“To be a fully rounded writer, you have to be fully rounded.” – Anonymous
Abigail Anaba, is almost fully rounded.
The Nigerian screenwriter known for penning movies like Lost Maiden and Unguarded– has written her first novel, and if the critics’ review carry any weight, it’s a slam-dunk debut effort.
Sector IV sees the writer deliver a romantic communal tale from the era of the Nigerian Civil war.
Abigail Anaba, who will take Sector IV on tour in October, recently had a sit-down with YNaija, to harp on the book.
Give us a brief history of your writing background
I started writing about 15 years ago. I watched a movie and said, “I can write a movie script that will be a spinoff of this.” So I bought a ream of paper and sat and wrote all through that weekend. It took me three days to finish. Then I wondered what to do with it. So I went to Aquila Njama and asked him to please read my script and he did and liked it and got me my first writing gig. I have worked with a number of producers afterwards including Chisom Ozlee, Morris Sesay, Yinka Akanbi and Jemila Musa then with Koga studios… mostly television and movies. So I thought why not carry over screenwriting to prose and tell a story that will make people feel they are watching a movie and here we are.
What inspired the writing of Sector IV?
My mum. She is late now. She told an unforgettable tale of Biafra and I wanted to preserve it in some way. I didn’t want people to just think of violence and death when they hear Biafra. I wanted them to remember that there were people with lives who lived in South East Nigeria at that time and not everyone liked or supported the war. Some were just caught in the middle and they also have a tale to tell.
What sort of response have you gotten so far from the publication?
I must say the response has been overwhelming. I have had people call to tell me that they could not put down the book once they started. Some have talked about the emotions they felt while reading. One person in particular said he felt like he was watching a movie as he read and that really made me happy. Everyone’s feedback has been great. The worst feedback I got rated the book 3.5 and to me that’s not bad at all. High point was when I sent the book to Chief Dilibe Onyeama and he described the book as a “masterpiece”. It is one thing for friends to say your work is great but that from a stranger? I was exhilarated.
The response gotten, is it as you expected?
To be absolutely honest, I wasn’t expecting the kind of response I am getting. I have never really thought so highly of my writing and even now it feels surreal. But what can I say, it should only get better.
How did you settle for the subject-matter of romance intertwined with the historical traditions/culture of the Igbos?
Well, we all live and love. I have always believed that every story must have a heart and what better way to touch the heart than talking about matters of the heart. I didn’t want to write a Biafra story but I wanted to talk about Biafra in a way. I guess it came to me, the way a dream comes to you…sneaking up into your subconscious and then sometimes becoming so overpowering that you wake up remembering every detail.
Many writers often times, mix a bit of realism with fiction to create a great literary work. Was that the case for you?
Art is life and life is art. I think one writer said that. I don’t think it is really possible to write without it reflecting an aspect of life. Even science fiction reflects lie. So yes, I did borrow from life to write this. But like Oscar Wilde says, “truth is stranger than fiction”.
What was the response like on social media, where you have a decent following?
The responses I have received so far have all been through various social media channels. The book is not available through traditional channels yet. We are waiting till after the official presentation which will hold beginning of December.
Do you intend to promote the book, via a book tour?
Definitely. The first is scheduled for October in Lagos and another in Abuja in November. We are also hoping to visit Enugu and maybe Ibadan and Port Harcourt.
Sector IV has so far gotten good reviews- will that have a great impact on your follow-up?
They say to whom much is given, much is expected. So yes, I think I have set the bar and I can’t afford to go below that bar. I can only get better.
Do you think the story of Biafra has been well told, thus far?
It has been told and will still be told. There has been so much talk about Biafra in recent times with Radio Biafra and all. I think more people need to talk about Biafra especially the older generation who lived through the war. War is bad and does not lead to any good, just death and destruction but when men’s ego is involved they always resort to fighting. I believe the more people talk objectively about Biafra the better for everyone. Biafra may not be the Sector IV some people think it is.