Today it’s my proud privilege to introduce author Chukwunonso Ezeiyoke. A Nigerian-born writer, he is one of a wave of Afrofuturist writers who have recently been taking the world by storm. Afrofuturism has been defined as “a cultural, aesthetic, philosophy of science and philosophy and history that… addresses themes and concerns of the African diaspora”. Writers of these stories typically use magic realism, fantasy, supernatural and science fiction to achieve their aims, and share a highly distinctive prose style that is both fresh and engagingly non-Western.
Chukwunonso’s first story collection, “The Haunted Grave” is in print from Parallel Universe Publications and contains eight stories with themes such as the real origins of the AIDS virus, a man who is possessed by himself, and a particularly nasty family curse passed on through sexual activity. The stories are original and totally believable, told with a matter-of-factness that makes them all the more chilling. Even stranger is that Chukwunonso is such a very nice guy to meet, with a highly infectious laugh. Not the kind of person you would immediately think capable of writing such grisly fiction!
ES: First of all, please tell our readers a little about yourself and what you write.
CE: I am Peter Chukwunonso Ezeiyoke. Although I only write with Chukwunonso and then my surname Ezeiyoke. From day one, I tended to avoid using my name Peter in my writing. I see my writing coming from an intimate place and Peter for an unknown reason failed to capture this essence. Perhaps because Peter is for officialdom. The name used in school, at work and other serious places. Nonso, an abbreviated version of Chukwunonso was the in-house name left for close friends and family. In a way, the name Peter got alienated from this intimate fondness I associated with writing. I write all sorts of things: fiction and non-fiction. In non-fiction, I love literary criticism especially if approached from the angle of the Philosophy of Literature. I fell in love with literary theories after reading Language and Habit of Thought by A. Akwanya. The book blew me off my feet. I also enjoyed Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Poetics. And then Kant and then Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy. ES: And what are your preferred genres as a writer?
CE: Horror and fantasy. Science fictions as long as it doesn’t focus so much in the science but rather on the emotions of the characters. I really love writing horror. I love a slow burner. The beginning of my stories often sound realistic/literary until the demon comes to party.
ES: What is your favourite childhood book?
CE: I can’t really say one book, but I think that The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola was fascinating, mythical and hilarious. The Bottled Leopard by Chukwuemeka Ike stayed with me long after I finished reading it. Then Cyprian Ekwensi’s An African Night’s Entertainment. Chike and River by Chinua Achebe was our childhood national anthem so was Eze Goes to School by Onuora Nzekwu. I bet that everybody that grew up in Nigeria around the time I was born must have read them.
ES: How long were you a part-time writer before your became a full-time one?
CE: I can’t call myself a full time writer even now. Writing is yet to pay my bills. But I often see myself as a committed writer in the sense that I take it seriously and tend to create time for it. I haven’t been that committed to writing like the way I am now. It is something I began newly. I started to write when I was like eleven or twelve, but then I had a yearning stronger than writing: to become a catholic priest. This consumed my life until I was like 21 when I started having a vocational crisis because of some existential questions. Then writing became my only solace to escape reality. Finally, in 2014, I made up my mind that I wouldn’t become a priest after about 15 years in the seminary. It was at this point that I became a committed writer because I realised that there was nothing else in life that fascinates me like writing. I started being a serious writer by doing my MA in Creative Writing.
ES: That’s fascinating, and I suppose it shows just how important writing can be to people. Thank you for sharing that story. What has been your hardest scene to write to date?
CE: A rape scene that I wrote as part of my MA in radio drama.
ES: And what was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
CE: Hahaha… I went to a bar with a friend. Then we ate fresh fish pepper soup with some chilled drink.
ES: Good answer! I like to include animals in my own stories from time to time. As a writer, what animal would you choose to be your spirit animal?
CE: A tiger
ES: Very cool! And now what are your writing habits? Any good ones?
CE: I am good at breaking any habit I formed.
ES: And how many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
CE: I think I end up with one every month.
ES: Wow. It sounds like you are very prolific. That is very inspiring. When you have had a work published, do you read your reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
CE: I read them. I like feedback, no matter what. It tells me that at least people read what I write. Obscurity I think is the worst thing to happen to a writer rather than neglect reviews.
ES: That is a very philosophical attitude to take. I wish I could be like that! Well, thank you very much for taking part in this interview, and I for one really look forward to reading your next book!
If you haven’t read it yet, Chukwunonso’s collection of stories “The Haunted Grave” is available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle. I thoroughly recommend it as a superb work of fiction. If you want an introduction to the wonderful world of Afrofuturism, or if you just want a really good collection of modern horror stories, I suggest you pick up a copy, as he is certainly an author to watch!