What is your birth name and where do you come from?
I was born Ezugworie Chinonso John, a Nigerian, from the Nigerian South-Eastern State of Enugu.
How was your childhood and growing up in general?
I grew up in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria, in a family of six children. I am the second in line, but I am also the first son. I have a big sister who loves me to bits, and four younger brothers.
I lost my old man in march of 2011, a week before my final year examinations in the University of Nigeria, where I studied Microbiology. We currently live with our mum in Abuja.
Why do you use 'Nonso John as your pen name?
'Nonso is simply short for my first name "Chinonso" and John is my second name.
It's that simple.
Who are your favorite authors?
I read wide, and I love writers from a wide range of genres, but my absolute favorites; the ones you are most likely to catch me reading any day, are Ken Follett, Patricia Cornwell, Dan Brown, Ted Dekker, and Frank Peretti. I also love anything from (Mario) Puzo.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Aaah... Let's see. Yes, I think I can remember the first story I ever wrote.
I was six, and I had just discovered that writing stories made me happy.
It was a story about a boy who did not like the introductory literature text used in his class in school, and decided to steal the teacher's copy, in an attempt at getting the teacher to change the literature text for the entire class. Of course he failed.
I also think it is safe to assume I was writing about myself here, because I didn't like the first literature text I was given in school. It was Chike and the River, by the Prestigious Nigerian Literary Legend, Chinua Achebe. However, I did not steal my teacher's copy of the book.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Oh Yes. I will never forget the first story I ever read. I always loved reading things off walls and paper scraps and during dictation classes in school, but the first story I ever read was a novel.
I had just turned six, when I stumbled upon a paperback book, with its back wrapped with plain carton-brown paper. It was a novel by James Hadley Chase, titled "No Orchid for Miss Blandish," but I didn't know it was written by James Hadley Chase. I had this crazy notion that God wrote every book in print, since He wrote the Bible - as I was taught in Sunday School. Of course I only got to know the name of the novel and its author after about seven years, when I stumbled upon it again.
When I finished reading that novel, I swore I was going to be the first man to write a book in print. Remember that at that point in my life, only God had ever written a printed book. I wanted to be the first human writer. Pow! Of course I failed (laughs).
When I went to school the next term, I had my first literature class, and I was introduced to Chike and the River by Chinua Achebe. I was disappointed. First of all, someone else had published a book before me. Secondly, I hated the book, not because it was not a good introductory text to literature for six year olds, but because the story was, to me at least, just bland and plain and I wanted to read something with a lot of suspense about crime, and blackmail - at the time, I didn't know the meaning of that b-word - and policemen and murder, and the mysteries behind all of these things.
I decided I was going to write one of my own. So, I went to my dad a week after my first literature class, and asked for a twenty leaves book. He bought it for me. And with a blunt pencil I borrowed from my big sister, I launched my writing career. I wrote a story titled "The Boy who hates Chike and the River."
When I was done with my first story, I felt fulfilled. I discovered writing was the purest form of fun there ever was. I've never felt differently about that.
I did not publish that story because it did not measure up to "No Orchid for Miss Blandish." I think somehow, I did not publish any book before Squeeze because I always compared each of my books to the Blandish story from Chase. And they somehow always came up short.
What is your writing process?
My writing process involves getting to know the main characters, and then letting them tell me the story.
I do not use the plot. Not like I have never plotted, but in my earlier years, I discovered that each time I plotted, I ended up not following it somewhere halfway into the story. This is because it makes the story - for me at least - too stereotyped and rigid. For instance, if in my plot I planned character A to die at a particular point in a particular manner, it almost always happens that by the time I get to the point where this character is supposed to die, it becomes unnecessary for him to die, and even inconceivable for him to die in the manner I had originally planned.
Sometimes, letting a villain - maybe a criminal - get caught by the police simply because it was in my plan, makes the villain look too stupid, compared to the intelligent picture of him I had built earlier on in the narrative.
So, I discovered my style.
In spite of what many people think is wrong with it, it just is the style I am comfortable with. I get to know everything I can about my main characters, I assign them personalities, and even get pictures of movie actors and actresses I think could play the role if it were a movie, to represent my characters. These pictures I place along side the character's name and profile on the white board hanging on a wall in my bedroom. I assign my characters different temperament combinations, and both good and bad habits - all the main characters.
