Authors note: My third novel z2 is currently on blog tour through the fine folks at Reading Addiction Virtual Book Tours. The post below is part of that tour and it appeared a few days ago on Always Jo Art, a fun blog about books, motherhood, and product give-aways. My thoughts were inspired by a post I wrote here back in 2012, three whole books ago. A lot has changed for me since then, but apparently other things haven’t changed much at all.
After I finished my first novel, x0, I was told that writing about Nigeria was a poor choice because it just isn’t a place that particularly interests many readers. Paris or London would have been better. I found this funny. Lots of novels take place in Paris and London and it seemed to me that the world didn’t need one more. Nigeria, on the other hand, has a plethora of rich stories to tell which are far less known, at least in Texas where I live.
I chose Nigeria originally because I wanted to write a tale of two very different women helping each other. About the same time that I started the book, I also started a new job exploring for oil in the Niger Delta and had the chance to work with many Nigerians. One day I asked my office mate, a Nigerian geologist, to describe to me how his tribe, the Igbo, were unique. He responded by telling me a legend about Igbo slaves coming to America. It startled me at first that he would even speak of such a thing, but in the end I was touched by both the moving story he told, and by the powerful way in that he told it. I tried to capture each of those when I retold this scene in x0.
As I wrote, I discovered how much the fascinating details of a far off land appeal to me. That meant that I had to find a location for my second book, y1 that was even less well known. Once I found it, I was writing about the remote Pacific Island nation of Kiribati, exactly on the other side of the globe from my first story.
The plot of my third novel, z2, dictated that my characters not wander off too far from Texas, so instead I found a way to let my readers wander around in time. Although z2 never leaves North America, it includes visits to a Mayan village under siege in Guatemala and the camp of eighteenth-century lumberjacks on the coast of Belize.
No, I’m not done with my armchair travels yet. There are three more books in this collection and the one I’ve just finished, c3, takes place partly in the isolated Himalayan nation of Bhutan. The one I’m working on now is taking me to the far North, where I am learning fascinating things about Greenland and Iceland.
Why Nigeria? Why anywhere. Every spot on this earth is teeming with tales of its own and with great settings for new ones. These stories not only have the capacity to entertain us, but they can also give us new information and a fresh perspective.