Who is C.M Okonkwo?
CMO is a writer and lover of everything literature, and also an HR/Operations professional.
What was growing up like for you?
It was absolutely interesting; I have five siblings, all with different personalities, and also very funny in their own different way, so there was never a dull moment at home.
What University did you graduate from?
I graduated from the University of Franche-Comté in Besançon, France, and also from the School of HR in Lyon, France.
How many degrees do you have?
I have three! A B.Sc. in Business Administration and Management; M.Sc. in Personnel and Employment Management, and an advanced M.Sc. in International HR Management and Development.
Wow. Such an incredible passion for learning. We would like to know: what inspires you as a writer?
I’m inspired by the things I see, the things I hear, the places I visit, the dreams I dream, and my ever creative and crazy imagination.
Do you see writing as a gift, or do you believe anyone can become a writer?
Oh yes, I see writing as a gift… a precious gift, and at the same time, anyone can become a writer. However, not everyone has the passion to write, which I believe is innate.
Have you ever experienced writer’s block?
Luckily for me, I haven’t experienced writer’s block, maybe because my brain is too active to get blocked (laughs).
Lucky you! So any advice on how to overcome it?
I believe a way to overcome this is to have a plot (beginning, middle and ending of a story) from the start of the project to avoid losing focus and direction, and getting to a roadblock along the line. But a good way to get out of a block might be to read a book in a different genre, or just do something fun, different or adventurous… ideas would flow then.
Is this solution applicable to all writers? Yes, it is.
We are aware of a few of your books e.g “Dim Noo Abroad,” “Twenty One Days” and others. How many books have you written so far?
I’ve written a couple of books, some of which are yet to be published, so I would go ahead to state those that have already been published and those coming soon:
1/ The XIth Hour; Psychological Thriller/Suspense – Novel; 2013
2/ Closed Door (Angela Hunter Series #1): Mystery/Suspense – Novella; 2013
3/ Ziora’s Surprise; Thriller/Suspense – Short Story; 2013
4/ Thirteen Suspects; Erotic-Thriller/Suspense – Novel; 2014
5/ Dim Noo Abroad (Desperate Women Series #1); Literary/Suspense – Novel; 2014
6/ Jammed Door (Angela Hunter Series #2); Mystery/Suspense – Novella; 2014
7/ Locked Door (Angela Hunter Series #3); Mystery/Suspense – Novella; 2015
8/ Twenty-One Days; Literary/Suspense – Novel; 2015
9/ Finding Love; Romance/Suspense – Short Story; 2015
10/ Black Box; Mystery/Suspense – Short Story; 2015
11/ Blocked Door (Angela Hunter Series #4); Mystery/Suspense – Novella; 2016
12/ Yankee Based Wives (Desperate Women Series #2); Literary/Suspense – Novel; due 2016
13/ Shared Door (Angela Hunter Series #5 – finale); Mystery/Suspense – Novella; due 2017
How many Awards/Nominations have you received?
I wasn’t writing in a genre for literary prizes. I have only written two books now that can really qualify for a literary prize. However, I have won some writing contests for both fiction and non-fiction, and some of my books have been featured on some Indie lists (Book of the week; 50 indie books worth reading).
Let’s talk about “Twenty-One Days.” It was a massive hit in Nigeria especially for prospective Corp Members because it served as a guide to them. What inspired you to write such a great book?
The fact alone that I had decided to return to Nigeria to sign up for the NYSC program was an inspiration to write the book. It was going to be an adventure for me, and since I like fictionalising everything around me, I put that on my must-write list. Also, that decision coincided with my challenge -to self- to write a full-length Nigeria-themed novel. And finally, I was discouraged by a lot of people about signing up for the program, but when I got to the camp, I had an amazing experience and was glad I didn’t miss it. The book is educative and entertaining, so, in the end, it serves not just prospective corps members but a wider audience like – Nigerians in diaspora unable to make a decision on if to sign up; those who never want to serve; those who are exempted; those in military schools; those who want to remember what it was like years ago; those who served, but didn’t really participate in all the fun stuff; those who just want to read a new book or know what the NYSC is about.
What book are you currently working on?
