Saturday, July 18, 2009

Literature is life, live it:: Unoma Azuah

Three adjectives that best describe you

Quiet, Ambitious, Long-suffering.

When and why did you decide to become a writer?

The stories my grandmother told me as a child made me fall in love with tales and the imaginary world. Consequently, I decided to stick with it because I enjoyed it. I was a very melancholic child, so I kept journals as an outlet for the many emotions I was battling with as a child with many unanswered questions. Journaling now became a habit that landed me on a springboard for writing generally.

What is the secret to being a fine writer?

Hard work; willingness to learn new tricks; willingness to be receptive to criticism; patience, perseverance and studying the masters continuously. And of course the talent has to be there.

Your first story written

My first written story is a very didactic short story set in my university dormitory then in Okpara Hall at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. I think it was entitled “Bright Lights,” something like that. I assessed some of the trends on campus then, romance, and desperation for money, parties, sex, etc. I don’t know where I kept it. I’d be ashamed to publish it. I guess I was trying to vent per all the so called “immorality” that I witnessed as a student then.

Greatest achievement in writing career

I think that the greatest is yet to come. However, I still glow with pride whenever I am reminded that my debut novel Sky-high Flames won back-to-back literary awards in 2006 both in Nigeria and the US.

What do you think of Nigerian writing, are we there yet?

We are blessed with a huge amount of talented writers. Unfortunately, a good number of us are yet to get the outlet needed to display our awesome creativity, if you ask me. The publishing scene in Nigeria is pathetic to say the least. And this is because the economy is in shambles. Vanity presses run amok while it is near impossible to find independent publishers who are scouting for good materials. Where they exist, they are few and far between. So we will get there someday.

What is your philosophy of life?

Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.

What is the motive behind the title Length of Light?

That title came out of the fact that I celebrate my characters no matter how dark or evil they maybe. There is always a good side to every person regardless of what becomes their fate. Therefore the redeeming qualities of my characters are symbolic of light which cannot be trapped, has not specific length and is endless.

Is the world ready for our stories?

Why not? And if they are not, we should force it on them. Laugh out loud! Can’t wait for them to be ready.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Nothing really: my creator is a perfect God.

Your house is on fire, what will you take with you?

My manuscripts and my certificates. Laugh out loud!

What is your advice to young writers?

Read, read, and read!

What would a story about your life be called?

Embracing My Shadow. I hope to have it out when I am 50.

Who is your perfect reader?

A reader that is voracious.

What is African literature to you?

A minefield of unique creativity and history.

Longest Writer’s block; why and how did you break it?

I got my longest writer’s block when I relocated to the US. For more than two years, I could barely write anything. When I did finally write, it was mostly abstract poetry.

What is the last thing you read that made you laugh?

A cartoon in the Vanguard Newspapers about how NEPA bills are consistent but never the NEPA itself.

What inspires your writing?

Life, living and people.

Which of your works was the most challenging for you to write?

My poem entitled “Home is Where the Heart Hurts.”

What is the meaning of your name?

My Igbo name which my grandmother gave me is Unoma. It means a child born in a good home. So Unoma means good home. My Tiv name which my father gave me is Nguemo: God is with me

How does being a Nigerian affect your work?

It makes some people curious, while it makes some others want to stereotype me and try to put me in a box.

What does it mean to be a writer?

Loneliness and hard work that may not fetch you a fortune in your life time..

Final words on your epitaph

Literature is life, live it!


  1. Great interview! Almost every line a quotable. I will definitely check her out. :)

  2. "What is your advice to young writers?

    Read, read, and read!"

    Great advice...will continue to take it to heart.

  3. Indeed, this was a really good thought-provoking interview. I enjoyed the questions and the answers.

    What does it mean to be a writer?: "Loneliness and hard work that may not fetch you a fortune in your life time." This is so true!

  4. love your interviews. Think I have to start reviewing some of your guests on my blog. However, their books are hard to come by in Ghana. It took me a while and a friend's kindness to get Chimamanda's Half of a Yellow Sun. Please tell these authors to try and circulate their works also in Africa for their stories are our stories. We would buy and read them and I would review it on my blog.