Brittle Paper’s Writer of the Month for April is Chinelo Enyinnaya!
Chinelo Synclaire Enyinnaya is a lawyer and creative writer based in Abuja. With a degree in Law and a professional Master’s degree in Financial Economics, Chinelo still makes time to pursue her writing. Having taken up the pen at age 7, she hasn’t put it down since. She has spent the past two decades of her life trying to write meaningful stories. When she’s not working on a new story, however, she’s vigorously addressing gender, political or tribal biases through long essays published on her Facebook account.
Since her foray into writing, she has written several essays, short stories and a number of unpublished full-length novels. She cites Chimamanda Adichie and Ben Okri as her dominant influences so it is no wonder her favorite themes are Nigerian culture, feminism and a host of other relatable human experiences.
Her March story, “A Brief Night,” is why she has found herself in the spotlight this month so, here is our conversation with the wonderful Chinelo Enyinnaya.
Chinelo, congratulations on being March Writer of the Month! Your piece “A Brief Night” was the standout for March. It was witty and relatable, and I have quite a few more comments on it but I will keep them for later. As for now, let’s share some more with our readers about who the wonderful writer Chinelo Enyinnaya is.
Often writers tell me they took up writing from a really young age. Was that the case for you or is this a talent that came along a few years later?
Oh well! That will make most of us then. I did stumble into writing as a child, but not in the conventional way that most people did – you know, like an epiphanous moment of discovering you loved something, or had the skill for it. For me, I was compelled into writing one day while in primary 2. We had to share ourselves into different roles to help us stay busy when no teacher was in our class. After that day, I never stopped writing. Of course, most of what I started with were glib reprisals of the books I was reading at the time.
That’s quite a sweet origin story.
We are about to jump into the interview but before we do, you need to answer some quick questions about your literary loves. Firstly, what is your favourite book to come back to? If you could have dinner with any writer, who would it be? What’s the last book you read? And, if you had to recommend a book to a new lover of African literature, what would it be?
Very easy! My absolute favourite would be Americanah. I read it like a devotional the year I stumbled upon it. And every now and then, I’ll return to it even if to admire the beauties of Adichie’s prose. Dinner with any writer? Again, easy one! Chimamanda Adichie. We could talk all day about creative writing, fashion, Igbo culture and feminism. I think she’s not just brilliant, she’s also witty and funny, and those make for great company. The last book I read was On Writing by Stephen King. It’s a book that sort of straddles the line between a memoir and a how-to manual.
And finally, my recommendations? Can we make it two? The first will be A Girl Is A Body of Water by Jennifer Nansubuga. It’s a beautiful coming-of-age story of a smart Ugandan girl meandering her way through the patriarchal culture of her society. Then, although it’s a transnational novel, I’ll also recommend Americanah for its rich, cultural background and sprawling prose.
I think it’s safe to assume you really love Americanah [laughs]. With that settled, let’s get into your March piece, “A Brief Night.” I know the piece is making strong social commentary, but I found it to be such a witty, funny, and almost feel-good type of story. I think you captured Somadina’s character so well and I adore that little girl because I think I was and still am her [laughs]. How did this particular story come about?
Serendipity, seriously. When I started the first few sentences of that story, I had no idea where I was headed or what I wanted to write about. I was struggling with writers’ block at the time and needed something to propel me to write without the overwhelming fear of finishing a story. So, I was in a bus heading to Ibadan from Lagos, and I was playing around with ideas. Somehow, the more I wrote, the more Somadina fleshed out. Then I realised I could borrow a bit from the cheeky, headstrong kind of teenager I was, and I did just that. Much later while editing, I decided to cover a phenomenon I saw a lot in the Nigerian media, where we canonised people to the point of stubbornly turning a blind eye to allegations of their misconduct, simply because they had proved useful to us in the past.
I think that’s why I love the story and Somadina so much. I have always struggled with the people around me canonising people in that stubborn way you described and, even as a child, I always had an opinion on it. I guess we have that in common.
When I first read your submission, your bio mentioned having written a few novels that are yet to be published. Writing a whole manuscript is no small feat, let alone more than one. What can you tell us about these novels?
To be honest, the reason they’re yet to be published is probably because they’re only technically complete, and not truly complete. But I have a number of manuscripts that follow my growth process as a writer: from writing style to the issues I tackle. In most of them, I take on social issues that are important to me, and reflect my interests in religion, gender, politics, and family dynamics. But beyond that, because I believe that fiction should not primarily be didactic, I weave relatable – and hopefully, interesting – plots around these issues.
These manuscripts sound like my kind of books so I really hope they get published in the near future. But we do get to read some more work from you on Friday. Is this story following the same sort of journey as your novels?
Friday’s story is a short story told from an omniscient point of view, about a traditional but modern man’s relentless desire to have a male child, and the silly, often humorous events he encounters on the journey to achieving his goal.
We are definitely looking forward to it. Chinelo, this has been a lovely chat but before we end, any final words you would like to share about yourself with our readers?
Pheew! Difficult question. But I’ll answer on something related to writing. Much as I agree to some degree with legends like Chinua Achebe, that writing should be socially reformational, and I often address tense issues in my own work, I don’t like to read fiction whose sole aim is to teach. I like fiction that satisfies emotionally. I want it to make me laugh sometimes, and I want the message to be so nuanced that it doesn’t obstruct my ability to enjoy a book. Because of this, I’m often hesitant to read a number of African Classics – especially the ones that mine the colonialism experience to the gills.
‘Fiction that satisfies emotionally’ is a beautiful way to describe that area of African literature and I completely agree with you.
Chinelo, thank you for being such a wonderful writer of the month! Here’s to one day finding those novels in bookstores everywhere our readers are.
For more of Chinelo’s work, be sure to check back in on Friday, and for more interviews with our writers, check out our last month’s with Marjorie Namara Rugunda here.
COMMENTS ( 1 ) -
Nwogwugwu Joy Oluchi PhD April 03, 2023 12:27
I feel great finding myself on this site with so many great people changing lives through their talents