“I Don’t Have A Routine As A Writer And I Am Comfortable With What I Write” – Abubakar Adam Ibrahim.
Chief Synner: Ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to the SyncityNG Literary Lords and Ladies show! Today’s guest needs no introduction but I’ll introduce him anyway. His novel, Season of Crimson Blossoms, was published in 2015 by @Parresiabooks and @CassavaRepublic. It won the NLNG prize in 2016. Abubakar Adam Ibrahim holds a BA in Mass Communication from the University of Jos. His debut short-story collection The Whispering Trees was longlisted for the inaugural Etisalat Prize for Literature in 2014 with the title story shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing.
Ibrahim has won the BBC African Performance Prize and the ANA Plateau/Amatu Braide Prize for Prose. He is a Gabriel Garcia Marquez Fellow (2013), a Civitella Ranieri Fellow (2015)and a 2018 Art OMI Fellow. Ibrahim was the recipient of the 2016 Goethe-Institut & Sylt Foundation African Writer’s Residency Award. In 2014 he was selected for the Africa39 list of writers aged under 40 with potential and talent to define future trends in African literature and was included in the anthology Africa39: New Writing from Africa South of the Sahara (ed. Ellah Allfrey). He was a mentor on the 2013 Writivism programme and judged the Writivism Short Story Prize in 2014. He was chair of judges for the 2016 Etisalat Flash Fiction Prize.
His first novel, Season of Crimson Blossoms, was published in 2015 by Parrésia Publishers in Nigeria and by Cassava Republic Press in the UK (2016). Season of Crimson Blossoms was shortlisted in September 2016 for the Nigeria Prize for Literature, Africa’s largest literary prize. It was announced on 12 October 2016 that Ibrahim was the winner of the $100,000 prize.
Ibrahim is the Features Editor at the Daily Trust newspaper. Ibrahim’s reporting from North-East Nigeria has won particular critical acclaim. In May 2018 he was announced as the winner of the Michael Elliot Award for Excellence in African Storytelling, awarded by the International Center for Journalists, for his report All That Was Familiar, published in Granta magazine in May 2017. Ibrahim was a 2018 Ochberg Fellow at the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
He is our guest this Monday on the SyncityNG Literary Lords and Ladies show. Ladies and gentlemen, with a resounding standing ovation and clap, give it up for @Moonchild509!
Welcome sir. Let’s begin.
Abubakar Ibrahim: Thank you. Yes, let us begin. finally.
Chief Synner: Let me ‘begin from the beginning’. How did it feel when you were credited with 50 million naira for your work?
Abubakar: N50 million? By who?
I helped you calculate and convert the 100,000 dollars na. Don’t be shy. Tell us what it feels to be an “intanashuna” writer earning in dollars?
Ah! Many people helped me with all sorts of calculations and budgets and plans and what to do and what not do. You are coming two years late. It just feels like being a writer. Nothing compares to the feeling of completing a work that people love. There is no value you can place on that.
What’s your writing routine like? You have achieved so much in such a short while. What’s the secret?
Such a short while? How short is short? I have been writing since forever. I don’t have a routine. I write when I feel like writing and live when I don’t. Sometimes I think writers encumber themselves with all sorts of rituals, but if it works for them . . . Everything can be applied to writing. And writing can be applied to anything.
What would you say a publishing house owes an author and how did you come to pitch your tent initially with @Parresiabooks?
Someday we will talk about this Parresia business. Suffice to say, we had a good run together. I still have friends there. We were really close.
Would you call yourself the youngest successful writer from the North? A lot of people seem to agree so.
I am not sure I want to label myself in these terms. I think of myself as a writer and success as a writer often has very little to do with age or where one is from. It has to do with how people relate to your writing.
How has your journalism background helped your fiction writing?
Everything a writer does helps his writing, whether he is a scientist or garbage man. Writing is life and in life you learn everything everyday. These things you learn, some maybe immediately irrevelant. Others will come in handy someday.
You slay at journalism and still slay at fiction. To what do you owe the success of your award-filled career?
It is not by my power. LOL. Good fortune. Hardwork, oppurtunities meeting preparadeness, I guess and not being in competition with anyone but oneself. I suppose many people call themselves writers and do anything but write. I think the most important for writers is to actually write. That is easier said than done.
Will there be a sequel to seasons of crimsons blossoms?
Should there be? Who knows. Maybe if Binta and the other characters in the book come back and say, Listen, Malam, there is more to this story. You never can say.
Some people have argued that only the Igbos wrote many novels about their experiences in the Biafra war and no writer from the North has write about Biafra war. Do you have interest to write on that?
There are many perspectives about the war. And the same can be said about anything. I was very invested in that period and actually wrote something set around that time. I haven’t published it. But definitely we haven’t heard all there is to hear about that period
You are laid back about your success . Is this “real-life” humility or you haven’t gotten to the “god-like” level of writers?
I have always been comfortable with who I am and I have always written. I don’t see why I should be different now.
From which authors did you find your writing voice? Which books gave you the inspiration to become a writer?
I have always been creative and wanted to tell stories. I drew a lot as a kid and the pictures told stories. But reading Anthony Hope’s Prisoner of Zenda made me focus on writing. I guess I found my voice beforhe I found writers I love.
You recently announced that you changed publishers for your book “Season of Crimson Blossoms.” You may not want to discuss exactly what happened but could you tell us the lessons learnt from that experience.
Maybe this is not the right time to talk about it.
Season of Crimson Blossoms was such a refreshing read. We don’t have a lot of books on Northern Nigeria. My question is were any of the characters based on an actual person. Authors always say it’s imagination but usually there is a muse… So?
No. There isn’t. All the characters are completely fictitious. Of course I am happy that people believe this characters are so real they want to recognise them on the streets and want to believe I may be Reza or something like that. Reza is Reza. Abubakar is Abubakar.
Ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank you all for showing up tonight. Special thanks to our guest @Moonchild509 for finding time to do this. Let’s do this again next Monday. Good night #Synners!