|Chioma Nnani, Author|
FOREVER THERE FOR YOU
Among Nanni’s many accomplishments are that she holds an LLB from the University of Kent, a Postgraduate Certificate in Food Law, and is the founder of The Fearless Storyteller House Emporium LTD. She has also received numerous writing awards. She plans to release a collection of short stories next, but has several other books underway along with her publishing company and other activities. She values sleep as her primary past-time, but occasionally gets to read a book or watch TV.
Don’t miss the excerpt following the interview.
Q: In what genre would you place FOREVER THERE FOR YOU? Is it modern romance, contemporary fiction, or ? Does it cross over several genres?
Chioma Nnani: FOREVER THERE FOR YOU does cross over a number of genres: chick lit, modern romance, contemporary fiction, coming-of-age … it's quite busy (laughing). But in a nice way.
Q: What are the characteristics of your protagonist Nadine that will engage readers? Why will we care what happens to her? Are there standard traits to associate with a protagonist to draw readers into a story?
Chioma Nnani: She's a lovely girl. Starts out a bit naive … in the first chapter, she is 16 years old and has just arrived London from Nigeria. She's literally still at Heathrow Airport. So, there's a bit of coming-of-age angle there. There's culture shock, first love, friendship, finding the right work-life balance (even from college) and a lot of things that people can relate with. She's also intelligent … she's the cute girl that you're rooting for to do well, even while you're mad at her for not taking certain decisions.
Q: Does the concept of “hero versus villain” apply to FOREVER THERE FOR YOU? Would you consider “culture” or “perception” or “religion” as a “villain?” Or can only people be villains?
Chioma Nnani: Wow! If you'd asked me this question a couple of years ago, I'd probably have given a different reply. I see the evil that people perpetrate, using religion and culture as tools and it's ridiculous. On the one hand, these are perpetrated by human beings – and I think you're either good or bad – but then, it's very disconcerting to note how that a lot of times when people are maltreated (especially where domestic violence and even other societal maladies are involved) … it's really weird how that religion and culture are like recurring decimals dancing all over the place.
Q: Is FOREVER THERE FOR YOU a story for women? Or do you believe—or hope— that many men will also read it?
Chioma Nnani: It's a story for women and men. Some men are lovers of women who have been abused … situations that they had nothing to do with. Some men are also law enforcement agents, EMTS, doctors, nurses and counselors who have to see abused women everyday.
Q: Did you write FOREVER THERE FOR YOU to entertain readers or did you embed a serious message in the story? One of your reviewers said that this book “should be at seminars organized for women.” Did you intend to help guide women?
Chioma Nnani: Oh FOREVER THERE FOR YOU wasn't written for entertainment. There are issues of love, friendship, domestic violence, religion, sisterhood and cultural clashes. These are all very serious issues. I don't think there was a conscious decision that I took along the lines of “Right, I want to guide women with this book” but there was a thing of “Let's start a conversation about domestic violence and why women think that it's OK for a pastor to tell them to stay in an abusive marriage.”
Q: How helpful was your own background as an educated woman with an LLB and advanced degrees to create your perspective of the behavior of women? Do you believe that education can help women make improved choices of life partners?
Chioma Nnani: Erm … I don't think my LLB degree made me understand, as much as it made me just go, “Right, this is what it is!” I remember the first case we learned about … Criminal Law was a first year module at the University of Kent, which is where I went. And this case was really harrowing to listen to – R v Brown. There was sadomasochism that was so intense that someone got a lot of injuries they didn't quite bargain for, even though they had agreed to the acts of sadomasochism. And you have to read this stuff over and over again, partly because you're in utter shock and disbelief; it was very descriptive!
Some of us came from a conservative background, so there's that aspect as well. Did we understand it? No. But that's your introduction to, “It is what it is; you don't have to understand it, in terms of agreeing with it.” In my third year, I was part of the Criminal Appeals Team … the university I attended, was very proactive. They encouraged us to go beyond just reading cases in class. So, there were all these different things; we had the Kent Law Clinic, where students dealt with Employment and Immigration cases for real clients, and they did this as part of their degree. So, the Criminal Appeals Team … we looked at cases where people had been incarcerated for sexual crimes. Reading some of the paperwork was horrible, because you're just thinking, “How is this even possible?” There's just no way to understand certain things. But some things are what they are.
So even now in my career, there are things I don't necessarily understand and I don't try to … because when you try to understand something, you try to find justification for it, and it's not necessarily what I want to do with certain situations because it's more emotional than logical. Some things are not justifiable. So, with certain things it's like, “It is what it is.” Which is weird because when you look at lawyers from the outside, it does appear that their job entails trying to find justification for certain things their clients have done (laughing).
