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Interview with Ankara Press Writer, Amara Nicole Okolo

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When Did you begin writing and what growing up experience helped you realise you had a literary bent?
I began writing at the age of ten. It was more of a spontaneous reaction that made me find this talent--I had been drawing a picture of a woman cooking with the help of her family, and I realized the art was vivid and had a story to tell, so I began writing straightaway. At the end, it came out as an illustrated children's book, The Fate of Ngozi, so I'd say my art took me down this part, I guess.

BBR: You also draw? Would you at any point pursue a career in the creatives?Like juggling your writings with your artworks?

AMARA: (Laughs) I really hope to! I have always toyed with the idea of becoming a fashion designer, owning an art gallery and being a real-life photographer...all the while as also a writer! I do not know how realistic it sounds for me to juggle all these at the same time, but I know it is not impossible. I will say I hope to do all I can to showcase all my talents, and since my talents are majorly in the arts, then I look forward in pursing them all the best I can.

BBR:How did you get to hear of the Ankara Press?

I came across Ankara Press through a blog...they had been advertising that a new, fresh Nigerian imprint was in search of writers who had manuscripts of the romantic genre for submission. I had just recently graduated from the University at the time and I had so much time on my hands. I had also been thinking of writing something I had never tried before (I had thereabout written chicklits, thrillers and fiction), so I wondered, why not romance? It is a great genre; I grew up reading alot of romance novels anyway. so I decided to try it out, with the knowledge that I was writing my story with the African context in mind. It was seemingly pretty easy, and I was in love at the moment, so that helped too (laughs).

Black_Sparkle_Romance

BBR:Romance as it were is a genre many African writers avoid, craving instead for poverty porn? How did you brave this genre? Have you always been a romantic?

AMARA:Honestly, I have not always been a romantic. But I have fallen in love, and I know how much it feels to feel appreciated, regarded and respected by a person you love, and to get that in return. I simply applied this while writing romance, with the knowledge that it would not all be rosy, but something good always comes out of it at the end. I see no reason why African and Nigerian writers should shy away from writing romance---it is a wonderful genre to write about. It gives you a sort of liberation, freedom to express your deepest feelings, fears, emotions and trials, and you apply these into your story, connecting with the readers as best as you can. Everyone falls in love differently, but there is still a unifying force---everyone falls in love. And in that process, so much goes on, good or bad, and those going-ons are stories that we should tell, to either teach, correct mistakes, learn or adapt, to avoid, or make things much better when we fall in love again.

BBR:What do you think are benefits of the romance genre?

AMARA: Like I said earlier, the genre literates one to write exactly how he/she feels. You are not holding back anything because basically all you are writing about are how two people feel about each, how that connects them for either the wrong or right reasons, and how they overcome obstacles that tries to separate them from being together. To me, writing already has to do with imagination, feelings/emotions, and experiences, so when you add these all up and throw in expressions that depict love, then viola! You have a complete love story. Sounds easy, doesn't it?

BBR:Black Sparkle ? What inspired this beautiful love story?

AMARA: Black Sparkle was inspired by series of events that occurred in my life, and also a bit of events I witnessed in other people's lives. For example, in the story, I used Badagry as the main plot because at the time I was desperate to visit the place, and I had gone online and seen a lot of pretty pictures. Also, I had hopes of being a magazine editor, so I wondered about the lifestyle of one, and I used that to create Mira, the main character in the story. But above all, I was in love, so I guess that was the biggest inspiration (laughs).

BBR: What last words do you have for women, who are ambitious and who think they can't have it all, love and all?

AMARA: You can have it all, ladies. There is no set rule somewhere that states that because you want to achieve your dreams and be the woman your parents raised and educated you to be, that that makes you less appealing or intimidating to any man. Truth is that mature, ambitious confident men identify with equally confident and successful women. I understand that preference is unique to an individual, but from the examples of power couples we see today in the world, you will always notice a unifying force between them: confidence. I believe that a confident woman who knows what she wants, has her mind set on her goals without intimidation or duress will go a long way in life, and the good thing is that, they never go on that journey alone. They meet equally awesome confident men who supports them as they do likewise, and their stories most times end with success. Because to be honest, confidence is contagious and very, very sexy.

Comments

  1. Amara Nicole was my secondary schoolmate,i witnessed her artistic nature back then in school,she was a good artist. Most of her classmates always run to her for assistance whenever there was a project on drawing.i was not in her class but anytime she comes to see her friends in my class,she must be with one novel,sometimes she leaves her class which was always noisy to come to our class to read her novel. So happy to see her novel being published,though haven't read it but I have my copy and am very sure it will make a great piece.
    Welldone Amara,we are proud of you.

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