Prior to reading The Mechanics of Yenagoa, I had never read any work by Michael Afenfia. However, in 2018, I bought one of his books – Don’t Die On Wednesday – for a friend on his birthday. I was mainly interested in The Mechanics of Yenagoa because Yenagoa is a town I have lived in, as I had done my law school in Yenagoa. I read it with members of my Book Club and fell in love with the easy story telling. The Mechanics of Yenagoa is raw, gritty and warm. But it is also true, relatable and funny. In the heart of its comedy is the analysis of the everyday Nigerian experience: fake pastors, politicians, gangs, social media, relationships, marriage, culture, tradition, education etc.
I hope you enjoy this interview!
1) THE AFRO READER: Who is Michael Afenfia?
MICHAEL AFENFIA: Michael is a writer, lawyer and creative.
2) You happen to be a lawyer, how were you able to combine your love for writing with the studying and practice of corporate law?
Since the release of my first novel in 2010, I have had to combine my 9 to 5 with writing. It is difficult but I make the sacrifice. I am hoping a day would come though, when all I do is write because it can be very challenging.
3) Why did you decide to tell this story?
I guess I would say I was inspired by the things happening around me at the time. I also wanted to tell the story of the little people because most times we read about glamorized and romanticized characters and no one tells the story of the little or forgotten people. I also wanted to tell the story of my city, Yenagoa. That was how The Mechanics of Yenagoa was born.
4) What I loved about your story is how modern and relatable it is. From the contemporary Nigerian music, to the power of social media etc. Why was it important for you to add all these elements in the story telling?
To me, doing that is my way of documenting and preserving the times we are in today. Perhaps somewhere down the line, someone would reference my book as authority for what life was like in these times.
5) The ending was quite open ended. Was that intended? It gives room for a sequel, so should we be expecting any?
Quite frankly I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it, but I guess if fans of the story and the book want it, then I have no choice than to give it serious consideration.
6) Are the characters in this book as important as the city in which the book was set? Why Yenagoa?
I would say it is 50/50 and I hope it came across that way. My city is important and so are my characters and I hope they stay memorable and I hope readers can see themselves and their friends and family members in this book.
7) When did you realize writing fiction was it for you? Can you describe the first time you felt you could really create beautiful stories?
I realized early, in secondary school, maybe in primary school even. I realized I could write when I started writing stories and articles for my press club in secondary school.
8) In writing this book, what was the writing process like and how long did it take?
The book started as a blog series so I wrote an episode every week and sometimes every other week when the pressure of my day job and family life got too much.
9) Why do you write?
I write because I don’t want to lose the talent I was born with.
10) What keeps you motivated during writing slumps?
I really don’t get slumps. I stop writing when I am in between projects.
11) The general rule is that for you to be a great writer, you must be a greater reader. Growing up, what books did you read? And how did they shape your ability to tell stories?
I read a lot of the classics. I also read writer like Robert Ludlum, James Hadley Chase, Jackie Robbins and Sidney Sheldon. I guess I picked up suspense and pace from reading those authors.
12) What are some of the struggles you face when you write?
Time. Like I said earlier, I wish this was something I did full time.
13) Packing for a journey and allowed to take one book. What will it be?
Bible and a blank notebook.
14) Advice to young and upcoming writers and lawyers, and best advice you have gotten?
We all make mistakes so don’t be too hard on yourself. I know it is hard but we have to try.
15) Does writing energize or exhaust you?
I am typically quiet and shy, but I come alive when I write.
Michael Afenfia is a Nigerian, a writer, social commentator and public intellectual. He associates with everything good and exciting about Nigeria and humanity. Although he has a Law Degree from the Rivers State University of Science and Technology and an MBA from Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, writing has always been his passion – his calling. As he learnt more of himself, he garnered cherished experiences in Construction, Real Estate, Banking and Public Service.
So far, he has authored a number of critically acclaimed novels: When the Moon Caught Fire (2010), A Street Called Lonely (2011), Don’t Die on Wednesday (2014), Paxoid (2017) which he co-authored with his *then* 12-year-old son, and The Mechanics of Yenagoa (2020). He has also published a number of nonfiction writing, including a biography.
Between 2014 and 2016, he served as Chairman of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Bayelsa State Chapter and is currently a member of the literati in Canada.
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