Adimchinma Ibe’s Treachery in the Yard is a detective novel which mirrors the ills in Nigerian politics. In this interview, he speaks on his literary works, and how he intends to influence the reading public positively. EXCERPTS:
WHAT is your debut novel, Treachery in the Yard all about?
The novel is about Detective Peterside who is drawn into the politics of Nigeria when a bomb goes off at Pius Okpara’s home. He is an important politician in the middle of an angry nomination battle to head the National Conservative Party’s banner. A previous “peace meeting” between them ends up in fighting between their supporters which leaves one person dead. The Detective’s not happy with the investigation of the bombing, and the politics involved.
However, he then learns that his mentor is protecting the suspect. The detective knows something very wrong is going on, and becomes obsessed with getting to the truth. But his Chief does not see himself as corrupt, but rather as a balance between the different forces threatening to tear Port Harcourt apart. The detective is able to bring them all to justice, but learns only at the end that the Chief has been in effect protecting him, grooming him as an eventual colleague.
Suspense is one of the major elements that run through the story; do you use suspense to attract the reader’s attention, or it is an effort to build up the plot?
You might not be far from the truth if you say that the element of suspense in the beginning of the novel is to attract the reader’s attention. But it is also an effort to build up the plot especially since I was writing in the first person, so I had to put the detective in the middle of the chaos.
Writing in the first person could be a lot more difficult because you can only write what your hero sees, hears or perceives at the moment since he has to be present in most of the scenes, but it also heightens the suspense, that’s why I chose to write in the first person. The hero is always where the action is happening. It makes the story more alive!
Choosing a title for a novel could sometimes be a herculean task, but the title of your novel is attractive and inviting. How did you arrive by this title?
I try to always summarise my novels in my titles. The first novel I wrote that was not published was titled: The Deserved fate. The Deserved Fate is talking about a jealous step mother who ends up killing her son. She had wanted to kill her step son so her own child will inherit her husband’s wealth.
The second, We Forever Crouch In Fear talks about having to be perpetually subjected to oppression to the point that you lose your will to fight back the forces that oppress you. You have been brutalised so much that the only thing you know is fear.
And Treachery In The Yard is about police corruption. And the next novel in the detective Tammy series is titled ‘The Patron of Terror’ and it is about the real people behind the crimes in our society, the people who profit from such crimes.
The list goes on. So you can see that I just try to summarise the story in just one word or a phrase. I don’t think hard about it, I just look for one word or phrase that will best summarise the theme of the novel. I don’t struggle with it. I guess that’s part of my gift as a writer.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I had wanted to tell stories of what happens around me. I know if I write these stories, people will be interested to read them so I started writing. So, yes, I have always wanted to be a writer. I knew I could write stories that would interest a lot of people, not like Hadley Chase, because I was into James Hadley Chase novels in my secondary school days at the time, but I knew I could tell stories people would want to read. That was what started me on the journey to becoming a writer.
I don’t write full-time now. I still have to work to earn a living but like any other writer who takes his writing seriously, I hope that my novels do very well so I will be able to live off the proceeds. If that happens for me, I can see myself writing full-time. But till that time, I write part time and work part time to earn a living to support my writing.
Do you have a daily routine or schedule for your writing?
Yes, I have a strict writing routine I try to observe. For you to succeed as a writer ,you need to have a routine or you may never get any work accomplished. It’s easy to procrastinate, so a healthy dose discipline is also needed.
I try to be a disciplined writer but sometimes, I just can’t even keep to my own routine and I procrastinate. Other times, my writing routine can be disrupted by events. Electrical power is one. But despite that, when I’m working on a manuscript, I try to go to bed as early as 8.00pm after an early dinner. I set my alarm to wake me up by 11.30pm and I write till around 3.00a.m. in the morning.
Then I go back to bed. I try to write every night till I finish a novel and sometimes I write during the day too if I’m feeling up to it.
The issue of publishing a book could be quite hectic for most writers. How did you arrive at getting your works published?
It’s very hectic trying to get your novel published. I do not have an agent, and I had to pitch my novel with publishing houses myself until I got the contract with a foreign publisher.