Ifesinachi is a woman of myriad talents and between writing, mothering and marketing we managed to catch her for an interview. She spoke about ethnic identity in Nigeria, the battle of the sexes and her debut novel, The Domestication of Munachi – published by Parresia and available on Worldreader.
You have some very strong themes (women pushed into marriage, domestic abuse and, should a woman refuse marriage, the pressure to still be reliant on a man for income) that seem to come together in this quote:
"Men," Nkoli spat. "They are our tickets to the golden life, but they can use you like newspaper for wrapping roasted corn."
What drew you to weaving these subjects in your story?
IFESINACHI: Everyday life. When women gather, there is bound to be some sort of discussion around the subject of men, and it’s pretty interesting to hear the stories women share about their relationships. My responsibility as a writer was to gather all these tales and present them in a way that would carry the reader on a journey of discovery. My inspiration was simply the women I encounter every day whether physically or in the media; also friends and of course, family.
The men in your book are not very likeable. Friday seems okay, but since we only see him in a work setting, it is hard to gauge how he might be with his own sisters, wife or daughters. But the rest of them, goodness me, maybe their male friends think they're great, but they're not very nice to women. Or am I being unfair?
IFESINACHI: (laughs) In all fairness, Obiora was a gentleman. He was just not the right man for Munachi. In fact, Munachi kind of objectified him which was one of her bad habits. Chief Odiegwu was also a gentleman; he was very diplomatic. The unlikeable men you are talking about I think are Papa Nkechi, Emeka and of course, Munachi’s love interest, KJ.
These men only served to pad out the story and move it forward. I was conscious of finding a balance in the book. Though the leading men were not your typical ‘good guys’, there were gentlemen in the story, it’s just that they took the backseat this time.
You mentioned the importance of showing inter-tribal relationships in an open question session with Brittle Paper. For readers who are outside of Nigeria, could you talk more about why you try to bring this out in your work?
IFESINACHI: Nigeria has over 250 ethnic groups. That’s a lot! This could have been a blessing, instead it’s been a bit of challenge for us as it has created factions in a country that should be operating in unity and celebrating diversity. We have had inter-tribal wars, which really make no sense at all.
Bringing the subject up in my book was a deliberate attempt to openly discuss and acknowledge that we need to accept each other, or else we cannot move forward. You would be amazed at how much we’ve lost because of something as seemingly unimportant as inter-tribal relationships. I strongly believe that talking about it more would help bridge that gap that desperately needs to be closed.
Backtracking a bit, that open question session you did was part of a blog tour, I believe. I have read a plethora of opinions from writers about blog tours, both positive and negative. How was the experience for you? Do you think they are an effective marketing tool?
IFESINACHI: I loved the experience! Convenient, yet impactful. It was also a great opportunity to visit so many ‘places’ at the same time within a short period, which of course would be impossible physically. More importantly was the opportunity to meet different people in diverse circles. Online book tours are efficient and effective as a marketing tool.
Lastly, who are some of the current African writers on your 'to buy' list?
Aside from wishing she could travel more often, and she would stop answering questions nobody ever asks, Ifesinachi is a creative mom who gets unduly bored when she’s working on one thing at a time. She was educated at Queens College, Lagos and at the University of Benin where she obtained a BA in Fine and Applied Arts. She also has a Master’s from the Pan-African University. In her regular life, Ifesinachi is a marketing communications executive. The Domestication of Munachi is her first novel but she has also written several stories, some of which have appeared in publications like Sentinel Nigeria and Saraba Magazine. Ifesinachi has also written/produced several screenplays for the big screen and television.
Interview by Tiah Beautement a.k.a @ms_tiahmarie