Meet an author: Amara Nicole Okolo
Amara is a young lawyer living in Abuja. She loves cupcakes, green tea and her tabby kitten, Timber. One of her life-long dreams is to bungee-jump from the Victoria Falls, but for now she is settling for hiking up the hill near her house. She has authored two novels: Black Sparkle Romance and Son of Man. She was nice enough to engage us in a conversation. Read the interview here:
1. When did you start writing and why?
Theoretically? When I was eight. There was no particular reason. I draw and paint, so one day I drew this picture that had a story to tell beyond the sketches. I decided to make it an illustration book. Then the next day I began writing a small novel, The Fate of Ngozi, and have never stopped since then.
2. At what point do you know that a story/book is complete?
When I pause for more than 5 minutes and start thinking of the next line to write. Literally! For me, there is a difference from leaving a story for a while to attend to other stuff with the intention to come back, and leaving a story because it’s done. Writing comes like a flow to me…I never stop typing until everything is out. If I start analysing and thinking about it, it’s no longer a story…it’s a thesis. So even if it’s half a paragraph, if it isn’t coming as easy as it was the first time, I know the story/book wants to end right there, and I honour its request.
3. What’s the hardest/easiest thing about writing?
The hardest, I’d say is finding the time to write, the perfect place to write, and overcoming distraction. The easiest thing about writing is thinking that writing is easy. It isn’t. Writing is brutal, it makes one bleed. Sometimes you are not in the mood to write or the right state of mind but it is like a force overcoming you to put down words else you will never be free. So you do it, just to liberate yourself.
The easiest thing about writing is thinking that it is easy. It isn’t. Writing is brutal. Click To Tweet
4. What books would you say shaped your writing?
As a child I was a voracious reader — I’d read Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights today and be fixated on Enid Blyton’s Famous Five the next day. I basically read everything that had a cover and leaves in it, and these books, journals and magazines all shaped my writing in a way. But there are some books/stories that stood out: Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Sarah S Allen’s Ginger Hill, The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank, 1984 by George Orwell, Girls At War by Chinua Achebe, Measuring Time by Helon Habila, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Only Son by John Munonye, Efuru by Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emechata’s Second Class Citizen, Vegetarian by Rachel Heng and A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara. I also loved all the Pacesetter Series books.
5. Are you working on anything at the moment?
Yes. I am currently finishing up a short story (which is not so short), and I am also starting a new novel. I’ve written just a paragraph for the novel in five months because it is emotionally draining for me, but I will continue. I am hoping I do, I’ve got thousands of words to go anyway!
6. How do you feel about bad reviews?
Sad (laughs). Actually I feel buoyed by bad reviews because, let’s face it…not everyone will like what you write. If everyone liked what I write then I’ll know I suck at writing, and I will automatically stop. So I respect bad reviews and make their criticism constructive enough for me to do better. However, reviews that attack my person and not the work itself, I do not accept.
7. If you could be a character in a novel you’ve read, who would you be and why?
Now this was tough. But I will go with Liz Gilbert from Eat Pray Love and Cheryl Strayed from Wild. Combine both together, make her a black woman, and you’ll have me.
8. If your life was a book, what would the title be?
Finding Rainbows On Trees (And Other Very Exciting Things).
9. Tell us something about yourself that your readers probably don’t know.
I read Braille. As a teenager I was assigned by my Literature teacher to tutor a young girl who was blind, for six months. On the last day, she brought her books and taught me how to read them, and at the last page was her thank-you message. It remains one of the most selfless things anyone has done for me.