My perspective of female behavior is informed by a lot of stuff. Look, to fully understand women, you'd probably need 10 Psychiatry degrees or something. Sometimes, I go with precedent and evidence, other times, I go with instinct. I see some things as they are just what they are; a qualified psychiatrist would probably be in a better position to say why one woman would lie about being raped, and why another would choose to see her violent husband's money as a reason to stay.
I do believe that education does help women choose better partners, but education is a sum total of a lot of things. It's not just about BA or the Msc … I mean there are women who have got a couple of university degrees, but have made (or continue to make) disastrous choices in partners. There are things like religion and culture, or self-esteem issues, which tends to make a mockery of whatever knowledge a woman has gleaned in any classroom.
Q: Were you able to exploit the various settings in your book to help tell your story? Is the story relevant to women everywhere? Do the various settings help to present different aspects of the issues?
Chioma Nnani: Yes and no (laughing).
Did I personally visit all the different settings? No. I have visited and/or lived in some of them. With the rest, I did a lot of research and hassled people I knew, who lived or schooled there, including those from a different generation. I mean the book does have throwbacks to the eighties – with their fashion, parties and mindset. I wasn't old enough to be personally aware of these things. And there are also mentions of the Nigerian Civil War and its impact; I hadn't been born then.
Relevance to women everywhere? It's definitely relevant to some women. Having said that, there was this previewer (so, she read the manuscript during the publishing process) who was really baffled. She didn't understand how certain things in the book could happen. She was like, “This could never happen”, which was odd to me because I'd seen some of it happen. So, for someone like that, it wouldn't be relevant to her because it's not her reality … and when I say 'her reality', I don't even mean her as a person per se. I'm also referring to people she knows and has relationships. Yes, we do learn about other people's realities from books, movies, films, whatever but if it's not something you can learn from because you can't wrap your head around it, then the situation is what it is.
Presentation of issues in a specific setting … to an extent, yes, because some things are really specific. So, for instance, one of the characters has to go spend a year in Paris; she attends Universitie de Portiers for year abroad. She's doing a Law and French Law degree … and that's a real thing. There are universities in England that offer that, meaning the student has to go abroad (to Paris) in their third year. The university she attends there is real. So are the other issues from food to racism to culture shock even within academia, to the cost of living.
These are things that would not have worked in another setting. In England, some universities will have a student go to the United States or Germany for their third year, but obviously these places have their own peculiarities, which would not have worked well for the book, if I had tried to superimpose some of the issues on another setting. Bear in mind that people need to be able to relate to the material … there are real people who live in France, there are real people who have to or have gone to study in Paris from the United Kingdom. It would be really embarrassing if they had to go, “None of those places or things you mentioned is real. Yeah, we know it's fiction but hey!”
Q: How helpful was humor to develop your characters or reach your reader?
Chioma Nnani: It was very helpful. The stories I tell are character-driven. It's really important that the audience can connect with a character, whether they hate or like the character. Sometimes, we like or hate a person because we see ourselves in them or see someone that we know. And humor is one of those things that we see in other people and we may share. Obviously, people do have different senses of humor, so what's funny to one person may not be to the next and so forth. The character of Nadine in the book, she's witty and her friend, Stella is a bit more sarky … so they get into this banter from time to time, and they can say certain things to each other that they find hilarious, but another person might hear and find offensive. I think with some relationships, even non-romantic ones, where you have that kind of back and forth that either keeps you on your toes or makes you feel comfortable, but you're both laughing … this is something that happens to real people, so it's something that readers will be able to relate with.
Q: What’s next?
Chioma Nnani: As an author, a collection of short stories is next. That will be followed by the first trilogy of a series aimed at teenagers, in time for summer. And I'm working on a collaborative autobiography, which we hope/project will be released in September. As a publisher and ghostwriter, there are a number of projects in the pipeline. As a blogger, there are a couple of new mini-series that I'm still trying to package. Same with my radio show…there are some boxes to tick, before I embark on a specific series. And as a producer, there are some screen productions to work on and release. Yes, quite a bit (laughing)
Q: Tell us about Chioma Nnani. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Chioma Nnani: When I'm not doing any writing or anything related to writing, I try to sleep. It is literally the only way I can shut down or relax properly. From time to time, I will read a book purely for leisure, but that really doesn't happen very often. I do watch television series, but the shows I like are the ones that make me think – so I don't know if that counts as leisure…(laughing)
About Chioma Nnani
Chioma Nnani is an award-winning storyteller, as well as a two-time UK BEFFTA (Black Entertainment Film Fashion Television and Arts) Award nominee, in the 'Best Author' category. A talented ghost-writer who is known for “being able to get into your head and under your skin, before writing down exactly how you're feeling”, Chioma is also a 2016 DIVAS OF COLOUR finalist (in the category of “Diva Author”), a 2016 CREATIVE AFRICAN Awards finalist (in the category of “Best Fiction Writer”), and was named “One of 100 Most Influential Creatives in 2016” by C.Hub Magazine.
