Ifeanyi Omeni is a writer and author of Pearls are not for Pigs, Letter to Thilda, Footprints of Note, Wind of Change, Place of Shadows, Songs at Sunrise.
The Managing Director of Touch of Gold media is also a communication coach, an ACE professional, performance poet and a writing coach. In this interview with Damiete Braide, she reveals that, among other genres of writing, fiction is more difficult to write.
What was your reaction when one of your short stories “The Ungodly Seal”, published in Real Relationship magazine, won the star prize?
I was really excited about the award. I saw the advertisement where people should submit their short stories for an award, and I sent in my entry, which later emerged as the star prize. The story was inspired by a story I heard in church in Delta State, many years ago. It was a meeting for single men and women, and a man raised up his hand and explained a particular scenario in his life, which he told a friend that he didn’t like. People commented about it; other people saw it an interesting story from his narrative, but I saw it as a material that I could write about. I later wrote the story, and submitted it for the award, and it won the star prize and that really encouraged me to write.
You wrote your first and second book, Pearls Are Not for Pigs in 2006 and Letter to Thilda in 2007 as a banker, how were you able to achieve this feat?
My first book as a writer was, Pearls are not for pigs, was published in 2006, when I worked in the bank and, in 2007, my second book, Letter to Thilda, was published. People ask me how I find time to write the books, and my reply is: writing is my passion, so, I would always find time to write, despite my tight schedule. I was inspired by So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba, and I would never forgot how I got inspired. One of my sisters, who had completed her secondary school, told me that she didn’t want to do anything with books again, so, she took all her books to burn. I told her, “Why would you burn your books?” I retrieved So Long A Letter from the books she wanted to burn. I later read the book, and wrote something like that. The story is about two sisters and how an individual comes into their lives to cause a drastic change, and one of the sisters wrote a letter to the other sister, telling her the experiences that she had.
You went on to write Footprint of Notes…
It is a Christian motivational book that encourages people how to live their lives in order to put their footprints on the sands of time. I did a lot of research, and found how people have left foot prints in the lives of people. I focused on individuals in the Bible, people presently alive in Nigeria and outside the country, and they have touched lives positively and have left legacies in the world.
There is a chapter on renowned artist, Leonardo Da Vinci, and his great work on Mona Lisa. It is about how you can make a masterpiece of your life.
As a writer, blogger, poet, motivational coach, when do you find time to write?
In life, if you don’t make out time for something, you will never do it. I try to make out time for my writing. I also make conscious effort for my reading. I am more effective writing at night, and most of my writings on social media are done during the early hours of the morning. When most people are sleeping, that is when I do write. When I get inspiration to write at night, I would not sleep until I have finished writing.
Some writers would say that they are just retelling a story, how did you come about writing Songs at Sunrise in 2017?
The book is an adaptation, and I don’t like telling people where I adapted it from. I want them to read the book to get where it was adapted from. There is always an excitement for readers when they eventually know where I adapted it from. I have always been fascinated about that particular story, and I told myself, why not an adaptation, because I have read a lot of foreign authors who have adapted stories? Just like my pastor used to say, there is nothing wrong in copying my sermon and preaching it again, but the only thing is that copy it right.
It is worthy to note that The Gods Are Not to Blame by Ola Rotimi, was an adaptation of Greek classic, Oedipus Sophocles Rex, and someone wrote that Rotimi brought the legendary story of Sophocles to the Yorubaland, and I said, why not, why can’t I bring this particular story to the Nigerian environment? And that was exactly what I did. It talks about a lot of tragedies at the beginning, but towards the end, there was hope, redemption, which is what a lot of people liked about it, and, in the end, the person sings a “Song at Sunrise”.
How does the environment influence your writings?
I get my stories from just anything. In the course of my discussion with people, I will get ideas. Some people have complained a lot that people should not spend so much time watching television or on social media. But I tell them, it depends on what they are getting from it. The only time that I am not working or getting inspiration is when I am asleep. As long as I am awake, I can get inspiration from people talking, or on social media, and, sometimes, through messages in church. I also go to cinemas to watch movies to get inspiration.
Wind of Change, a Christian fiction, was published last year. Is there a personal experience about it?
People have asked me if I write stories about myself that they see a lot of things about my personality in my works, and I tell them, maybe or maybe not. I see a lot of things happening in churches today, and I felt I should write a book chronicling some of the activities in churches and talking about how a wind of change can cause a positive change in people’s lives, and that was inspired me. I observed people get fascinated with the front cover, and it has motivated them to buy the book. People still feel that, in life, they want a wind of change that will cause transformation –positive things to happen to them. The book talks about when God comes into the life of an individual, it brings about a wind of change and things are never the same in the individual’s life positively.
At what point did you take to Christian fiction, and what was the motivation behind it? Why not secular faction writing?
Most of the things that I have written basically focus on Christianity, and I don’t know why it is like that. When something is part of you, it just flows. I love to watch Nigerian films, and it is high time we started telling our Nigerian stories. The world is filled with stories from Hollywood and other places, and that’s why I love writing about real life Nigerian stories of interest to Nigerians. People from other religion read my works, and they are really excited about the works. Christian fiction does not mean, it’s a book only for Christians No! It uses Christian themes. At the end of the works, there are Bible references for people to read and know where the story comes from. It is just the inspiration that comes to me to write the book.
You have been published across genres, which is more difficult to write: poetry, fiction, nonfiction or motivational books?
Anybody who tells you that they can teach you creative writing without teaching you the rudiments of writing is not helping you. One of the adults that I taught creative writing once told me he attended a training on writing, and after the training, he didn’t understand what he was taught. I told him, he didn’t understand, because he was not taught the rudiments of writing. People think that writing is just to write, but it is not like that. Rather, you write something that the audience wants to read and engage their attention. The easiest thing to write is nonfiction, which refers to works of art that deal basically with facts and events that occurred; and the most difficult thing to write is creative writing. I find fiction more difficult to write because of the intrigues involved it.