An Interview: Ola Awonubi’s Priceless Writing Advice!

ON the 15th of December, Ankara Press released six sizzling romance novels. My debut novel, Finding Love Again, was one of them. Ola Awonubi’s Love’s Persuasion is another beautiful romance in the Ankara Series.

I spoke to Ola Awonubi about her intriguing romance novel and other things.

Ola Awonubi was born in London to Nigerian parents and raised in Nigeria. On returning to England, she went on to spend three years taking intermediate and advanced writing courses at the Centerprise Literature Development project in Hackney before studying for an MA in Creative writing and Imaginative Practice at the University of East London. In 2008 and 2009 respectively, she won two prizes; one for the short story ‘The Pink House’ in the National Words of Colour competition, the other, ‘The Go-Slow Journey’ for the Wasafiri New Writing Prize in the fiction category.

CWN:     Tell us a bit about what inspired you to be a writer?

OA: I have always had a vivid imagination and used to make up stories in my head when I was a kid. I remember being about five years old when I used take my Ladybird and Enid Bryton books and write short stories around them with black characters. I have always loved writing and when I was in secondary school – English literature was my favourite subject and I would end up reading more of the African Writers Series or books from the ‘Pacesetters ‘series than my Biology or Physics books!
CWN:     What inspired you to write this book?
OA: A wide range of themes really. I would say I try to write about Universal themes really things that people anywhere in the world can identify with. Family, love, relationships are a particular interest. Loves Persuasion reminded me of when I was growing up as a teenager in Nigeria and watching how society framed and set the parameter of many women’s lives and I wanted to create a young lady who wanted more than what society dictated she should be content with.
CWN: Are you a full time writer or is writing just one of your hobbies?
OA: I work full time and I write in whatever is left of that time! Writing has gone beyond a hobby for me. I try to write whenever I can.
CWN: Where can your book be purchased?
OA: My book can be purchased on the link below – straight from the Ankara Press website!
CWN: Who are your favourite authors and what book are you reading at the moment
OA: Chinua Achebe, Cyprian Ekwensi, Buchi Emecheta, Doris Lessing, Jane Austen and Francine Rivers.
I am currently reading – The boy next door by Irene Sabatini – it is a coming of age story in post-independence Zimbabwe.

CWN: What did you enjoy most about writing this novel?

OA: Seeing the characters develop and take shape -listen to them in my head and write the words I think they would say.
CWN: What are your current projects, any other book coming soon?
OA: I am currently working on a collection of short stories based on the African experience as well as another romantic novel based in Nigeria. I always look out for short story competitions I can submit my entries to such as Bridport, Mslexia, Short Story prize and the Commonwealth writers prize to mention a few.
Currently working on a world war 2 period romance and would love to write a screenplay one day. I like would like to write a period drama one day – Downtown Abbey and war movies like Atonement are favourites.
CWN:What is your take on the poor reading culture in Nigeria? In your opinion, what do you think can be done to change it?
OA:I remember growing up in Nigeria and books like Pacesetters, Mills and Boons, James Hadley Chase and Danielle Steele were widely read. Libraries were probably better stocked than they are now and if you could afford to buy a new book you got it second-hand or exchanged with friends.
I don’t think there is a poor reading culture – I think that with the emphasis on getting jobs which is quite understandable – reading for pleasure has been relegated and people spend their hard earned money on text books and educational material to better their chances in the over-saturated employment market.
 I don’t think we have lost our love of reading – it is just that people are being more practical.
This is why Ankara needs to be applauded for producing books that can be read on different mediums, cost less than books and open up reading for everyone – stopping it from becoming an elitist preserve.
CWN:  If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor? 
OA: Buchi Emecheta.
CWN: Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
OA: ·         Engage the senses six senses when you write. Make the reader smell, taste and see as they  read.
·         A short story is a snapshot so you do not have the luxury to flesh out your characters or settings   like a novel. Get to the point.
·         Don’t add too many characters and the few you have – make memorable.
·         Show and don’t tell
·         Make your beginning make me sit up and want to keep on reading.
·         Make your ending make the story linger on in my head. Give it a punch. Think of one of the shortest stories ever told by Hemingway. Baby Shoes Never Worn. Wow. That tells such a story but it does have a beginning, a middle and an end.
·         Use the internet. It is your friend – a great resource and you have the opportunity to showcase yourself to the world.
CWN:  What genre of music and movies is your favourite? And do they inspire your writing.
OA Gospel and R & B. I like Yolanda Adams and Stevie Wonder.
Movies – legal TV dramas and movies, romantic films, old movies – I was watching the Count of Montecristo the other day. I watched The Best Man and Why did I get married by Tyler Perry.  I like movies about life and relationships and I guess that feeds into my writing.

Ola Awonubi’s first novel was published by Ankara Press. Love’s Persuasion can be found HERE.
Follow Ola Nubi on twitter via @createandwrite.

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