The closest thing to being a superhero in the world as we know it, is the ability to have things go viral. Since writers are one of the lucky few to have that power, we cannot help but familiarize ourselves with the literary geniuses of our time. One of such writers who has spent the last few years of his life spreading his own message, is William Ifeanyi Moore – author of Lonely Roads and writer.
Born in East Nigeria, Onitsha, William Ifeanyi Moore is a freelance writer, novelist and poet. He regards art and literature as mediums to both reflect and shape society by expanding on the human condition. Some of his work have been featured on BrittlePaper, The Kalahari Review, BellaNaija, TheNakedConvos, Venture Africa, OmenkaOnline, Pulse.ng, NBCC, and a few other platforms.
His first novel, Lonely Roads, published by Bookvine, was a wonderful success and his writing career has progressed further therefrom. William was recently shortlisted for the Miles Morland Scholarship Award, and has also been nominated for the OYA Creative Writer of the Year award. When he isn’t writing, he is thinking about writing. To motivate aspiring writers and young authors in general, we had an exclusive interview with the author and poet.
LW: Why did you start writing and when?
At the risk of sounding like that cliché artist, I will say I have been writing for as long as I could remember. Even before I could write properly, which I am ashamed to say took a while, I would draw stories on the wall. My father had to re-paint the house one time because I had messed it up so badly with my ‘works’. But, I will say from the age of fourteen, I started attempting to write properly and I have been at it in some capacity since then.
LW: Knowing the stereotype that is associated with writing generally, did your family and friends support you all the way?
Well, most artists, regardless of form are likely to go through parental resistance in Nigeria. I studied pharmacy in school after much protest, as a way to bargain for a balance. My parents have, however, been supportive in a cautious manner. So, they will encourage me to write but also to have something else doing, as the artist’s life isn’t always a stable one. I understand their fears and appreciate their support at the same time.
LW: How was the general response to your debut novel, Lonely Roads?
I can’t really complain; most people who have read it have liked it, much to my surprise. Like most writers, I don’t really like the book because it’s my first and I feel I have so much more to offer now. But, it was off its back that I got nominated for the Miles Morland Scholarship as well as the Creative Writer of the Year nomination for the OYA award. While I am not really big on awards, this early in my career, the external validations open doors in their own way. So, they are welcome – at least from a functionality perspective.
LW: What do you think are the challenges for young and/or upcoming writers in Nigeria?
I could write a whole book about this. In Nigeria we have both systemic and personal issues in the writing community. From a systemic point, we just don’t have enough publishing houses to even support the range of writers we have. So, certain genres and styles struggle to find a home. Then there is the personal problem from finding the time to write, to knowing how to brand for larger market access. I’ll just leave it at that. But, really, there are probably as many issues as there are writers.
LW: Are you also of the opinion that Nigerians are not readers?
Nigerians read, but we read what is advertised to us to read. I always say that if Chimamanda was a Nigerian writer without international recognition, we will think of her as another Igbo girl that writes, and we’ll argue with her on Facebook all the time. People here read a lot of James Patterson, Hardly Chase, Grisham and co, because it’s what is popular… in a sense; these book have a pace almost unseen in literary fiction which makes up the bulk of Nigerian books. But, with platforms like Okadabooks, the market is being democratised a bit more.
LW: How exactly does poetry thrive in Nigeria?
I am going to predict that poetry will be the next big thing on the art scene. It is already making its way around through spoken word and recitals. This October, I will be exhibiting a collection of poems with photography presented with audio and video as well. If someone told me even last year that a gallery would accept poetry as a form to be exhibited, I would have never believed it. But, here it is and the community is still growing. I think we contemporary poets just need to understand that this is a different era we have to adapt to. Once the right work is out there, the people will come. Poetry is going to be big, just wait till popular Nigerian musicians start putting poets in songs and skits.
LW: You’re also a spoken word artist. Tell us a little bit about that.
It’s funny because for the longest time I didn’t consider myself a poet or a spoken word artist. I was much more into prose. Then one day I heard a song by Kendrick Lamar performed live on the Colbert Report and I thought to myself, ‘this is spoken word poetry with a beat on it.’ A lot of people don’t know that RAP actually means Rhythm and Poetry, so no surprise there. I really liked the piece, more so from a lyrical perspective than anything else.
I wanted to write something similar and when I was done I needed to perform it. I went to Bogobiri House after a million and two repetitions in front of my mirror and the response was great at the open mic. I started to write more, and here we are. I think the rhythm in spoken work draws people’s ears in a way that is harder to do with regular poetry where the theme and lyrics is all you have. The culture around poetry is definitely riding high on spoken word. It am happy to be a part of it in whatever small way I can contribute.
LW: Having studied Pharmacy, do you have any plans to build a career in it or it’s just writing henceforth?
Hmmm, I can never completely count it out. Although, based on the way things are going, I doubt I would be dusting off the certificate. I will probably write a story set within pharmacy or something. Maybe a crime thriller about a killer pharmacist. Haha; it will play a part when the time is right.
LW: What advice(s) do you have for younger writers trying to break into the industry?
Write, write, write. It is the ONLY way to get better at it. Read as well, and try to expand your worldview. I will also say LIVE. A lot of writers can’t write because the only experiences they have are from books. Books can tell you a lot about love for example, but the experience in real life is not replaceable. Lastly, don’t be afraid. You have every right to put down whatever words you want on your pages, just be true to yourself. It is a painful road, but it is worth it. Your crowd will find you and they will love you for being you more than anything else. You don’t have to sound like any writer, even the ones you have made idols of are mere mortals, just like you. Till you learn to see them as peers and equals, you will always stand in their shadow.
William Ifeanyi Moore is under 30, and he lives in Lagos, Nigeria.