She holds a Law (LLB) from the University of Kent and a Postgraduate Certificate in Food Law (De Montfort University, Leicester), is the founder of THE FEARLESS STORYTELLER HOUSE EMPORIUM LTD, typically contributes to lifestyle and literary publications, and runs the “Memo From A Fearless Storyteller” blogazine at www.fearlessstoryteller.com for which she won the 2016 BEFFTA (Black Entertainment Film Fashion Television and Arts) Award for “Blog of the Year”.
About FOREVER THERE FOR YOU
When NADINE is confronted with the reality of her failing marriage, her first instinct is to work it out. She has had it drummed into her that marriage is ‘for better, for worse’. Walking out is just not an option – her faith would condemn her and her culture would make her a pariah.
The combination of Nadine’s background, education, social standing, friendships, faith, experiences and past relationships is meant to equip her to become a success. Failure is alien to her and love means forgiving at all cost.
As she tries to survive and make the most of the curves that life has thrown her, she discovers that ’success’ is a subjective term, and ‘happily ever after’ is something that you have to discover and define for yourself ...
Christmas Eve, 2010
Sitting at the wheel of her car as it crawled along, well below the speed limit on the black-iced streets of Central London, Nadine was riddled with mixed feelings. Even after so many years, she still wondered how beauty and ugliness could exist side by side. The snow-covered side walks in this part of London, made for a picturesque background. It was easy to see where manufacturers of those Christmas cards got their inspiration. Yet, further down the road, the snow told a different story. Partly-melted, sitting in ghastly-looking piles and constituting major hazards to all kinds of road-users. A crazy, quirky, eccentric, creative person – otherwise known as an artist – would be ecstatic. Because it wasn’t so much a blank canvas, as it was the perfect muse, if they were looking to remind the world that loveliness and hideousness were never far apart. This wasn’t the kind of Christmas she wanted or would have predicted for herself, but it was the best she was going to get; of that much, she was sure. Her life had changed so drastically in the past year, and she was still recovering from the blows that life had dealt her ... literally. She was looking forward to the start of a new chapter in her life. As far as she was concerned, things could be a lot worse. In fact, they had been a lot worse ... until now. And no way was she going to throw away her life, or what was left of it just because she was seeking the approval of people ... especially now that she knew they were the wrong people from whom to seek the validation she had so desperately craved.
The voice of Jim Reeves coming from the radio on her dashboard, and announcing to the world that he was dreaming of a white Christmas, made her smile, despite her troubles. They were definitely having a white Christmas. She absolutely refused to allow bad memories spoil it for her. She was young, beautiful and would soon be completely free. She had been wounded and was scathed, but was still standing. Barely, but still. And she was alive. Which was why she was now on her way to a Lebanese restaurant where a table for nine had been reserved for her and her closest friends.
Nadine sighed, as she forced her mind to return to her surroundings. She stepped on the accelerator as she looked at the clock on the dashboard. She should be at her party in fifteen minutes, but with the unfortunate combination of the way she was mulling over past events that could not be changed and the snail pace she had been reduced to, there was no way she would make it there on time.
Suddenly she saw something out of the corner of her eye that compelled her to bring the car to an abrupt halt, a few metres further than she originally intended. As she slammed down on the brakes and her car swerved dangerously, she noticed that she had started shivering and her teeth had all but begun to chatter, yet she knew it was not from the cold outside her warm car. So intent was Nadine on reaching the other side of the road, where she had spotted two perfect strangers ... a couple in the midst of an obviously ugly argument that was getting physical with the man having the upper hand, and everyone else more intent on minding their own business than getting involved in a lovers’ spat – this was London – that she stepped right into the path of an oncoming car, whose teenage driver did not know what surprised him more; her sudden appearance from nowhere in front of his cherished eighteenth birthday gift from his parents, or the impact felt on collision.
FOREVER THERE FOR YOU is available as an e-book on Amazon at: United States, UnitedKingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Japan, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Australia and India.
As a paperback, it is available on Amazon in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, Canada, and India.
Twitter address is @ChiomaNnani