1) Kawe Africa: Can you tell us more about yourself?
Louisa: My full name is Onolunosen Louisa Ibhaze. I have a BSc In Sociology & Anthropology from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Anambra State, an MSc in Medical Sociology from Royal Holloway University of London and a second MSc in Globalisation and Development from The Institute of Commonwealth Studies, London. I was born in Kaduna and spent part of my growing years in Zaria, Benin and many other places. My family is very close and as a child I wanted to be many things when I grew up, first a Doctor, then a Lawyer, later an Astronaut and many other things. I love to read , colour my hair, take photographs and I like to refer to myself as a “ Simple Esan Girl”. I have a facebook author page, my twitter handle is @MsPurpleMango, my Instagram handle is @LadyLouisanne and my wordpress address is http://simpleesangirl.wordpress.com
2) What inspired you to write AUTHENTIC MAMA?
Simply put, Benin City and reality inspired me to write Authentic Mama. I saw it as an excellent way to give readers an xray into the lives and experiences of the society’s lower crust we unintentionally overlook most of the time. I am a voracious reader and through the years I have read all kinds of books but not really come across stories that focused on the lower crust of the society in a hilarious way. I never underestimate the power of humour while telling real stories, so I decided to write about the neighbourhoods I grew up on when my family moved from the North. These neighbourhoods were very interesting and I was privileged to many times observe and occasionally be a part of the drama and craziness.
We first lived in the Police Barracks where my Dad was the Commandant and this Barrack was right next to the Mobile Police Barracks. When we moved to our family house, it was opposite an Army Barracks. These were interesting years as a teenager who had lived around 3 different barracks, there was no escape from all the drama and gist, even though I was not always directly involved. Anyone who grew up in Benin City can easily relate to Iye Baby and her hustle without judgement and for those who did not grow up there, it is a peek into an interesting reality.
3) How would you describe Iye baby’s character? And why was it important to you that she got redemption at the end?
I would describe her character as hard working and hilariously beautifully flawed. In every society there are always Iye Babys’ and rivals with similar feud triggers. The catalysts for these feuds are usually similar and they range from other people’s husbands, gossip, money, sugar boys, angry wives and fellow mistresses all in the same hustle. I believe Iye Baby deserved redemption because she was really not a bad person even though a part of her means of livelihood was immoral. Who are we to judge? Everyone deserves a second chance in our self-righteous society.
4) How do we stop ourselves from judging people like Iye baby and her friends? They go to church to pray, come back and continue sleeping with married men. The society can’t help but judge.
That is impossible, as everyone is entitled to their opinion. Just like you have good people, you also have bad people. Many are guilty of judging a book by its cover and I would not blame the women who judged Iye Baby for bedding their husbands. It is easier as an observer to say there is a good reason for her actions but if we were at the receiving end of Iye Baby’s actions, I trust we would judge her too.
5) What are you reading now? Is it for pleasure or for work?
I am presently in a phase where I am reading Classics, and presently I am reading SHE by H.Rider Haggard it was published in 1886. I am reading for pleasure.
6) Do you generally read more for pleasure or for your writing?
Even though I usually try to strike a balance, I can’t help but find myself gravitating towards reading for pleasure. I love being lost in new worlds and experiences through books.
7) How did you cultivate the reading culture? Have you always been a reader? A writer?
I have always loved books and been a voracious reader and writing came naturally to me. In primary school I drew comics and then in secondary school, I started writing stories with my close friends as my fans.
8) How would you describe a good book?
That would be a captivating story whether relatable or not that can take its reader on its unique journey.
9) Can you describe the first time you thought you could really create beautiful stories? When did you know writing was “it”?
I came to understand this when my friends in secondary school could not wait for me to finish writing my hand written stories. I would take my note book to school every day and these amazing girls would devour every chapter and wait for more. Writing is an interesting experience, I would say I’m learning every day, from the art of writing to relating with publishers and readers.
10) As a writer are there times you reach a serious roadblock and find yourself unable to write? What keeps you going during these creative slumps?
Yes I do experience writers block and when this happens, I shut down my laptop and distract myself.
11) Why do you think literature is important. Especially African Literature?
Storytelling/Literature is priceless and its impact on societies can’t be quantified. It is a telescope into the past, the present and the future. It is also a medium through which norms and experiences are passed down through generations and Literature has also been used for many other things.
12) What is the first book that pulled your heart strings and how did it shape your craft as a writer?
I would say the first set of books are the Pacesetters Series as in these pages, I experienced a literary awakening. They were great as I was reading about relatable characters living in cities facing circumstances I understood.
13) Recommend 5 books you think everyone should read!
Dear Ijeawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Doomsday Conspiracy by Sidney Sheldon
The Concubine by Elechi Amadi
Jagua Nana’s Daughter by Cyprian Ekwensi
Authentic Mama by me !
14) Memoirs, Essays, Fiction, Poetry, Non-fiction. Which is a favourite?
Fiction and Poetry
15) Which book would you like to make a compulsory reading for students in Nigeria?
Dear Ijeawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
16) Who are some of your favourite authors?
17) What is the best advice you have ever gotten?
In business, TRUST NO ONE!
18) HOW HEAVILY INFLUENCED WERE YOU BY BOOKS – AS A CHILD AND EVEN NOW AS AN ADULT? HOW HAVE THEY SHAPED AND MOULDED YOU INTO THE PERSON THAT YOU ARE NOW?
Books have always been a great escape and an excellent way to immerse myself in different realities.