Chioma Okonkwo is more than the queen of fantasy. The award-winning author takes us through the door that leads to her fictional world. She began writing in 2013, and has 21 books to her credit. Okonkwo has travelled to so many countries and, as a result, she has written things about places where she has visited. Her genre of writing include action-packed mystery, suspense, thriller and detective, erotica, literary/realistic fiction, romance, mystery and general suspense. She writes on diversity, because she is still exploring other genres like fantasy, horror and science fiction. Some of her works include Invisible Daddy, The XIth Hour, Dim Noo Abroad, Twenty One Days, Desperate Women, Yankee Based Wives, All that Glitters, The Whistling Swing, among others.
What inspired you to write your first book, The X1th Hour, in 2013?
For me, the book is an experimental one. Although it came out well, if I had the knowledge that I have now in 2013, I would have done a better job. That book took me six months to write, it started off as a fantasy book; somehow, it diverted into thriller when I changed the theme. There was no inspiration behind the book as I was trying my creativity. The only thing that I missed there was the structure, which I didn’t have from the beginning. I later realised that, if I had a structure back then, it would have been easier for me to write.
Can you tell us more about your series?
The Angela Hunter Series was a personal challenge for me, because I read about the story of a writer who used to write a story every month, and I had an idea that I could actually do that as well. Closed Door started as a story of about eight pages. I was visiting my sister in America, and she was using the bathroom washing her hair. She spent two hours there, and I needed to use the bathroom, but the door was closed. While waiting for her, I wrote a short story and stopped where I opened the door. Afterwards, I had to look for what to add to the story to make people eager to open that door. So, I added crime to it. It was a short story, and people were asking for more. I made it into a novella, and they were still asking for more; and I made it into five volumes. The series is a crime behind the closed door.
Would you say that travelling to various countries has influenced your writings?
I would say that travelling to places has helped my writings in the sense that I want to make my settings to be more realistic. When I am in a particular place, I write about that place and people can actually travel to those places through words and through what they read. For example, my recently released book, Like Never Before, takes place in the Southern France, I went there on the sea, I have done book tour, so that actually helped my writing to explain the book tour: what happens in the tour and how you can enjoy France when a reader visits the country. When people read the book, they say that they want to visit Southern France. The only way that I could make it come alive is by using my experience of the places that I have travelled to.
Why do you prefer to write action packed, mystery, suspense, thriller and detective books?
I think writing comes natural. When I try to write romance or any other genre, something like detective scenes always come into play. In my first attempt at love stories, finding love, a crime scene somehow found its way into the book; it was police and their investigations. When you write fast paced or action packed, it keeps your readers on their seat; they want to know what happens next. That’s why I love to read and eager to write as well.
Among the various genres that you have written, which is easier?
For me, what is the best is detective or crime, because they are so many crime happening in the society, but the only difference is that it is not in the delivery but what happens for you to solve the crime. Some people can write so many crime novels, but the difference will be what kind of crime is it this time, the type of weapons used, who are the killers, and twists and turns. So there are more twists and turns that in any other genre, that is why I love to write crime stories, and it is easier for me to write. But, normally, general suspense is what I put in every book that I write.
Why is your writing based on goal diversity and why are you still exploring other genres, including fantasy, horror and science-fiction?
For me, writing is a passion and also a personal challenge on my creativity, so I choose diversity, because I want to be able to reach everyone. If you have lovers of romance, they know that they can come to read to read some romance books. If you have lovers of horror, they can come to me to read horror books. If you have lovers of thriller, they can come to me. So, diversity is to be able to reach a wider audience and to cater for every individual’s reading.
How did you feel when your short story, Invisible Daddy, won the Africa Book Club Short Story Competition in 2014?
I was really excited because people always discourage you from submitting your works to various competitions; they believe that the judges will not be fair, because they have their winners before the competition begins. So, I submitted my work with the belief that I would not win because they have a winner already, so when I was contacted as the winner, I was really excited, and I now had faith in the competition. That was what opened doors for me to submit my works for various competitions.
How did you feel when your novel, Twenty One Days, was listed as number three of the 50 Best Indie Books in 2015?
I was really proud, because Twenty One Days was really the most challenging book that I have written. It is about National Youths service Corps (NYSC) experience, but entertaining and educative. It is not the regular NYSC book: it just speaks from the setting, so there is love, friendship, scandal, betrayal and everything happening in the camp. It is a story in a story. The whole idea is for people to relate the story that being there, it takes them back to the camp. Different characters of people come together to make the book entertaining and educative. I put in so much energy in writing the book for three months, and it is my biggest book so far in terms of number of words and the book took me to the hospital because I had severe backache, sitting down for long hours writing, reading the draft and reconstructing the book. I felt happy that people are reading the book and loving it as well.
Also, your book, Mama, It’s Me, was listed as number three of the 50 Best Indie books in 2018 and also at the Indie Author Land?
I am happy about that as well, because the book is a different book, for it is about the before life. People always talk about after life and current times. It is about a baby’s journey from the womb and to the world. The idea starts that the baby is in the stomach of the mother in heaven, and God tells the baby, “I am going to send you on a journey; I am preparing you for your achievements and everything that is going to happen to you and go into the world.” With the snap of the finger, the baby starts growing in the womb, hearing things around him until it is given birth at the expected time.