I’m currently ghost-writing (yes, I also ghost-write), but I can’t tell what it is about; concurrently I have been working on my psychological thriller / suspense book titled “The Perfect Finish.”
When is the expected release date?
The Perfect Finish is due late 2017.
Where can your books be purchased, read or downloaded?
Twenty-One Days is available in print in Terra Kulture (V.I.); Patabah Bookshop, (Adeniran Ogunsanya Mall, Surulere), Havillah Bookshops (Palmgrove, Ikeja and FUTA); NYSC Camp (Lagos); Calabar (08105902747 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
All my books are available in ebook on Okadabooks; Smashwords; Amazon; iBooks, Barnes&Noble; Scribd; etc. (They are all also available on print on Amazon and CreateSpace.
The reading culture in Nigeria is gradually going down; Social media has taken over the mind of our children and youths what’s your advice on this?
Schools need to look for creative ways to get children to read, either by setting up reading clubs or book review clubs. This should be reading for fun and not just for academics alone, because children will participate more if it’s a fun exercise. For the youths, it might be difficult to develop a reading habit at their age, but if they can dedicate at least 30 minutes a day to read a book, they’ll be able to read at least 12 books in a year. Some might complain about the funds to buy books, but most of them are free online. Some of mine are free online.
Do you have any platform or intending plan to help curb this dwindling reading culture?
The best I do is promote my books, especially the free and short ones, so that people can have easy access and finish the books in one sitting… it makes them hungry for more. But my ultimate plan will be to start reading clubs in several areas in the city, provide the books for the clubs, and rotate the book to other clubs at the end of each month… plan in progress.
Most people go into writing with the motive to make money. Do you see writing as a business and how lucrative is it?
It’s good for people to have a clear goal for anything they intend to get into, and this includes writing. They should determine from the start if they are writing as a passion (to get their books into as many hands as possible, even if it’s by offering free books) or writing as a business. Writing doesn’t end in writing a book; there are a lot of opportunities in the industry: scriptwriting, screenwriting, blog post/article, ghost writing, non-fiction writing, corporate creative writing, magazine contributor, etc. It’s a lucrative business, and just like any other business, there has to be a plan.
It is rumored that writers are melancholic in nature. What’s your take?
I have never heard that one before, but I know I’m not, and know other writers who aren’t. Maybe it’s the other way round? The melancholic in nature go into writing and not writers being born melancholic? I’m not sure it’s true.
Permission to get a little personal. Is C.M Okonkwo married?
Your Initial “C.M.” what does it stand for?
Chioma and Mildred. Chioma means “Good God,” while Mildred, means “Gentle Strength” or “Mild Power.”
When did you begin writing?
I started writing from when I could use a pencil… in primary school. My mum used to buy me toys and stuffed animals. I would group them into families and create stories for them, then in order not to forget the stories, I started writing them. That was when I started writing about everything.
What book did you write first?
I don’t remember the title, but it was about princesses, then I wrote a Nigerian version of Matilda. I loved the movie.
Which of your books did you enjoy writing the most and why?
I enjoyed writing Twenty-One Days the most, because it was my first realistic-fiction novel. Inasmuch as it was fiction, I had to throw in some real life happenings here and there. I laughed, I smiled, I cried, I laughed again, as I wrote it. Although fiction, it was a burst of emotions for me while writing.
Have you ever felt like giving up, just dropping the pen and stop writing?
I have never… that’s where the passion comes in. It always keeps me going.
Aside from writing what are your other hobbies?
Dancing, reading, sports, travel & tourism.
How do you combine Work, Family and Writing?
Planning. I make time for everything, thanks to my calendar and year planner. After work is writing, and after writing is family time, but family can come in at any time, if needed.
What advice do you have for upcoming writers or people with the interest in writing?
Don’t put yourself in a box in the first place, so you wouldn’t have to think outside the box. Imagination is limitless, so never limit yourself.
Where do you see C.M Okonkwo in the next five (5) years?
Would have climbed five years or more up the career ladder (professionally) and would have written about 5 more books (or maybe more, but I have decided to write one book a year for now).
Any final Words of Advice?
Believe in yourself and never give up.