Tell us a bit about what inspired you
to be a writer?
THEOPHILUS ENEMALI : Growing up as a child, I loved
reading story books, short stories and even comprehension passages with
diagrammatical illustration in Macmillan English text; then I imagined my own
book being read and loved years to come by someone I wouldn’t know. The year I turned ten was the year I went to
secondary school, my father gave me Chinua Achebe’s Things fall Apart. It was the commonest Nigerian novel then and
every household seemed to have it. When I finished reading it, I asked my
father some surprising yet childish question like: ‘Is Okonkwo the father of
Chinua Achebe?” My father laughed and said, ‘no’. With my inquisitive mind I
asked further. ‘How come he knows Okonkwo so well like this?’ Then one day, my
father came across my essay note in the secondary school, he read some of them
and was so surprised I could write creatively in JS2. That compliment made me
believe in my writing abilities. In the same vein, studying English and
Literary studies exposed me to a wide array of novels, which gave me a mental shift
in the art of storytelling. Then there came the big one during my university
days, Governor Wada Academic Excellence Competition (G-WAEC), it was an essay
competiton for all undergraduates of Kogi state. I was a winner, so, it opened
a new door for me, it made me believe more in what we can do and how our
little efforts may yield a big result. Soon after, I wrote a debut novel,
entitled Homesick in Paradise.
CWN: Is Homesick in Paradise your first
Yes! It is my first published novel. I actually wrote one during my
universities days. It wasn’t published because I believed that it was laced
with an infantile proclivity. Years later, I wrote Homesick in Paradise. It is a fictionalization of actuality, in
fact a good fiction is a reshaping of fact or true life experiences. There are
certain things in the novel that are rendered in the exactness of how it
happened. For instance, the death of Mama in the novel, the letter Enemona
wrote to his late mother in the chapel, the encounter with a ghost and a lot
more are nearly the truthfulness of my childhood experiences. Though the
setting and characters are products of my imagination. It is quite unbelievable
to write a letter to someone who is dead and then keep it in the chapel,
because you believe that the person is in heaven and the closest place to
heaven is the chapel. All of these explain the naïve nature of the young
character Enemona. So, I blended reality with imagination in my first published
novel Homesick in Paradise
Are you a full time writer or is
writing just one of your hobbies?
THEOPHILUS ENEMALI: Honestly, I think there are a
negligible number of those that can be classified as full time writers. I
basically love three things, which I can do simultaneously with effortlessness.
I love writing, teaching and radio broadcasting. However, I have a greater
passion for writing than any of the two.
What is the name of your publisher
and where can your book be bought?
Who are your favourite authors and
what book are you reading at the moment?
THEOPHILUS ENEMALI: I don’t think I have favourite authors but a
lot of novelists have really inspired me to a great extent. First among them is
Chinua Achebe, a wonderful storyteller who portrays the culture and custom of
the Igbo nation in a magnificent manner. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, my finest
female fiction writer, a woman I respect her a lot for her fearless and
timeless narratives. I could easily identify with her style of writing, perhaps
we both belong to the contemporary era. Then among the English novelists, I
love Thomas Hardy for his beautiful use of words and George Orwell for his awesome
imagination that is nearly uncommon.
I’m reading Buchi Emecheta’s Second Class Citizen and a collection of Caine
Prize short stories.
What did you enjoy most about writing
THEOPHILUS ENEMALI: What I enjoyed most about writing
the novel was being able to express my experiences with a lot of people that I
could never have been able to ever see or talk to. It gives me joy to know that
people read my novel, analyze it, teach it, criticize it and even read deeper
meanings to the stories in the novel beyond my thoughts. I feel blessed to
share my thoughts with the world.
What are you currently working on?
THEOPHILUS ENEMALI: Currently, I’m working on my second
novel that centres on contemporary issues. I am working hard to make it a
timeless narrative; such a work demands time and space. I hope to keep the fire
What is your take on the poor reading
culture; in your opinion what do you think can be done to change it?
ENEMALI: Generally, we are not unaware of the dwindling reading culture in
Nigeria. A lot of people do not read novels; even those that read printed
materials prefer religious and motivational books such as Be the Next Billionaire and those sorts of books. The youths are
swayed away by the modern internet facilities. They surf the internet almost
always. It could have been great, if they are using the opportunity to read
books online, but they discuss trivial issues from the least important to the
most unnecessary with cyber space friends. Our parents complain a lot about
poor performances in schools and lack of reading culture. They can help schools
and government by monitoring their children’s reading habit, enroll them in
book clubs and something of the sort. It is easier to train a child than to
mend broken men.
Do you have any advice for other
THEOPHILUS ENEMALI: Aspiring writers should not give up
on their dreams of becoming published writers. Sometimes you may feel
frustrated perhaps because publishers are rejecting your work. Don’t give up. Always
read other author’s work because it is the surest way to write a great work.
Join a functional literary association, where you would have a lot of those
with like minds, who may help you get better in the art of writing.
What genre of music do you listen to?
THEOPHILUS ENEMALI: Honestly, it seems as if I am a
music flirt. But my mood determines the kind of music I listen to. I may listen
to gospel, blues, hip pop, reggae and even afro juju. The fact remains that
when I am writing, I love absolute silence.