Interview with Tony Nwaka

Which of your character from which book is most like you?
Well, I’ll say that elements of my personae tend to inhabit quite a number of the characters. But it would appear to have found greater expression in Chief Abala in Mountain of Yesterday. His temperance and sense of moderation are attributes that would naturally define my personage.
Which is the oldest book on your bookshelf?
My Bible.
What do you read for pleasure?
Just any work of literature that can excite the faculties of the mind, both fiction and non-fiction. Much of my private moments have been essentially engaged by such works as ‘A History of Western Philosophy’ by Bertrand Russell. ‘Great Books of the Western World’, edited by Mortimer J. Adler. ‘International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences’, edited by David L. Sills. And, of course, the Bible and other books on philosophy and mysticism.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The thought of the fresh prospects that are inherent in a new day. Nothing could be greater than the opportunity to build on the experiences of yesterday.
In Mountain of Yesterday you tell your story from three points of view, why did you elect to do this?
If you take a deeper look at the architecture of the work you will observe a triangular dimension to its construction. The drift of the story takes off from Maiduguri in the northern peak of the country and on to Uboh at the eastern flank; then from there to Lagos on the western axis; and, for Dr. Usman, this journey takes him back to Maiduguri. So, beyond the need to keep the POV consistent with the narration, the triple points of view are in furtherance of the harmony with the golden triangle, which underpins the totality of the story.
What is the story behind your lastest novel?
I believe this story is contemporaneous to the times. I honestly had thought that certain societal prejudices against women were things of the past. But recent experiences tend to speak to the contrary. So, in writing Mountain of Yesterday, I felt a compelling need to highlight some of these social contradictions, with a view to permanently exterminating the insidious cultural inhibitions.
So, how much of your characterization comes from real life? For instance, is Mr. Ibeto in Mountain of Yesterday based on someone you know?
Yes, quite a lot comes from real life experiences. Some personal, but mostly the accounts of friends and relatives. Mr. Ibeto simply symbolizes the fickleness of the numerous praise-singers who prowl the corridors of power, across the Nigerian political landscape.
What is your writing process like?
I do most of my writing on my laptop. Though, flashes of thought and the few things I observe on the go are usually noted on my smartphone. Generally, I sit to write when I am inspired to so do. I’m really not the type that sets out a time table for writing. I could write for three hours today and thirty minutes tomorrow. I could be intensely engaged, writing all through the week, and completely be off it the following two weeks. I guess we all have different ways of giving expression to our craft.
Is ‘writer’s block’ fact or fiction to you?
I think it’s real. Sometimes the mind simply appears vacuous, completely devoid of creative exertions.
Describe your writing space?
Relatively free. Not cluttered. I love seeing my books and drafts neatly arranged on my bookshelf. Moreover, I write straight from my computer.
What's your ebook reading device of choice?
I own an Amazon Kindle. The digital age is truly a revolutionary experience. You carry around millions of books in a simple tablet, and that enables you to read effortlessly anywhere, anytime. It’s incredible.
Do you think of your cover as a part of your story?
Definitely. Although it’s a common maxim that you don’t judge a book by its cover, in an age when many attractions are competing for the attention of the eye, the cover of a book should give a peek into the story.
What are your five favorite books and why?
Wow! How does one begin to delimit the list. There are so many literary works of magnificent construction. Honestly, it’s going to be difficult narrowing them down to just five. But let me try.

1. ‘The Remains of the Day’ by Kazuo Ishiguro. Crafted in graceful prose, the story portrays an English Butler struggling to come to terms with the changing face of the world he knew. It’s a very interesting read.

2. ‘The Heart of Darkness’ by Joseph Conrad. I doubt if any other writer has a comparable mastery of descriptive power. He is simply in a world of his own. His illustration of European activities in the depths of pre-colonial Africa is a compelling read.

3. ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe. Do I really need to say more here? The inclusion of this iconic piece among the best 100 works of the 20th century is self-explanatory.

4. ‘Macbeth’ by William Shakespeare. I read this classic as a secondary school boy. Ever since, with each passing day, I come to appreciate, with greater luminescence, Shakespeare’s profound knowledge of the intrigues and dimensions of political power.

5. ‘The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’ by Edward Gibbon. For me, this is the greatest book ever written. And it is not fiction. A true account of the diminution and collapse of the dominant political power of the ancient world. The elegant language of the narrative is as sublime and inspirational as the validity of the chronicle. It is what the legal mind would call ‘locus classicus’.
What’s the strangest/most unusual place an idea for a book has hit you?
In the bathroom.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
About a year and half.
What is the highest compliment anyone has paid to you as an author?
“Tony, you are gifted.” But I must say that I feel flattered by such remarks, particularly when I recall the genius of the legends whose flagships illuminate the world of creative constructions. I take the compliments though as a charge to continually strive for excellence.
What can we look forward to from you next?
A possible sequel to Lords of the Creek. But that’s not cast in stone yet. The drift of cerebral exercise could take me a different direction.
Published 2017-03-12.
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Books by This Author

Mountain of Yesterday
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 94,920. Language: English. Published: March 19, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
In this work of fiction, a family returning home in the aftermath of a religious riot run into even more hostile territory. Courage, integrity, willpower and faith are tested, and help is shown to sometimes come from unlikely places.