Adimchinma Ibe - Treachery in the Yard (Guest Author)

It is not everyday you find a Nigerian writer featured in the Wall Street Journal but that was what happened earlier this month. I was perusing the WSJ a couple of weeks ago and came across an excerpt of Adimchinma's first novel, Treachery in the Yard, HERE. I was very excited and contacted him the next day through Facebook. It turns out that he lives in Nigeria, Enugu to be exact, and had gotten a contract with St Martin's Press, an imprint of Macmillian, by dint of hardwork. I was really impressed with his perseverance and decided to showcase him here. His book can be pre-ordered from Amazon and will be available in bookstores from the release date of August 3, 2010.

Treachery In The Yard tells about the experiences of Tammy, a homicide detective attached to Port Harcourt State Police headquarters, as the detective struggles against Police corruption, in the political and social atmosphere of the modern day Nigeria. So if you're a fan of detective mysteries like me, and you want to see it happen in Naija, you have your man. Read his interview below and then go over to his blog which he is launching today (29 July) to find out more about him. He is also on Facebook and Twitter.

The Writing Life
- What inspires you to write?
Passion. But I have also discovered that the ideas come in my moments of reflection. I’m inspired to write from what I see around me, the people and happenings. For instance, the events following the return of democracy in Nigeria in 1999. That was how Treachery In The Yard was born. Sometimes too I get ideas watching movies and reading novels of other writers in my genre.

- Do you have a specific writing style?
I try not to limit my writing to writing rules. I don’t need to tailor my writing to conform to any of the established writing styles. I’m a free roller when it comes to my writing style. I don’t want to get stuck in the attic of observing strict writing rules. I choose to express my thoughts in a way and manner I’m comfortable with, bearing in mind my readers’ expectations. I just write!

- What are your current projects?
I recently finished The Patron of Terror, the second in the Tammy Peterside series, and there are at least two other novels in the works for Tammy. I am also looking at a second series of novels, which would feature Father Lewis, a Priest turned detective. He found it difficult to keep the vow he made after discovering that his mentor had a mistress, who turns up pregnant and dead. The working title of that first novel is ‘Mind Of A Saint. The series was inspired by my friend, Victor Schwartzman, a writer from Winnipeg who in the course of our correspondence spanning over four years offered to edit my novels purely on voluntary basis, and I took up the challenge. For me it was an area that crime fiction writers have largely avoided but holds enormous potential for fiction. It will be both challenging and fulfilling writing about a different kind of detective.

- Do you write full-time or do you see writing as an alternate career and will keep it part-time?
I write full-time at this point simply because I don’t have a day job. Probably I couldn’t get one if I wanted to because I don’t have the paper qualifications for I hope to go back to school to get a degree but for me, writing remains my first love. Hope to remain a full time writer, and be employed as such!

- Can you share a little about your writing routine?
I try to go to bed as early as 8:00pm after an early dinner. I get up at 11:30pm and write till three in the morning. At night, it’s quiet and I can concentrate. Then I go back to bed and sleep till 8:00AM. I try to write every night till I finish a novel but sometimes I slack off and skip days. Sometimes too, I write at other times of the day. In the morning, after a late breakfast I go out and take some fresh air, run errands and do the non-writing matters of my life.
After an afternoon rest, I chat with friends and family, maybe watch tv or movies, read. I get a little saturated and take evening strolls. Sometimes, I carry around a little notebook. This helps when an idea hits me. I write it down and flesh it out later.
I am a disciplined writer but sometimes I just can't get my lazy bones out of bed at night to write and I sleep through till morning.
And I must add that my writing routine can be disrupted by my environment. Specifically, some days there is no electrical power at all where I live, so my laptop does not last long! On those days, I seriously consider taking up handwriting again!

- Treachery in the Yard is your first novel. Do you intend detective mystery to be a major theme that runs through most of your work?
Treachery In The Yard is my first novel to be published. I had written a couple others before it, and yes mystery will likely be a major theme in most of my novels but it’s early to say. I might try my hand in other genres.

- What genre are you most comfortable writing?
I would say murder mysteries. But about nine years ago, when I started to write the Tammy Peterside series, I had wanted to write pure murder mysteries, modeled after James Hadley Chase. But after the experiences of the aftermath of the 1999 general elections, I could not ignore our politics. And I felt what better protagonist to relate these concerns through than a homicide lieutenant who had first hand experience with the unholy relationship between the law, criminals and corrupt politicians.

- Does your writing involve a significant amount of research?
Treachery In The Yard is 10% research and 90% firsthand experience. I research by living in and observing my environment. The second novel, about the violence in the Niger Delta, is based on what is happening there now.

- Do you convey a message in your book(s) and would you share them with your audience?
I started writing the novel to tell people about the impact of oil mining and refining in Nigeria, of the pollution and corruption. When someone asks me why I wrote the novel, I say I had to. I had no option but write it. There have been a lot of great novels written by Nigerians about the Pre-colonial era and a score of good novels too talking about the Nigerian civil war. No one writes about modern Nigeria, perhaps because it can be dangerous.
The institutional corruption the novel lays out is a good fit with the mystery genre. The uniquely Nigerian plot elements and characters work nicely within the Western detective fiction genre.

- Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Writing is one thing I have discovered that I don’t have to struggle with. It comes naturally to me, effortlessly too. Mostly ideas just spring from nowhere. It’s a gift. And at that moment what I need most is a paper and pen to put the ideas down. Then I begin to write like one possessed. You will never believe I wrote the first draft of what is going to be the second novel in the Tammy Peterside Series in just ten daring days. The original draft of Treachery In The Yard took only longer, because I kept putting it aside to fend for myself and then come back to it later.

The Journey so Far
- When and why did you begin writing?
It had only been a year since I dropped out the university in my second year in February of 2000. I had started rewriting The Deserved Fate, my first novel. I had written it during my senior year in secondary school.
Then I woke up one morning in the Fall of 2001 and saw a sudden change in the national focus. Five years earlier, internationally people talked about Nigerian internet scams, while on the home front there was fuel scarcity and untold hardship.
Since then our problems broadened to include political assassination, revolution and a well developed network of kidnapping. They all share a common element: corruption. I became preoccupied with these issues, the novel evolving into a mystery which also spoke to recent political, social and environmental issues. I was no longer interested in writing “just” a police procedural.

- When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I have no fanciful or unusual stories to tell you like that somehow I knew I was going to be a writer, predestined to be a writer or that I started showing signs of being extraordinary at the age of two. But I guess I was born a writer because when I was of school age I already was consuming books, magazines, newspapers and read fiction like one possessed.
In my Junior Secondary School, I played truant and went down to the city library to read murder mystery novels. James Hadley Chase was my favorite. Sounds silly, right? At the time James Hadley Chase novels were popular among teenagers. In later years I came to learn that the guy who wrote those novels was actually named Rene Brabazon Raymond. He also wrote under the names James L. Docherty, Ambrose Grant, and Raymond Marshall.
By my third year of Junior Secondary in 1991 at the young age of fourteen, I started writing my first novel, 'The Deserved Fate', with my English teacher, Mr. Brown, editing. It was about a jealous step mother who ended up killing her own.
I finished the first draft at the beginning of my senior year but trouble struck. I could not keep my mind on my studies and my grades took a nose dive. I was spending more time writing than studying. I wanted to be a writer but my folks wanted me to study medicine. I tried that, but after my father passed away, I had to quit school to help support our family.

- Which authors have most influenced your writing most?
Books by these authors: Patricia Cornwell, David Baldacci, Stephen White, Elmore Leonard, Stephen King, Robert Palmer, And on the home front: ChimAmanda Adichie

- Who are your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I have several ‘favourites’. David Baldacci is one, so is Patricia Cornwell. I love their books and I can’t pick one over the other as my favorite author. They both hold my interest any day. For Baldacci, because of the savvy way he writes. For Cornwell, how she describes characters and events. I like Stephen’s White novels too. On the home front, I love Chimamanda’s novels. She’s a good writer and I respect her talent. But I would still consider Chase as my mentor. His novels honed the writer’s instinct in me and started me on the road to becoming a writer myself. I wanted to write like him.

- Are there other people that have inspired or supported your writing outside of family members?
Victor Schwartzman for one, who become my acquaintance in November 2005 and offered to edit my manuscripts purely on voluntary basis. And ever since he has been very supportive of my writing career, offering encouraging words along the way, advice and help when needed. I owe him a lot. He is a writer from Winnipeg who recently relocated to Vancouver.
Victor Schwartzman is a wonderful writer who I think has a lot to offer but he is also what you can call a bookshelf author. He hardly sends out his manuscripts which I’m encouraging him to do now. Currently he’s writing a play, which he says is drawn in part from his experiences as a human rights officer when he himself developed a disability and needed accommodation at work. He is almost done with the play, with so far is part musical, as it has seven songs. He is also writing a novel about a community newspaper, where each chapter is one issue of the newspaper (he’s been working on that one since 1995).

- What do you think of the Nigerian publishing industry?
The bane of the Nigerian Publishing Industry is the Publishing Industry itself. It does not encourage new authors, but prefers to reprint education books or the works of past writers. So how do you expect the readership to be enthusiastic about reading novels that are not forthcoming? The Nigerian Publishing Industry should wake to the reality that the Nigerian book market is largely untapped. Although various reasons are the cause of a poor reading culture, publishers need to play their own part in changing situations by publishing books that readers can read and make sure that readers want to read them, and then put them within readers’ reach. In short, they need to encourage new authors and to promote them.

- What comments do you have about the reading culture in the country?
In the era of the African Writers’ Series by Heinemann Press, the reading culture in the country was better than what we have now. Of course, we read some of those titles for our Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations, and still some of them are still being read in schools. In the late eighties and early nineties the reading culture was okay. But with the introduction of the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) by the Government of the day, many people gave up their after work pleasures to concern themselves more with surviving the biting economy and making ends meet. The reading culture dwindled with the dwindling economy. Our reading culture is therefore tied with the state of the nation’s economy and people having more time to indulge in what really looks like a waste of time in the face of the economy. Reading, of course, is never a waste of time, but can be a luxury when you are struggling to survive. If the people's basic needs are met by the Government, they might find time to relax. And one way to relax is picking up a novel to read.

- Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Being a writer isn't easy, but it is a wonderful life for me. There are few professions that provide more personal satisfaction as being a writer. I hope to enjoy a lot of readership!
I've also included some links below that readers can check out.