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the Word Prolific, You Think of an Author Like Ikenna Okeh! “Honestly, I can’t think of

“Honestly, I can’t think of a better word to qualify his quality as a prolific modern Writer. Ikenna Okeh has proven to be a ROUND writer.” Darlington Chukwunyere

(Author, Poet and Screenwriter) Ikenna Okeh. Over the weekend, Ikenna Okeh Had a Brief discussion

(Author, Poet and Screenwriter)

Ikenna Okeh.

Over the weekend, Ikenna Okeh Had a Brief discussion with the founder of Viddawood, Darlington Chukwunyere. It was such an insightful moment, as Ikenna revealed some interesting and edifying truths about himself.

Darlington:

Thank you so much Ikenna for granting us few moments of your time. You seem very excited today, mind sharing details with us?

Ikenna:

Thank you, Darlington. Believe me, you won’t want me to take up your time in telling you the reason for my excitement. I’ll tell you about it after now. It’s not a promise, by the way.

What actually led to your becoming a writer?

Ikenna:

I’d say that I’ve always had a love for books. I read a whole lot growing up. It was a friend back in junior secondary school who suggested that I could become a writer; he had seen a short play I wrote after reading his own. It would surprise you to know that that friend was Onyeka Nwelue. However, I was blatant in my refusal to dream of being a writer. I mean, the author photographs I saw at the backs of the novels I read never appealed to my senses. If for anything, I thought them to look poor. And since I didn’t want to be poor, I made up my mind to study Medicine. Long story short, I didn’t study Medicine. I never got admitted to study it. I studied Sciences instead. One thing led into another until I discovered that if I am to find meaning in living, I will have to write and make a living out of writing.

What Genres are your core areas of expertise? And what genre(s) is your no-go-area?

Ikenna:

I write narrative poetry simply for the power of description and the beauty in words. Commercially, I write thrillers. So far, all four of my crime novels are set in contemporary Nigeria. You will never catch me meddling with romance. I have nothing against the genre other than the fact that it holds no personal interests for me. Of course there is always elements of romance in crime fiction, but it goes as far as being the spice and not the substance.

course there is always elements of romance in crime fiction, but it goes as far as
I have read most of your books, you are a prodigious writer. So, tell me,

I have read most of your books, you are a prodigious writer. So, tell me, where do you see yourself in the next five years?

Ikenna:

In the next five years, I’ll have written the best book of all I have so far written. And I hope to have sold my books in astronomical numbers. Thanks for using the word ‘prodigious’ in your description of my writing. You’re very generous.

Two of your latest publications have been trending on the internet recently; they seem to be making waves at the book shops. How have you been faring with the marketing? Any tips on where or how your books can be found/accessed?

Ikenna:

‘A Tale To Twist’ and ‘ An Eye For An Isle’ have been doing quite well for themselves in terms of public acceptance. I get encouraging feedback from readers both locally and from corners of the world where I’ve never been to. It makes me glad for the effort put into writing and publishing it. Like all of my books, they are available on major ebook stores globally. As for marketing tips, I’ll say that social media remains my most useful tool for creating awareness and securing sales of my books; both print and ebook copies. It’s been a remarkable experience with everyday coming with its own lessons. I’m still getting my books into bookshops both in Nigeria, through my contact, and in Cyprus where I’ll be living for the next couple of years. In addition, a good number of my books have been translated and sold to Chinese readers.

for the next couple of years. In addition, a good number of my books have been
What inspired your latest book and why was it so important that you must share

What inspired your latest book and why was it so important that you must share with the world?

Ikenna:

My latest book is a thriller titled ‘The Operative’. The aim is to give people something as riveting and action-packed as James Hadley Chase’s in a wholly Nigerian setting. It’s concise, offers insight into contemporary Nigeria that escapes the cursory eye, and suspenseful. I am hopefully giving readers something that they won’t want to let down till the very end. ‘The Operative’ is inspired out of a need to fill a gap that exists in local niche publishing. It’s evident that lovers of thrillers do not have books by local authors in that genre. I’m not only filling it, but I’m making it worth their while.

As a writer, do you have a mentor? Who is he/she? And how has he/she influenced your writing?

