Author Ngozi Achebe ~ Interviewed

Ngozi Achebe was born in London and raised in Nigeria in a middleclass family; the daughter of Augustine, a civil engineer and Matilda, a nurse. Her uncle is Chinua Achebe, author, Professor at Brown University, and critic, best known for his book Things Fall Apart (1958), which is the most widely read book in modern African literature.

Her early unpublished writings were about the darkness of war and survival having been one of the children that lived through the Biafran war – a catastrophic event that engulfed 1960’s Nigeria and a potent definer of many childhood memories.

She currently lives in Olympia, Washington and is a practicing physician.

What two or three things would you do differently if you were starting your publishing career today?

I am just starting. I wish I had started earlier though.

What one issue makes you struggle the most as an author? How do you handle it?

Finding time as a mother, physician and teacher to do my writing. But it is a struggle I enjoy. I’d rather have too much to do any day than not have enough.

What is the best writing (or life) advice you have ever heard or wished you had followed? Why?

Don’t have ceremonies around your writing. Just do it.

What one issue ignites your passion? Does your passion fuel your writing? What would you do with your life if you didn’t write?

Ordinary people doing extraordinary things without knowing it and me writing about it. My characters are inspired by real life people I meet casually or don’t even meet at all!

Tell us a bit about your current project.

I’m writing a coming of age novel of a child growing up in a war-torn country. I’m trying to inject some humor into it because there can be humor in adversity.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work, or struggle in a particular area such as writers block or angst driven head-banging against walls? Please share some helpful overcoming hints that you’ve discovered.

Absolutely. Sometimes I look at my work and think about more effective ways I could have said something. It can drive you mad sometimes!

What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?

People and things around me. I know it sounds corny but there’s an old English saying that goes like this There’s nowt as strange as folke. We are all a little strange in our own way. That strangeness is my inspiration.

Share a dream or something you’d love to accomplish through your writing career.

I would like this book Onaedo The Blacksmiths Daughter to be read by students of history especially in Nigeria, in Africa.

What gives you the greatest writer buzz, makes the trip worth the hassles (besides coffee or other substances, or course )?

Seeing the finished product- The Book. Its almost like giving birth.

What is one of the more unique or strange life experiences that has really given you an extra oomph in your writing?

Being the survivor in the late sixties and early seventies of a three year civil war in Nigeria as a child. My siblings and I went through things no child should go through, living constantly in the shadow of death. I have always been drawn to make allusions to that period of my life in all my writing.

Describe your special or favorite writing spot or send a picture if you’d like.

My kitchen island. I can raid the fridge when I get writer’s block!

What is the first thing you do when you begin a new book?

Write down everything that comes into my head. I’m not as organized in my writing as I am in my practice of medicine

Plot, seat of pants or combination?

Usually seat of pants.

Have you received a particularly memorable reader response or peer honor? Please share.

My uncle Chinua Achebe the world renowned author of many books including his most famous Things Fall Apart, is called the godfather of African literature. A reader once compared me favorably with him. To me it was like being compared to Shakespeare.

Have you discovered any successful marketing/promo ideas that you’d share with us?

Not yet. Ask me again in two years.