can you share a little about your writing routine?

My day is packed with various tasks so I tend to write at night when everyone is asleep. I try to do some writing for about an hour at least. Some days I write more, some days less (this is when I’ve completely forgotten how time consuming browsing the web and updating web pages could take).  But I do try to write everyday no matter how little. Whenever I leave a gap in writing, it takes me quite a while to continue from where I left off.

How does having children impact in your writing?

With the children, my writing has been more expressive. I tend to think and imagine how they would react or what they would say in certain scenarios. In A Week of Tortoise Tales, my kids were my first editor’s – reading the stories aloud and telling me what they thought and what I could change. It was lovely.

 - This is your first book. Tell us what inspired it, and details about how you got published.

I’d been telling bedtime stories to my kids, in particular stories I remembered from my days of watching Tales by Moonlight and tales of the Tortoise (mbe) my late grandmother used to tell us in Igbo when we visited her house at her village in Otolo, Nnewi. But one evening, I was so exhausted. When the kids asked for a story, I told them to go read their story books from the library. But they said they wanted to hear another Tortoise story. All of a sudden, something occurred to me and I thought, why don’t I write a book about the Tortoise that the kids can read without relying on me to tell them the stories? That was when the dream was born.  Of course the period from writing the first draft to when I held the proof copy in my hand was a totally different story.

I published A Week of Tortoise Tales with Createspace, a self-publishing company, after doing my research. After months of editing, and months of waiting for traditional publishers to say, “I enjoyed the stories but we don’t publish folktales” or “it doesn’t quite fit in with what we have on our list” I decided to self-publish. I was determined to see the finished product.

- Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Time management. I’m still learning how to manage the time between writing, researches, updating my blog, reading/commenting on other people’s blog, doing my personal stuff etc.  Most times I wish I had more than 24hours in a day.

- When and why did you begin writing? When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Back in secondary school, I used to keep a diary, writing down all the punishments that the senior girls used to give junior girls. List who was wicked and who was kind. One day, my bunk mate found it and passed it to our house captain who told me to jump like a frog with both hands on my ears and sing this song she taught me about my “farm diary” she called it then. But that didn’t stop me from writing more. I was only more careful.

I began writing because it was an interest. I began writing because I felt I had a lot of real and imaginative stories inside me. With the surge in internet use, I found out I could write more. So while I was doing an online writing course, I joined the Nigerian Village Square (NVS) back in 2004 or so and posted articles and short stories. When I received my first comments and feedback from readers, I knew I had something to give. Someone to inspire, make laugh. The list was endless.

- What books have most influenced your life most?

I was an avid reader of the Pacesetters series, Wale Okediran and Anezi Okoro’s books back in the days. I think it gave birth to my interest for contemporary African literature. I also love reading Diane Chamberlain and Cathy Glass novels.

- Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I don’t really have a favourite author but I like the works of Chimamanda Adichie. I like the fact that her characters and settings are believable. Her works make me think. They inform and entertain me.

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?

My writing spans across two genres. Children writing (age 4 -9) and Women’s fiction.
For the children’s writing, I would like to say Verna Aardema.
For my fiction novel, which is African literature, I would like to humbly say Buchi Emecheta as it covers issues of migration and male dominance.

- Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? What books are you reading now?

African authors that have grasped my interest are Chika Unigwe, Chibundu Onuzo, Myne Whitman.
I like Eghosa Imasuen’s work, (he was my case-study in one of my projects), Lola Shoneyin and Teju Cole.

I’m currently reading Ghana Must Go, by Taiye Selasi. I also have a couple of children’s picture book I read every now and again.

- You are having your book supported by Ten to Teens Magazine, what other ways is the book being promoted?

I’ve gotten in touch with various children book bloggers to have A Week of Tortoise Tales reviewed on their site. I’m reading/storytelling in local libraries and the response from kids and parents have been overwhelming.

- Do you hope or plan to be published or sold in Nigeria?

Oh yes, already few people in Nigeria (on Facebook) have shown interest in A Week of Tortoise Tales. I’m working on that. There are a lot of things involved, like distribution and price. At the moment, it can be ordered online from Amazon and other online bookstores.

- What comments do you have about the reading culture in Nigeria? 

If you give people something to read that inspires or interests them, they will read. In developed countries, there are initiatives to encourage people to read. There are charities that support reading to children in schools or book donations to public libraries. Libraries are in charge of making books available in different formats to the public. But how many decent (public) libraries can Nigeria boast of? Sadly, the funds are available but unavailable to the direct people responsible for the library and the hundreds of services it can provide.

These days, it can be argued that young people in Nigeria read on line, possibly with their mobile phones and computers. But how many in an overpopulated country have adequate access to online facilities? Even if they do, what about the issue of constant power failure?

If public libraries are set up in different towns and villages, properly funded and maintained, the reading culture will improve dramatically. Some readers will even be inspired to write because there are people to read them. When you give a child, a youth, an adult, even an old person something to read, easier access to read them, they will read. At the moment, it’s “God save Nigeria.”

- Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Thanks for your warm support. I ‘m looking forward to publishing more of my works which I hope you’ll find interesting, inspiring or simply entertaining. You can find out more about me and my works on my blog ( on Facebook (AWeekofTortotoseTales) on twitter (@kateiffychukwu). At the moment, my website is under construction. Thank you.


  1. I'd like to get my hands on this book, great idea. I've shared a tortoise story on my blog, it's unedited though.

  2. From one OSHA girl to another.... Keep up the good work!!!


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