Chika Onyenezi - Sea Lavender (Guest Author)

Chika Onyenezi was born in the idyllic city of Owerri, December 1986. He grew up in Amakohia a little village with a cool, pure stream running through it northward into the West. His literary career began very early as a child poet. Later he tried the short stories genre and penned Whiteman’s Blood. His very first short story, Whiteman’s Blood has been anthologized and critically acclaimed. It achieved “second runners-up status” in a short story competition sponsored by Spiderthief Publishing. It was then published in an anthology, Funeral Pants and other Stories. Later, he wrote his first novel, Locust Invasion. An undertaking that encompassed six years.

During the writing, he met an American poet, John E. Cashwell and his wife Anna online. They volunteered to edit the full manuscript of Locus Invasion because of its historical significance and creative ingenuity. Kimpa Vita Press, Norway, will publish Locust Invasion with more than fifty percent of the profits supporting special projects in Africa. During his Bachelor’s degree study in Computer Science at Caritas University, Onyenezi co-founded CAULA (Caritas University Literary Association) and raised a literary spirit among many students there. He is currently in European Peace University for a master’s degree in Peace and Conflict Studies.

Enjoy my interview with Chika below....

When and why did you begin writing?
For me is a different story, I see writing as an obligation I have to fulfil. If I don’t, a vacuum will forever remain. When I was a child, I was fascinated about the process of creating books. I started dreaming of becoming a writer at the age thirteen. Dreams come through with action, so since then I have been writing. Always eager to improve my craft, studying the masters in the art and forever fascinated by the magic of creation which writer’s possess.

What inspires you to write?
I am inspired by nature and my surroundings. I never knew how beautiful where I grew up was till I left the place. You will see me still going back to the stream down our street even in my Biography. I don’t think I can ever stop being inspired by it and surprisingly it followed me into Sea Lavender. Earth is full of amazement, am getting a different angle here in Austria.

What was your publishing journey like, from thinking of the book idea to holding it in your hands?
Actually i bought a book from a vendor in Enugu; it was the work of Duane Schwartz titled Cobb’s Landings. At the back page I found the website of the publisher, A-Argus Books. So I wrote then about my book Sea Lavender. After two months I received a mail that my book has been accepted for publication with a traditional contract attached and an advance. I signed up with them.

What is the synopsis of Sea Lavender?
The voyage of Adrian, son of Ibem, tells the story of a wrongful coming of age. At a tender age he suffers the loss of his innocence; it marks an event that haunts his path through eternity. Lost in a mirage of “life shaped as a sea voyage upon majestic and malevolent waves,” the sailor Adrian begins to recall events that molded his existence. Beginning with young Adrian in the arms of Her; a maid that raped him at the age of four, he remembers the event darkly as the large mahogany door standing upon its hinges.

Sea Lavender bends a window that reveals the warped manifestations of cultism, violence, death, crime, and corruption at the highest levels of society. Defining one man’s life; a man that could be your neighbor, a man you might find gentle extending a hand of help, a man you might fall in love with, Sea Lavender foreshadows a highly complicated, emotional and provocative journey into the darkest night of human existence.

Do you have a major theme that runs through it?
Wrongful coming of age

What books have most influenced your writing the most?
Gap Creek by Robert Morgan

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
That is a difficult choice to make, but if I must choose, I will go with William Butler Yeats; his poems feed my imagination. I tried following him toThe Lake Isle Of Innisfree once, but is a difficult journey. I hope to make it up there one day.

What books are you reading now?
Am reading a book that my classmate Bradley gave to me after reading the synopsis of Sea Lavender, he thinks there is some sort of connection between my story and the book. The title is Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Yes, a lot. I think Myne Whitman has done a lot for literature in Nigeria, Adimchinma Ibe for opening a new chapter in Nigerian Literature. I respect Kiru Taye, whom I follow her blog and lots of others worth mentioning.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Yes, giving my writing the breath of life. Without this breath, sea Lavender would be a failure. I was challenged to put things as they are. I couldn’t hide the fact that my character joined a fraternity in the University. If Sea Lavender will survive the taste of time, it needed the truth as it is. So after thinking it over in my quiet times, I used the name of a real cult in the Nigerian university system. But that doesn’t make it the truth, is only historical and still bears the marks of fiction.

Another thing was ending it; I needed an ending that was more experimental than normal. It is a fact that a narrator in the first person point of view cannot die, magically I gave my readers the ultimate power to choose if he survived or not. I had to think it for days before coming out with a perfect solution to that. The end of Sea Lavender is debatable.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I don’t have a favourite Author actually, but I have books that intrigue me, like Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy, he can mine emotion from a heart of stone. Am attracted to Dubliners by James Joyce; the style makes me keep reading it over and over, the simple language and structure is something worth learning. Franz Kafka holds a spell in the art of storytelling; I respect him. Wole Soyinka’s Prison Notes is like my bible, I read it always. I will not forget For who whom the Bell tolls by Ernest Hemmingway; the simplicity captures me. It goes on and on and on.

What do you think of the Nigerian publishing industry?
The Nigerian publishing industry is not at its best now. We have uneasy situation there. Most of the works published by the major guys in the block are works of Nigerians who have made it abroad. This situation is discouraging a lot of upcoming authors. Well, am dreaming of the day when big publishing companies like Penguin and Heinemann will move into the market and explore the local talent. But till then, upcoming authors will have to either publish abroad or self-publish. There still one other option left, win an award!

What comments do you have about the reading culture in the country?
For me, Nigerians read books, but the question is: what do they read? Are they patronizing the local industries and indigenous authors? That is where we have problem. Nigerians are reading works of popular western authors. These books also are far cheaper than books published in Nigeria and readily available with super quality. You see we know the symptom’s, but how about the disease? It’s up to the local industry to cure the disease.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I love feedbacks, so feel free to contact me and tell me how you feel about my book. But like my Editor puts it, Sea Lavender will break your heart.

Do you have an online presence, Facebook, Blog, Twitter or a website?
Yes, I have a fan page on facebook and a twitter acount!/ChikaOnyenezi, my website is currently under construction.

Where can we buy the book, both in stores and online?
The kindle Edition of Sea Lavender was recently released by my publisher, is available in amazon and Barnes and Noble The paperback will be out soon, but you can place an order from my publisher’s website, soon it will be available in bookstores in USA and also online bookstores like Amazon.