I grew up reading a lot of novels. From Chike and the River to books published in the Mills and Boons series. My mother also made sure there was always a new Danielle Steel book for me to read. Last year, I was privileged to publish my first novel, The Cover.
Firstly, I want to thank everyone who, in one way or another, supported me when my book came out, you guys made me feel really special. I am the real small girl big God. God the giver of life, not glucose guardian. I kid! Back to the books I read, I wasn’t particular about reading African stories for whatever reason, I deserve a knock on my head for this. The way I stan Achebe and Adichie now should make up for my ignorance back in the day. To be honest, I am low-key grateful that I didn’t read Half of A Yellow Sun until my book was safely at the publishers and I couldn’t change my mind. She is brilliant and I can only aspire to perspire to acquire. Then again. I should have, to help me understand the people I was writing for.
On one very long and boring day, I put pen to paper and wrote a story. I showed it to people around me and they loved it and encouraged me to make it into a book. I took on a very interesting but controversial topic; my main character was a closeted bisexual man. As major as this is in a country such as ours, where being gay can earn you a cell in kirikiri, this wasn’t the mistake. My mistake was letting what I read in Mills and Boons and books by foreign writers influence my writing in Africa where people can have ten children but act like they don’t know what sex is.
I wrote about sex, I described it in lewd, 50 Shades of Grey kind of way. That’s the mistake. I know some of you are laughing and asking yourselves if that is all. But before you say that, remember I go to church and many of the people I attend mass with have read this book. Every time I stand up to go for holy communion, I hear their voices in my head saying things like “how does she know all those sex positions she described? Fornicator! Have you gone for confession?” I feel the most for my poor mother who raised a spoilt child in a holy country where people don’t have sex but their population is going through the roof.
If you opened this to look for real writing lessons, I am sorry to disappoint you, I am just letting guilt off my chest. You are the priest, so take this as my confession. I have lived with this guilt for a year now. It is so bad every time someone tells me they have read my book, I feel like now they know a side of me that should be safely hidden. To think that the initial story was so clean that it could have been taught in Sunday school, until my omo wobe friend, Chuka, said “Adanna spice up this story”. Then I went HAM and showed my inner freak. I am the “lil mama” Chris Brown talks about in his new song, Go Crazy.
As a creative, I advise that you give yourself the freedom to create. Don’t let the pattern of creation of another determine yours. Reading some books after publishing mine, I started to feel really bad, I kept telling myself I should have done this or that but then again, I am not that writer, I am me. I said earlier that if I had started out reading Chimamanda’s books, The Cover won’t be here today. Let me also point out the fact that I didn’t write my book for money or recognition. It was a product of my boredom (the money and recognition are good for this baby girl. I no go lie). So if you are writing, for instance, to sell to school children, by all means, do your due diligence. Read what is currently being read in schools and write accordingly. Not when you are not allowed to sell your book, you will say I told you to be creative.
I am grateful for the reception The Cover has gotten in the last year, the number of positive reviews, even from my uncles and aunties, is overwhelming. The people who should be judging me have been going around telling everyone that I am amazing. This should have told me to stop judging myself and start working on giving you people another hit, but I have been hiding. Now I am free! If you want to judge, please ask Lasisi to lend you his lawyer’s clothes.