Wednesday, October 19, 2016

In Conversation with Ezeiyoke Chukwunonso

An anthology that's worth looking out for when it comes for available, Lights Out: Resurrection features a crop of African authors of horror and dark speculative fiction, edited by Wole Tabali. Today I welcome Ezeiyoke Chukwunoso for a little Q&A.

I realise we know very little about each other. Tell me more about you and what you love writing.

I am Ezeiyoke Chukwunonso, a charter member of African Speculative Society. My collection of short stories, Haunted Grave and Other Stories was published by Parallel Universe Publications during August this year. Prior to that, I have published stories in anthologies such as Emanation: 2+2=5, Emanation: Foray into Forever, Future Lovecraft, Lost Tales from the Mountain: Halloween Anthology Vol. II., African Roar and in so many other places. I was shortlisted in IdeasTap Inspires: Writers' Centre Norwich Writing competition, Ghana Poetry Prize, and Quickfox Poetry Competition. 

I love to write horror, fantasy and science fiction stories although not hard sci-fi. I write literary fiction too but tend to love genre fiction more.

Apart from fiction writing, I am a literary critic and I investigate literature with the lens of a philosopher. I developed a penchant for this during my BA where I majored in philosophy. I discovered that most of contemporary African Literature is useful, functionalist. It is an art that has a socio-political or anthropological relevance. If it did not tend to fight colonialism, it was post-colonialism or it was written with a moral education in view. Practically, art for art's sake, aestheticism was an endangered species. Critics like Achebe, Senghor, Ngugi wa Thiong’o favoured this. Achebe said ‘I would be quite satisfied if my novels (especially the ones I set in the past) did no more than teach my readers that their past – with all its imperfections was not one long night of savagery from which the first Europeans acting on God’s behalf delivered them. Perhaps what I write is applied art as distinct from pure. But who cares?’ And I discovered that that sort of metaphysical assumption made literature predictable and more so hindered aestheticism and the development of genre fiction in Africa for a long time. My writing and research were to propose a better metaphysical assumption that will foster the growth of literature in which art for art sake is prior to functionalism. I have published essays about this in Episteme Journal, and Savvy Journal of Contemporary African Arts.

How does living in Africa inform your writing? Tell me more about your environment, and a day in your life. 

Most of my stories are based in Enugu State in Nigeria where I grew up. In as much as fiction relies on the imagination, I often like to write about setting I am familiar with, a place I can manipulate. I like to have a strong sense of a place in my writing. Apart from the setting, my writing is often influenced by the oral and mythical thoughts of the Igbo people in Nigeria, mainly with regard to religion. I have been fascinated with religion since I was a child, once I was in the seminary hoping to become a Catholic priest. *Laughing* Religion in Nigeria and its superstition still hooks me more than ever although now intellectually. And it is this superstition and the fear inherent in it that I explore often in my horror or fantasy writing.

I currently live in Manchester. My house is near a park. I love the park. I often sit there watching people playing with their dogs. I am still wondering why I haven’t owned a dog yet.
What are you reading at the moment?

I am reading Making Wolf by Tade Thompson. I recently reviewed his Rosewater and I fall in love with his writing especially the pacing, quick page turning. Azanian Bridges by Nick Wood is what I am currently reading whenever I am commuting on the bus. I like reading on the bus, makes the journey quicker. I will be reviewing it soon. I just finished reading Dark Lullaby by Jessica Palmer, I am writing the review currently. Horrorology edited by Stephen Jones is on my bedside. I read bits of it to sleep.

Tell us more about your story as it appears in Lights Out: Resurrection.

"Eaters of Flesh" was inspired by a real event. A relative was undergoing a depression that came with some mental issue. There was this allusion among her family members that what was wrong with her was a demonic attack. Seeking for a scientific medical aid was taken out of the option. Anyway, she later met a psychologist, had a professional help and recovered. The incident, however, stayed with me and formed the basis for the story, "Eaters of Flesh".  The story appeared first in my short story collection, Haunted Grave and Other Stories

What are you writing at the moment?

I am working on my debut novel. The first chapter of the novel actually is the story that appeared in the Lights Out: Resurrection. In between the novel, I research on my philosophical essays on literature. I am writing a couple of short stories too. 

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