Friday, 1 July 2011


Chika Unigwe (Enugu, 1974) is a Nigerian-born author and she writes in English and Dutch.

Chika Unigwe has a Ph.D in Literature from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. Her debut novel, De Feniks was published in 2005 by Meulenhoff and Manteau (of Amsterdam and Antwerp) and was shortlisted for the Vrouw en Kultuur debuutprijs for the best first novel by a female writer. She is also the author of two children's books published by Macmillans, London.

She has published short fiction in several anthologies, journals and magazines including Wasafiri (University of London), Moving Worlds (University of Leeds), Per Contra, Voices of the University of Wisconsin and Okike of the University of Nigeria.

In 2003, she was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Fiction. In 2004, she won the BBC Short story Competition and a Commonwealth Short Story Competition award. In the same year, her short story made the top 10 of the Million Writers' Award for best online fiction. In 2005, she won the 3rd prize in the Equiano Fiction Contest. Her second novel, Fata Morgana, was published in Dutch in 2008 and will soon be released in English. Her first novel, De Feniks, was published in Dutch in September 2005 and it is the first book of fiction, written by a Flemish author of African origin. In 2009, Chika Unigwe's new novel On Black Sisters' Street about African prostitutes living and working in Belgium, was published by Jonathan Cape.

She lives in Turnhout, Belgium.
(From Wikipedia)

1.      You mention in many interviews that you went into the streets to research among prostitutes while writing On Black Sisters Street; how did meeting the women shape the style and narration of the novel?

The research made it possible for me to create characters without being prejudiced towards them. It also made me much more knowledgeable about the world I was creating, so it made the telling a lot easier than it would have been otherwise. Although the book itself is fiction, and no single character in the book is an exact replica of any of the women I spoke to, I heard  the real voices (of the women who opened up to me) as I wrote my characters

2.      I read somewhere that you write short stories in between novels; did any of these short stories evolve into scenes in the novels afterwards?

No. The short stories I write in between novels often have very little to do with the novels themselves. The idea is to do something different so that I do not get too bored of the bigger project at hand. I get bored and distracted rather often

3.      While writing On Black Sisters Street, did you encounter any emotional connection that made writing some of the 'secrets' shared difficult?

Some of the stories were difficult to write because they came very close to the truth. Alek's story for example. I wept several times

4.      Do you have a favourite among the girls in the story: Sisi, Ama, Efe and (or) Joyce?

Difficult one. I like all the women for different reasons. Ama is really fiesty though, and grew up in one of my favourite cities, (for obvious reasons)  Enugu

5.      You appear at home with flashback in your narration, and you do have a good grasp of its working in storytelling. How did flashbacks become a significant tool in your narration?

I struggled with how best to tell the stories, and experimented and tore clumps of hair off my head until I found a style that was natural to the novel

6.      Do you start your novels as short stories or you set out to write a novel and it evolves into one?

OBSS was intended as a novel from the beginning. I think I start off my novels as novels. When I have tried to expand short stories into novels, I have failed woefully. Sometimes, some short stories, or bits of them make it into my novels 

7.      I read on an interview you did with Per Contra last year, that you’re already thinking of another project, can Writestuff be lucky enough for an expose?  have a novel coming out in June 2012, Sin Eater, set in Nigeria. Now I am busy completing a novel based on the life of Equiano.

8.      You wrote poetry at the early stage of your writing, and even if you don’t do so anymore, do you see any influences from the genre in your prose? The Muse of poetry has left me. I am still in search of her

9.      After writing the first draft of any piece of writing, what do you do next?

I re-work it, then send it out to a few trusted writer-friends and start working on something else while I wait for their comments

10.  What book have you always wanted to read, but never got through reading? Why? Can't think of any at the moment

11.  Is there one question, you’ve always wished an interviewer would ask that never gets a mention?

            No. I often get really good questions :-)

Now please give an answer to your question   : D


  1. Aw nice one Jumoke... You have a typo in number ten. You say nay instead of any.


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