by Tayo O
This week we interview award winning story and children fiction writer Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo.
Three adjectives that best describe you?
Honest, hard-working and kind.
What’s the strangest question you’ve been asked about Roses and Bullets, your latest work?
People have asked why I chose to write about the war, especially as so many books have been written on the subject by other writers. I consider this strange. I believe one can write on any subject.
What was most challenging about writing this book?
Making the different parts fit and cohere with the rest of the book. It’s a big book – over 500 pages – so it required skill, discipline and patience to put it together.
Why did you join the Jalaa Writers’ Collective?
I joined because I share the vision of the Collective and feel I can relate well to the writers individually and collectively. They are good and serious writers.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Queen Amina of Zazzau.
What is the strangest research you’ve done?
On the subject of poltergeist. Believe it or not, it was useful in my writing.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
To have to say, “Had I known.”
Name your five favourite writers and why?
What an impossible task! I have read hundreds of writers and love the writing of many. They include literary writers as well as those writing about crime, romance and science fiction. And those who write for children too. So how can I choose just five favourites?
Do Nigerians read?
Yes, but not enough.
What’s your advice to young writers?
Young writers should persist in their writing and develop their skills.
Read an excerpt from Roses and Bullets below:
Then she heard a swishing sound and listened. “What was that noise,” she asked, turning to Udo. Udo looked blank. It sounded like a plane, but the swishing sound was strange. The seller was talking to her but she was not listening. The sound was increasing, and there was indication other people had heard it too. She heard a loud voice crying, “Hey, it is enemy plane-o! Take cover!”
Ginika did not have time to think, but the training she had had as a special constable guided her action, as she grabbed Udo’s hand and cried, “Follow me! Bend forward as you run!” They took off before the other people in the market who seemed mesmerized by the sound of the planes. Some of them stood in one spot, watching, as the first plane entered the space, in the sky, above the market. Ginika found the first tree at the edge of the forest and shouted to Udo, “Stop! Lie down beside me!” Even as she listened to the whooshing sound of the jet bombers, she heard the first explosion. The earth shook. Ginika flung one arm round the base of the tree and pressed her head to the ground; she could feel Udo’s body pressed to her side. “Stay down! Keep your body flat!” she whispered fiercely. “Don’t get up!” Was she trembling or was it Udo’s body quivering and shaking hers?
She felt rather than saw legs running past, pounding the ground where they lay; she was grateful for the tree which acted as a buffer, shielding her and Udo. Without this protection, she knew they could easily be trampled to death. The explosions rocked the ground, assaulted the air again and again. Ginika heard anguished cries around her and held on to the tree. For a moment, she ventured to look up, and saw two jets turning directly overhead; they shone like silver, in the sun. In that instant, she saw one of them release some objects she could not identify; the objects fell from the rear end of the plane like the droppings of a goat. Could these be rockets or cannonballs? Soon after, before she lowered her head completely, she saw an arm and a leg fly past and land a little distance from her. She shuddered. People were still running past, crying out in their frenzy. As she pressed her head down once more, Ginika felt a human body land on top of her. She fainted.
She woke to the sound of weeping and lamentation. She twisted her body and the weight on top of her rolled off. She flinched at the sight before her – a thin woman with a battered head, still bleeding. Udo lay still. For a moment her heart stopped beating, as she thought he was dead. His body was spattered with blood. She shook him, and gave a little cry when he opened his eyes and fixed them on her. He seemed dazed, semi-conscious. “Udo, it’s me. Wake up.” When she read fear in his eyes, she knew he was conscious. To the left of Udo, Ginika saw the body of another victim lying across a severed leg. She was sure the man was dead because he lay perfectly still and his eyes looked glazed.
Slowly she got up and pulled Udo up. He had a wild look in his eyes which frightened Ginika the more. She wondered if her own eyes were like that. “Let’s go,” she whispered, and he complied mechanically. She grasped his hand and guided him through the carnage. There were craters here and there, and she avoided them. The dead and the wounded littered the ground. Many had died instantly and might not have suffered any pain, she thought. As she passed, one woman moaned, “Please, help me; it’s my leg.” Ginika looked and saw a bloodied leg, looking pulpy like a sponge. She averted her eyes. There was nothing she could do. She whimpered, and stumbled away, still clutching Udo’s hand. There were howls here and groans there. All she wanted was to get far away from the gory scene. Further away, she saw limbs ripped off from their owners, and other body parts lying around as if they were for sale. Some of the bodies were trapped by chairs and stools people had brought to the market. As they stumbled to the side from which they had entered the market, Ginika cringed at the sight of blood spattered on trees, on the ground, on merchandise and on the dead bodies lying everywhere. She looked at Udo and, cradling him, she steered him towards the path that led to their home.