I conducted this interview over a month ago with the author of Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who has just released her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun. The interview was published in National Mirror.
What are you working on presently?
Some short stories
What writer living at home did you read recently?
I think Tolu Ogunlesi is very talented.
Have you been following the prizes available for literary works in Nigeria? What's your take on them?
I have not been following them.
You were in the country on a book tour, to promote your first book. How well did it go, and how were you received?
I think it went well. I was very happy to see that people were genuinely interested in literature.
When you left the country, what did you really go to do abroad? Work?
I left Nigeria to go to college. I wanted an opportunity to study something that was not a science as I had started off studying medicine at Nsukka.
When you were in Nigeria, were you writing then?
Yes. My first published work was in Nigeria.
You write short stories, and have won several prizes, when are you going to put together a collection of short stories for publication?
Do you think you can live in Nigeria again as a writer?
I don't think anybody could make a living in Nigeria from fiction writing. But I certainly intend to continue to spend part of my time in Nigeria.
How connected are you with (1) Other Nigerian writers in the Diaspora, (2) African writers in the Diaspora?
I have a few friends who happen to be writers. However they are my friends because they are kind and loyal people and not because they write. The only relationship I think is essential to have with otherwriters is simply as a reader of their work.
Do you think African is doing enough in the international literature market?
I'm not in a position to speak about the international literature market.
How do we improve our literature and our reading culture?
By first starting with our education. And by changing the mindset we have about reading.
What is the number one problem you feel that is affecting our literature?
There are a number of complex problems. We do not value reading as much as we should and, even if we did, we don't have access to much reading material.
I know this question has been asked a lot of times, and I ask it again. How much of your novel, Purple Hibiscus, is autobiographical?
Very little. The story is not mine. My family is nothing like the family in the book.
What inspired you to write that book? I've heard a lot of times, and have experienced it. You set out to write a story, you know the whole story in your head, how it will begin and how it will end, but most of the times, than not, the story turn out differently, by writing itself. Did that happen to you?
Yes, my characters often surprised me.
Why did you decide to have your book published locally for West Africa, by Farafina?
Because Farafina is remarkable. Because I deeply admire Muhtar Bakare's commitment to literature and doing things right. Because I wanted my book to be available in an edition that would be affordablefor many Nigerians.
Chimamanda is branded. Or maybe not. Why the corn rolls?
I'm not comfortable with the idea of being a brand. I think human beings just get used to something and then do it over and over. I love my natural hair and when I don't wear it in an afro, braids are the second best option. I started putting beads in them years ago and have come to feel strange when I don't have them on.