Ikenna:

I do not have a mentor actually. But I read a lot and I still do. I’m intrigued by great writing styles and descriptive forms of writing such as explain minutest details with seeming ease. I love such and they inspire me to stretch my descriptive and narrative faculties. A lot of authors and books have shaped me, but the greatest of them pointed me within myself.

What is your greatest challenge as a Nigerian Writer?

Ikenna:

The challenges of a local writer in Nigeria are endless. To make it simple, impossibility stares you in the face in Nigeria. It daily waits upon you even while you sleep. It haunts you, compounds your fears, magnify your doubts and dares you to hope. It’s in the people who see you as an eccentric, the systems or the lack of it, in everything. You have every negative incentive to give up on being a writer in Nigeria.

If you were asked to make any changes today in African Literature, what would you

change?

Ikenna:

There is nothing problematic about African Literature. The problem is in African countries. You see, when a people are set upon a progressive path, and have advanced upon that path to a stage where they aren’t haunted by the constant fear of insecurity, and fear for the means to life, then it becomes a matter of course that they begin to seek beauty in everything which their hands find to do. To the cursory attention, there is no beauty to be seen or heard about in Africa. It’s not a problem inherent in the people per se, the fault lies with the economics; and of course this is a factor of bad politics because you can’t divorce politics from macro-economics. So, to drive home my point, rather than bother with symptoms while leaving the disease unattended to, I will say that to get it right, literarly, artistically or otherwise, we must fix our politics. It really is in a disgusting state.

Aside being a Writer, do you have other career paths, hobbies or aspirations?

Ikenna:

I’m basically a writer. And because I am an Igbo man and unapologetically so, I see the economics in whatever I do, writing inclusive. I am also a co-founder of UbuntuFM. UbuntuFM operates online radio stations specialized with generic music. So we have UbuntuFMHipHop, UbuntuFM Reggae, UbuntuFM Soul which is soon to be launched, and UbuntuFM Africa. There’s also UbuntuFM Music which specializes in promotion, digital publishing, distribution and sales of music tracks and albums. We serve clients from many corners of the worlds, both indie music artists, record labels and PR firms. The philosophy behind UbuntuFM is to contribute our quota to the inter-dependence of the human community, and music is our tool for spreading the message of Ubuntu as properly defined by traditional Swahili. I have an eye on film, but that’s as much of it for now.

Some people believe that African literature began with Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe, How true is this assertion?

Ikenna:

By 1933, Chinua Achebe had not written ‘Things Fall Apart’ and neither had Wole Soyinka written his first book. They are both literary legends. However it all depends on what we understand as African Literature. Does your village not have its own literature? Did its existence wait until after ‘Things Fall Apart’? Pita Nwanna wrote ‘Omenuko’ in 1933. It’s a book in the Igbo language. But should it not be counted as African Literature? Could it not be possible that someone has written a notable book in Swahili or Egbane before 1933? Or should we start counting our beginning from the stage where the West met us? Like I said, it all depends on our definition of ‘African Literature’.

Do you think people can make a living out of writing, in Nigeria?

Ikenna:

Yes. A hundred percent. The person has to be ready to walk the walk, though, and it will be worth the thorns.

What is your personal advice to other writers in Nigeria and the world in general, both established and upcoming?

For the established writer, please keep writing. Your successes are the light we glimpse in the dank tunnels which we must pass through. Also, I have something else to say to the established writer of African decent especially:

We are Africans. You owe a great responsibility to the generality of Africans. You must never present yourselves as willing tools to forces who have long besieged us on every front, to program our thoughts as befits their agenda. Not everything exotic holds a promise of good, not especially the derogation of something as sublime as womanhood, in whatever guise it may be presented, whether ‘feminism’ or whatever. Anchor your art in the spiritual and you will be serving towards the up-building of the African people. As for the upcoming writers, write, write … write. But talent isn’t enough. Onyeka Nwelue always says so. Talent isn’t enough. You still have to get your head up. Your book is a product, and as such it is subject to the effect of economic factors. Treat it as such. But know that it’s also a work of art. It lives. Sell your art, but never your soul.

It has been an insightful moment with you, Ikenna. Thank you for your time. We do hope to see more great Reads from your ingenuity sir.

Ikenna: Thank you. I’m most grateful.

Click here to view Ikenna’s Author page.