In today’s Making Monday Mild (MMM), Amaka Azie, a multiple awards winning bestseller author, queried the paucity of African romance genre in our bookshops, adding that for one to get inspired on what to write, he/she just needs to look at the world around them. MMM is hosted by Diepiriye Rita George.
“Love can never be overrated. Love is the greatest gift of all. It is needed for happiness. If there is more love in the world, half of the problems destroying the globe would disappear…” ~ Amaka Azie
1) You’re welcome to MAKING MONDAY MILD. Kindly introduce yourself.
I am Amaka Azie, an author of romance fiction set in tropical Africa and a part-time family doctor. I come from a large family and have four other siblings. An interesting fact about me is that I have a twin brother.
Because I have lived in various regions of Nigeria, I consider myself a Wazobia Nigerian. I was born in Lagos, attended a boarding secondary school at FGGC Onitsha, and then University of Benin where I obtained a bachelor’s degree in Medicine and Surgery. I also lived in Abuja, the FCT of Nigeria for a few years.
Now, I reside in England with my husband and daughters.
2) Kindly give a list of the books you’ve written and links to them on Amazon or any other platform.
Melodies of Love, Thorns and Roses, Starting Over Again, etc.
Amazon page: http://bit.ly/AmakaAzie
3) As a romance writer that has authored quite a number of romance novels, what inspires your novels?
Life events and stories stimulate my imagination. I’m inspired by the daily challenges of the African. I’ve found that because I listen without judging, people – strangers even – feel inclined to share their stories with me. I draw inspiration from emotional recounts of everyday encounters.
An event as simple as someone slipping on a sidewalk in public can stir a writing idea. Others may find it amusing or distressing, but my head floods with how I can incorporate that in a novel. My mind is a crazy traffic of ideas.
Because my mother is a huge fan of the late Elvis Presley, I became fascinated by him. From research into his life, I discovered that he had a hard time controlling how fans–especially females–responded to him. This gave rise to the idea of Ikenna’s character in Melodies of Love. I wanted him to be the Nigerian Elvis who had to struggle with combining his fame and his personal life. I think the world around us is enough inspiration for any author who pays attention.
As an avid reader, I’m also inspired by books. I always say to be a better author, one should read as many books as possible and keep writing.
4)You won two outstanding awards last year, Number 7 okadabooks bestseller and one of the most influential under 40 Nigerian writers, what would you ascribe these to?
It’s a difficult question to answer. In my opinion, success as an author usually comes from faith, hard work and marketing. You not only have to write a good book, you’ve got to push it out there, receive many rejections, dust yourself up and keep pushing. Most successful authors don’t get where they are overnight. There is a lot of hard work and perseverance involved.
5) What’s that outstanding feature that makes you shine out among other romance writers?
I think it’s authenticity. Most of the positive feedback I get from my readers is that the storylines are realistic and the characters in my books are relatable.
Nigeria is a beautiful country populated with hardworking people. However, there are challenges we face that are unique to the country.
The media often continues to highlight the negativity in Africa. It’s usually a biased story. I am inspired to give a clearer picture of the Nigeria I grew up in. A country where apart from the negative issues plaguing the nation like political corruption, economic instability, etc., there is also love, family, education and community. I try to showcase those realities and intricacies in my books and I guess people are drawn to that.
6) Is there enough that has been done to improve the quality of romance content by writers in the Nigerian industry?
I’m not sure how to answer this question. My problem is with bookshops in Nigeria. As a teenager, I faced the continuous disappointment of looking for romance novels with African main characters and finding none in bookshops. Instead, they were filled with Mills and Boons and Harlequin novels with non-African characters. It always left me feeling unhappy.
When I came across Helen Ovbiagele’s romance novels, part of “Pacesetters” books popular in the 90s, I went crazy. I bought almost all of them with my pocket money. I think there should be more African romance stories in our bookshops.
7) Romance seems to be incorporated in virtually every genre. How do you engage creativity that ensures that you stay far away as possible from cliché?
Everyone likes the idea of Love. It’s no surprise that it is incorporated in almost every book genre. Cliché happens when an author writes a book for writing sake. Or so they can have many books in the market.
I think to avoid cliché, an author should pay attention to the world around. There are so many real occurrences that can be the background theme of a good love story. Although my novel, Starting Over Again is predominantly romance fiction, there is a character with sickle cell disease. That is a real-life situation that has been interwoven into a romance novel.
8) Briefly, how do you maintain work-life balance?
I have a supportive family. And I work part time as a family doctor. I write when I’m off or when the children are in bed and my husband is watching the news.
9) Is love and romance overrated/underrated or both?
No. Love can never be overrated. Love is the greatest gift of all. It is needed for happiness. If there is more love in the world, half the problems destroying the globe would disappear. There should be love for children, the young, the old, even love for animals. Everyone needs love. It doesn’t always have to do with spouses and romantic relationships.
However, if one does have a spouse, he/she should make time for romance. These memories are more important than material wealth.
10) Does one have to be a romantic to cook up romance stories?
Nope. It’s like saying one has to be a murderer or thief to be a good suspense/thriller writer. A good romance author pays attention to the world around, and draws inspiration for love stories. I love romance but I’m not a hopeless romantic. I’m realistic in many aspects of my life, including my love life.
11) The romance novels market seems crowded. How can an upcoming romance writer/author stand out in the crowd?
By being true to themselves! Don’t write what others are writing. Write a story that touches you. I’ve heard somewhere, “Write what you want to read!” I think that is true.
12) What exercises or books or sites must a writer visit to write better romance novels?
I’m not sure how to answer that. I love to read, so I’m always on my kindle and okadabooks app. I also visit bookshops regularly. I watch all genres of movies and TV series too. Ideas can crop up from anywhere. It doesn’t always have to be from a romance genre book or movie.
13) Was there ever a time you fell in love with a fictional romance character? Who was the character and in what novel?
Yes, Osifo Egie in a Fresh Start by Helen Ovbiagele. His broody exterior, yet inner gentleness was sexy.
14) When love-sick, which of your romance books would you recommend? And why?
Melodies of Love or Starting Over Again. I have a soft spot for Ikenna’s character. He went from rags to riches but remained humble.
In Starting Over Again, the chemistry between Onome and Nnamdi was intense. Even if I say so myself.
15) Who are your favourite romance writers of all time?
Delaney Diamond. She writes African American and inter-racial romance stories.
Kiru Taye: I call her the queen of African romance. I hope to meet her someday.
16) Final words for first-timers and fans.
Read a lot of books. Especially romance books!
Thanks for inspiring us today.
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Blissful new week!