26 Mar Up, Close and Personal with Michael Afenfia
- Tell us about yourself.
My name is Michael Perepase Afenfia and I am a writer. I have authored three critically acclaimed novels, A Street Called Lonely, When the Moon Caught Fire and Don’t Die on Wednesday. My son, Biboye, and I together authored Paxoid, a book for children. Recently I co-authored a biography. Although I trained as a lawyer, I have not for a day worn my wig and gown after my call to bar. Now, not only is writing my passion, it has become the platform upon which I have done all I do professionally.
I am very much interested in imparting my experience, rubbing minds with other literary enthusiasts across the country, and working to glamorise writing as a craft – and an enviable profession. I believe that writers are very important to the society and should be seen as such. However, we on our own must also begin to make conscious efforts towards attaining this.
- What prompted you to write Don’t Die on Wednesday?
I was influenced by pop culture. I wanted to do something contemporary to which people could relate. Something not far-fetched. Football was one of such subject matters, and so I opted for it. My preference for something relatable definitely played a role in the characterisation and the references found in the story.
- Briefly describe the writing process of this novel.
I had conversations with actual football players. To have a closer experience of the game, I spent time watching games on TV, visiting the stadium to watch live matches and conducting interviews with players. All of these constituted the process for writing, which took me one year.
I wrote mostly at night and while travelling which happened a lot at the time. So I’d write in the plane on long flights and in hotel rooms.
- African writing seems to have moved from narrating the African experience at the hands of colonialists to engaging with more quotidian issues. In your opinion, do you think literature should continue to engage with history?
Our literature definitely should mirror life, our life in the past and present – and even the future. There is a place for every kind of literature. Irrespective of the style, theme or subject matter, it is important that we continue to tell our story, and not let it be told by someone else. Our history is an important aspect of our lives and cannot be over-told. Also, daily issues of life are also reflective of who we are and so we must reflect our worldview. What I think we should focus on is the next generation of writers. We need new writers that will shake the world. This is part of why I organise the 18 Questions event which was recently concluded and went from Yenagoa to Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja.
- So, do you love football? Which team do you support?
Most definitely! I love football, although I may not sit in front of the TV round-the-clock to watch a match or argue for hours over a dribble, I love the sport. And yes, I support Manchester City.
- One notices that in Don’t Die on Wednesday football transcends just a game to become a form of metaphor. Did you intend that football will be read as some form of philosophy in the novel?
It is really interesting the different interpretations I have received for my works, not just Don’t Die on Wednesday. Most of the time, I just write as the characters play out themselves in my head. At some points, I might have certain intentions, but I try not to let it overtake what my characters really want.
- Carl Terver, a reviewer and cultural critic has made the statement that there are parts of the story that seem incomplete and do not tie in with the overarching narrative? What is your opinion about this? Did he read right?
The review has done what a critique should. For works of art, it is a given to get different interpretations; Carl’s is one – and it is just fine.
- Who are your three best authors? And what are you currently reading?
James Michener, Buchi Emecheta, Chinua Achebe. Currently reading 13 Days by Robert F Kennedy.
- What are you currently working on?
Currently, I am working on a number of short stories, which I would be publishing on my blog as I write. Also, every other week, I write “The Mechanics of Yenagoa”, a series set in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State which tells the stories of some mechanics and the people in their lives. I see myself doing this for a couple of months and hope that it eventually is published as a novel. So far, it has been an interesting experience, releasing an episode every one or two weeks, losing the power to re-make destinies because it has been announced already to the world. Currently, I am telling the story from the point of view of Ebinimi, the primary character but I might be taking the story from the perspective of other mechanics in his story, Saka, Biodun and Broderick, who themselves have their stories that deserve to be heard.
10. Any last words?
Lately, I’ve been organising competitions for aspiring writers and I’m amazed at the quality of talents out there. I commend groups like LNG for giving us writers something to look forward to by way of competitions and prize money. It’d be nice to have some of the sponsors of Big Brother Naija and such other programmes look the way of these young brilliant minds sometimes and not always ignore the beauty in literature and creative writing completely because there’s no nudity or sex on national TV involved.