Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Meet Eghosa Imasuen

What’s the meaning of each of your names?
Eghosa means “God’s time;” Imasuen means “We have only just begun.”

Which talent would you most like to have?
I wish I could play a musical instrument.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Absentmindedness. I tend to get lost in things, in the moment. I would like to not need to study everything so intensely.

What is the last thing you read that made you laugh?
Why do I say these things? A memoir by Jonathan Ross; he is a British comic so you can imagine.

What kind of book would you call To Saint Patrick?
A novel. An Alternate History novel. A thriller.

What is the worth of a book?
I know I am supposed to give a profound answer to this question but I cannot think of anything. What’s a book worth? The story it contains? The paper it’s printed on? The hearts and minds that are touched by it?

Why did you choose to base your work on Nigerian past history?
I guess it was something I was comfortable with. I suppose it was something that needed doing. You know? You read all these books, all these books about exotic locales, and spies, and beautiful women. And you think, “Why can’t my place be exotic? Why can’t my women be beautiful? How do I interpret my own stories for the modern thriller, the modern suspense novel?” To Saint Patrick is my attempt to do so.

How does being a Nigerian influence your writing?
I guess it’s mostly with the language. There is a way we speak. And I try my best to interpret this on the page. I do not apologise for sounding and writing the way I do (unapologetic. Another Nigerian trait.) And also with the story-telling – something I feel every Nigerian is blessed with.

When is the best time to write for you?
Late at night. When the twins and wife are asleep.

Can anyone be taught how to write?
Yes. Almost everything can be taught. What cannot be taught is the ability to see stories in the most mundane of activities; to see beauty in the simplest of things. That ability is inborn. It cannot be taught and very few writers actually have it. But the craft? That like most crafts can be taught.

Have you ever bought a copy of your book?
Plenty-plenty. My stingy friends think I need to buy it for them since they were there when I wrote it. So I have bought maybe 28 copies of my book.

Writers that influenced you
Not the usual suspects, I’m afraid. Mostly the Sci-Fi greats Isaac Asimov (for his simplicity, his perceived artlessness); Kurt Vonnegut (for his immeasurable brilliance); Ben Elton (for his wit); and Chimamanda N Adichie (for her skill.) they are many more but I would like to think that in the future when I am read people will say, “Hey this writer’s influences are obviously [insert any of the names above]. You understand what I’m trying to say?

What is the book that changed your life?
The Lord of the Flies, by Golding. We studied it in secondary school. And I read and re-read it even after passing the exams. It was just a beautiful book; an achy, dark ride through the human nature, threading the very thin line that separates us from savagery. And Golding made the telling seem so easy, so doable. I think a seed was planted then.

What inspires your writing?
You know those ideas you get that won’t let you go? When there something nagging, and nagging? You postpone and postpone until one day you just sit down and write? Do you know those? Stuff like that inspire my writing. It’s not a continuous thing; it comes and goes. The only thing that’s constant is that masochistic tendency to want to go through the entire painful exercise again.

What is your advice to young writers?
Work on your craft. Work. Nobody owes you anything. Write and be the best you can be. (And note the caveat in the last sentence. You cannot be better than you actually are. Find out quickly if you have any talent. If you do not, quit quickly; there is nothing romantic about this profession.)

What do you think of publishing in Nigeria?
Crawling. Soon it will stand again. Na small-small. Remember the Warri adage: Person wey escort beggar go cinema na’im dey carry come back. We started this thing, we will bring it home.

What should we expect from you in the near future?
A second novel. A few more short stories. I have been working forever on the second novel. Hopefully it should be done soon.

Define literature in a sentence
A Slice of Life; a slice of life taken and preserved for eternity.

What’s the hardest thing to write about?
Sex. There is a very fuzzy boundary here. When do you present its beauty; when do you overdo it and become silly and over-poetic? How do you present the reality of it; when do you stop writing fiction and deviate in porn? Funny conundrum, eh, for something so common-place.

What is your greatest fear?
That I will fail. I fear that. And shame. I fear shame too. These drive me; make me try my best to succeed.

What book would you give to someone who had time-travelled from another era, to paint a picture of the 21st century?
I think it still too early for books on the 21st century. But to risk it I would pick a book from the end of the last century. It’s titled “Stark!” It’s a dark, eerily prophetic, satire about the near future by Ben Elton. Your readers should look it up in Wikipedia. It’s a brilliant book.

What sort of books would be your guilty pleasure?
Medical books. I actually enjoy reading them. Very unsexy, eh?

Philosophy of life
Know your limits; there is nothing as unattractive/unsexy as a self-deluded optimist with a superiority complex. That’s why I don’t really send the new secular Pentecostalism: this motivational speaker thing.

What does it mean to be a writer?
You hold the trust of your readers. You promise to hold them, always, in the highest esteem and treat them with respect, you promise to make them laugh, make them cry, make them think. All this without disrespecting their intelligence. And you owe your people the promise to tell their stories.


  1. What a quaint but truthful interview. Well done to Eghosa. We just finished his book and my hubby was inspired by it.

  2. Loved, loved this interview, his book is so effing brilliant!

  3. Very enlightening interview. Ride on, big bro.