Meet an author: Irenosen Okojie
Irenosen Okojie is a writer and Arts Project Manager. Her debut novel Butterfly Fish won a Betty Trask award and was shortlisted for an Edinburgh International First Book Award. Her work has been featured in The Observer,The Guardian, the BBC and the Huffington Post amongst other publications. Her short stories have been published internationally.
1. When did you start writing and why?
I wrote as a child. I wrote short prose poems and kept diaries full of observations. It was a fun way to express myself, to make sense of the world.
2. At what point do you know that a story/book is complete?
I think initially you’re just happy to come to an ending! This is always a good feeling. After a few drafts the ending may or may not change. It has to make sense for the story’s arc. You know instinctively when it does. I love writing beginnings and endings, the middle parts are the hardest, I feel.
3. What’s the hardest/easiest thing about writing?
Facing the blank page is the hardest, just getting into that initial flow. The easiest is the other side of that. Once the flow happens the momentum builds.
It’s almost like the writing’s pouring out of you. Writing is joyous when it’s like that.
As a writer, you're resigned to the fact that not everybody will like the work. Click To Tweet
4. What books would you say shaped your writing?
I would say I drew inspiration from these books more so than shaping the writing. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Buchi Emecheta’s books, Wildseed by Octavia Butler, Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood, Jesus’s Son by Denis Johnson, Matilda and The Twits by Roahld Dahl. Iced by Ray Shell. That book is astonishing. I wish Ray Shell would write another novel. Toni Morrison’s books for sure. Rosa Guy’s books, Amy Tan’s novels.
5. Are you working on anything at the moment?
I’m working on one or two commissioned short pieces. I’m enjoying getting back into the writing process.
6. How do you feel about bad reviews?
I’m not fussed. As a writer, you’re resigned to the fact that not everybody will get or like the work. That’s okay. Sometimes, it’s a backhanded compliment.
Some genuinely interesting stuff polarises people.
7. If you could be a character in a novel you’ve read, who would you be and why?
I wouldn’t be her but I like Janie Crawford from Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. Fearless, very liberated for her time.
8. If your life was a book, what would the title be?
I’m going to borrow Nalo Hopkinson’s Brown Girl In The Ring.
9. Tell us something about yourself that your readers probably don’t know.
I like watching true life forensic shows. I find it fascinating the way some cases are solved.
Once upon a time I planned to become a lawyer but went the creative route instead.