Then I put them in complicated situations, and the more complicated it gets I think, the better. And then in my mind's eye, and as fast as I can, I watch these character - who to me, are not really character but real people - work their way out of the mess. Whatever I see them do or say, based on the picture of them I have created and the personality differences, that is what I write.
So in a sense, I just let the people in my head act out the story. Then I report it the way I see it.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
When I'm not writing, you could find me doing a number of things.
I read - a lot. I also watch a lot of movies - romance and crime mysteries especially.
I also listen to music, and I love a wide range of them - I love everything from country music, classicals, soft rock, and new age instrumentals, to Nigerian R & B, and Gospel.
I also spend some time visiting with friends, and family.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I discover them from recommendations on discussion forums, online blogs, and social media. Mostly that is.
How do you approach cover design?
I believe the cover design of a story should be able to tell - or at least give a clue - about what it is the reader stands to experience within the pages of a book.
I also believe the author is the best person to tell what should be on the cover of his or her book. Every other person tells what they think is the interpretation of the book. But like someone said - I think it was Reverend David Ogbueli that said that - "the purpose and design of a product is in the mind of the manufacturer."
I do not design my book by myself. I let my friend - Yugo - do the cover designs to my books.
He's one of the best I have seen with Adobe's Photoshop. He can be reached by mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
What are your five favorite books?
My Five favourite books are
- The Bible. - Mario Puzo's "The Godfather." - John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath." - Ted Dekker's "Blink." and - Frank Peretti's "This Present Darkness."
What do you read for pleasure?
I read fiction. Good page turning, tension-filled fiction, especially crime mysteries and thrillers.
I also read fantasy and science fiction, especially those involving superheroes. I also do romance, but I prefer those with a slow build up to the climax.
What is your favorite e-reading device of choice?
I would have said my favorite e-reading device of choice is the iPad Mini because of its wonderful design and content, but I prefer the Kindle Fire HD for its memory advantage over the iPad Mini.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I finished writing Squeeze, and decided I wanted it to be my first published book. I decided it could compare to "No Orchid for Miss Blandish", and so I started sending out queries to agents in the US and the UK. I queried some local publishers in Lagos, Nigeria, but I got a lot of rejection slips.
I kept sending out queries and submissions, but was not getting the result I wanted. Then I discovered Amazon.com and their Kindle Publishing feature - the KDP.
At first, I was cautious, since I had never done any internet selling before. So I tested the waters with Amazon's KDP for a while, and recorded 799 downloads within three weeks of publishing the book. The next week, I discovered Smashwords.com and realized they were even better than the KDP on Amazon.com.
I was hooked. My books have been on Smashwords.com since then. Of course I still use Amazon.com, but Smashwords.com is it for me.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
God. That's it.
When I wake up in the morning, I know it is just another gift from God, to live another 24 hours, and bless someone out of it.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The greatest joy of writing for me is that feeling I get when I am creating something new. That feeling of intense fulfillment at creating something like no one else had ever done before. Whenever I type "the end" at the end of a story, it feels like heaven.
I also love those moments when I write something that I never knew I could write, or describe something in a way I have never done before. When I do something that is completely new to me, sharpening my talent, blessing myself out.
I also love people walking up to me, just to tell me how much of an impact my story has had on them, or their friend, or even on their writing.
Indescribably Transcendent feeling!!!
What are you working on next?
I am currently doing a novel that involves the spirit world, and how the angels and the demons respond to, and influence our world.
I have thought of giving it the title "Thrones", but I am not sure right now, until after the final revisions.
I just might change my mind.
When do we expect your next book?
It should be out by the end of 2014.
What would be your advice to the aspiring writer out there?
One, If writing does not make you happy, do not even dare come to the blank page. There's a lot of room for self doubt and discouragement. Only a genuine love for the craft will keep you going.
And honey, sit your butt in the chair and write the damn thing. A lot of people call themselves writers, attend every writing academy in the country and register for every writing conference, but never find the time to actually write. Singers sing. Drummers drum. Why do writers not find the time to do their thing?
I don't understand it.
Thank You very much.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.