Monday, September 20, 2010

Interview with Ngozi Achebe, Author of The Blacksmith's Daughter

Today, I interview Dr. Ngozi Achebe, a Medical Practitioner, a mother and an author. Dr Achebe's novelist first novel, The Blacksmith Daughter has just been published. 

This interview is the last of six-interviews I scheduled with six new authors from three different countries. It started with Tendai Huchu (Zimbabwe), Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond (Ghana), Osundolire Ifelanwa, Myne Whitman (both from Nigeria) and Bryony Rheams (Zimbabwe). However, I also interviewed Fred McBagonluri (Ghana) along the line.

Can you tell us something about yourself?
I'm a medical doctor and a mother of two. I currently live in the States where I practice medicine and also write. Onaedo is my first published book.

When did you begin your literary writings?
As a child, especially growing up around people that wrote a lot and read a lot.

Which books did you find yourself reading whilst growing up and which are you currently reading?

I read quite a variety of books growing up. I was lucky that way. Everything from Agatha Christie to Flora Nwapa to Kofi Awoonor to Ngaio Marsh to Ernest Hemingway were in my father's or Uncle John's library and were in my repertoire. I loved crime writers and whodunits.

How do you combine your medical practice with your writing?
If you are interested enough in something you'll make the time. I'm passionate about my writing as I am about medicine and I'm truly lucky to be able to be able to do both.

Your choice of genre, Historical Fiction, has not been widely written about by Africans novelists. Are you writing for a niche market? And would future works follow suit?
I hope historical fiction will not be a niche market in Africa. I think we should be interested in our history and in telling it ourselves instead of letting others tell it for us. I will write of other things that interest me and also hope that it will interest others.

What particularly motivated you to write Blacksmith's Daughter? And what motivates you to write in general?
I wrote Onaedo because I came across an interesting story that I felt needed to be told and luckily I found an audience. I like books, even fictional ones, to tell me something new I didn't know before or something familiar told in a new way.

How does having prominent writers in your family affected and/or influenced your writings?
It has been positive because I have in-built role models- luckily for me.

More often e find that if a family member creates a following for himself or herself in an area, it becomes difficult for other relations to command a unique following without that person being linked to his or her primogenitor. Have people compared you with Chinua Achebe? And if yes how do you take it?
I have had one or two favorable comparisons to my uncle Chinua Achebe and I have been extremely flattered because being compared to him in any way at all is like being compared to Shakespeare or similar giants or legends of literature. It has made me try even harder to improve my craft and hopefully continue to create my own personal style.

What difference are you bringing to the Nigerian (African and World) Literature?
The love of history and an inquiring mind; to begin to ask questions about the past. History by definition is the past but it is always relevant to the present in unexpected ways.

What do you intend to achieve with your writing?
To entertain, to inform and hopefully to change lives. For every writer the emphasis is different. 

Which writing style are you comfortable with and which do you find challenging?
The narrative style is what I used for Onaedo. I will try something different maybe in my next book.

How difficult was it for you to become published?
Quite difficult but I persevered. I had faith in my story.

Tell us something about your book, Onaedo: The Blacksmith's Daughter?
It is set along the West African coast at the time of Portuguese exploration and tells the story of those early interactions and how things went so badly wrong.

How did you feel when you saw your name on the cover of the book?
Very excited and grateful.

Where could one get your book to buy, within and outside Nigeria?
In the US, it is in all the bookstores, Barnes and Noble, Borders etc. You can also order it online. In UK and Canada for now it is only online but is making its way into bookstores. In Nigeria, it will be available on the November 5, 2010 and for the rest of Africa in a month or two after that.

Any work in progress?
Yes. I'm hoping it will be out towards end of next year.

Is there anything you would want your readers to know?
I want to thank the ones who have read it and offered their opinion, whether good, bad, or ugly. All is appreciated. And for those who haven't, here's to hoping they do.

Thank you for your time
The pleasure is mine. Thank you.


  1. Another great interview! I'm happy to hear that this book is more readily available for me in Canada / US than the others - if only I wasn't on my book buying ban I'd check out B&N tonight! Instead I'll add it to my wish list for my next trip to the US.

    As with what others have said, I love how she remarks that she thinks that Africans should write their own history. I'm interested to read this book!

  2. Great Interview. I like the fact that he has been reading Kofi Awoonor. I'm adding this book to my wish list.

  3. great interview, I've read this book and it is really good.

  4. @Amy, thanks. It would take some time for me to get a copy, whew.

  5. @Geoffrey, lol. You love Awoonor? Great let me know if you read it first.

  6. @Myne Whitman, thanks and I believe you.

  7. @Fredua: O.K. I will let know.


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