Author Spotlight: Chika Unigwe

  • a writer and a professor of writing. She loves fedoras, shoes, and British soap operas.

Readers, thanks for checking out another Author Spotlight Interview. Let’s give a good, hearty welcome to this week’s guest!

Chika Unigwe was born and raised in Enugu, Nigeria. She graduated from the University of Nigeria, KU Leuven (Belgium) and has a PhD from Leiden University, Holland. Author of The Middle Daughter, Unigwe’s previous work includes novels On Black Sisters Street and Night Dancer as well as the short story collection Better Never than Late. She was also a contributor to Of This Our Country: Acclaimed Nigerian Writers on the Home, Identity and Culture They Know; Lagos Noir; New Daughters of Africa; and Regiones Imaginaires.

She lives in Atlanta, Georgia. If she could be any animal, she’d be a giraffe because they have amazing eyelashes! She loves fedoras, shoes, and British soap operas. 

Chika, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most author spotlight interviews start off with the boring stuff, but I know what readers REALLY want to know.

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

I have two dogs which I absolutely adore. I can’t imagine owning any other pet.

Dogs are a classic choice for a reason!

What do you write? And how did you get started?

I write fiction mostly. I have always written.

Same here!

What do you like to read?

Everything. Novels. Short stories. Poetry. Adverts.

I’ve noticed I read fewer back-of-boxes now that I have a phone, but I get it!

Do you snack when you write/edit? What are your favorites?

Belgian chocolates and Dutch mints.

Yum!

What do you drink when you write/edit? 

Water, Coffee.

Classic choices! I really should go refill my own water cup…

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you

Outline first.

Outlining first doesn’t work for me because I love to be surprised by where my characters lead me. I find it thrilling to just have a general idea of the plot, and then watch the unfolding of it catch me by surprise.

You’re not the only one! Glad you’ve found a method that works for you.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice they can pry out of your cold, dead hands

Research what you don’t know

I believe in treating my characters and the world I place them in with integrity. That means that I know everything there is to know about them and their world. It’s a privilege to be able to create worlds, and we must handle that privilege responsibly.

What a great way to approach your story and your characters.


Shameless Self-Promotion time!

I love writing about people who live on the margins. On Black Sisters Street is about Nigerian sex workers in Europe, Better Never than Late is a linked collection about a Nigerian/ African community in Belgium.

The Middle Daughter

Udodi’s death was the beginning of the raging storm but at that moment, we thought that the worst had already happened, and that life would treat us with more kindness.

When seventeen-year-old Nani loses her older sister and then her father in quick succession, her world spins off its axis. Isolated and misunderstood by her grieving mother and sister, she’s drawn to an itinerant preacher, a handsome self-proclaimed man of God who offers her a new place to belong. All too soon, Nani finds herself estranged from her family, tethered to her abusive husband by children she loves but cannot fully comprehend. She must find the courage to break free and wrestle her life back—without losing what she loves most.

A modern reimagining of the myth of Hades and Persephone within a Nigerian family, The Middle Daughter charts Nani’s journey to freedom and homecoming.

On Black Sisters Street

On Black Sisters Street tells the haunting story of four very different women who have left their African homeland for the riches of Europe—and who are thrown together by bad luck and big dreams into a sisterhood that will change their lives.

Each night, Sisi, Ama, Efe, and Joyce stand in the windows of Antwerp’s red-light district, promising to make men’s desires come true—if only for half an hour. Pledged to the fierce Madam and a mysterious pimp named Dele, the girls share an apartment but little else—they keep their heads down, knowing that one step out of line could cost them a week’s wages. They open their bodies to strangers but their hearts to no one, each focused on earning enough to get herself free, to send money home or save up for her own future.

Then, suddenly, a murder shatters the still surface of their lives. Drawn together by tragedy and the loss of one of their own, the women realize that they must choose between their secrets and their safety. As they begin to tell their stories, their confessions reveal the face in Efe’s hidden photograph, Ama’s lifelong search for a father, Joyce’s true name, and Sisi’s deepest secrets—-and all their tales of fear, displacement, and love, concluding in a chance meeting with a handsome, sinister stranger.

Religious fervour culminates in an exorcism for one unfortunate maid. A harrowing encounter on a train haunts Añuli. A mother abandons her child in search of personal freedom. A wife joins her husband, only to be met with news that threatens their relationship.

Better Never Than Late

This richly imagined collage of interconnected stories follows Prosperous and Agu, and the motley community of Nigerian expats who gather at their apartment each week.

Their reality is one of dashed hopes, twisted love and the pain of homesickness, even as they fight to make their way in this new world.

Better Never Than Late is a layered and affecting portrayal of the everyday absurdities and adversities of migrant life.


Check out Chika Unigwe across the web!

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn | Goodreads | Amazon

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