The Lagos Review In Conversation with Jude Idada, NLNG Prize winner and author of Boom Boom, Exotica Celestica , Oduduwa King of Edos etc.

Toni Kan: Just say your name and books you have written, for the record

Jude Idada: My name is Jude Idada, I am an author and writer and have written several books including A Box of Chocolates – a collection of short stories; Exotica Celestica – a collection of poetry; By My Own Hands – a novel, adult fiction; Oduduwa, King of the Edos – a play and  Sankara which is another play. These are published books. Then there is Didi Kanu and the Singing Dwarves of the North, which is a children’s book; Only Crazies are Born in April, which is a collection of short stories which comes out this month. And then the NLNG award winning Boom Boom which is a Children’s book.

T.K: Do you feel comfortable being called a writer?

J.I: Yes

T.K: At what age and what stage did you decide you wanted to become a writer?

J.I: Around 6 years old… I had read a book. I was a kid at that time, really young and I just travelled with that raft, struggled with the characters and everything. And I think that affected me so fundamentally, that I asked my father, who is the person that writes these books? And after he told me, I said I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to transport people the way the guy did it. I wrote my first novel at 8 years old, and I have been writing since then.

T.K: So a short story, a novel and a play right? Let’s forget the historical plays because we know where they come from. But say you want to write a short story, what sparks it. Is it say, a song, a smell or a conversation you hear. What sparks the things you write?

J.I: Yes, I would say that the… first of all, I am eclectic, so everything you have mentioned, sound, sight, even a sequence of events and how they happen, but I think I am more of a philosophical person because I am always asking the What ifs, the Whys, so every time I see or hear something I always ask about the moment before. And that is were my stories come from. From me, interrogating the things that confront me. So I think everything inspires me but my stories come from me trying to answer the why, the who, the when and the where.

T.K: So when you have found the idea you want to interrogate, how do you do this? Do you seek seclusion, morning, night or day, do you devote time to just pour it out? What is your process for writing?

J.I: First of, I think I work better at night. I am a night owl. I like writing when everyone as gone to bed and it’s just me working. Then again when I have been possessed by the story, I can write in a market place. I just keep on going, because I write really fast. So, I can churn out a large amount of literature in a short while. But preferably I like to write at night. Even when I write at night, I put on the TV, and the TV is running, and I am watching, then I am writing. I am not the type of writer that works in silence. My mind strays away when I write in silence. I need something else, I need to engage my mind willingly, not leave it to run by itself. So, when I put on the TV or music, it helps me direct my mind. I like to write at night because I am busy during the day but when possessed by the story, I can write for 24 hours.

T.K: So do you have a full time job?

J.I: I used to. But now I am a full-time artist.

T.K: So, now you write fiction, poetry, drama, children’s books, screenplays, stage plays,… do you approach them differently?

J.I: Yeah, totally. So what happens to me is that when I encounter a story, I first think about the best medium to tell the story. Some things are given more to poetry, some to short story, full length, stage plays and screen play. So, I try to find that truth in it and channel it to where it will resonate better.

T.K: So, you just won the NLNG prize. How do you feel about it? This must have been your third or fourth entry?

J.I: It’s actually my 5th entry. Because I entered once but it was a first book of a trilogy and it had to be a complete book in itself.

T.K: Okay, so how does it feel being 5th time lucky?

J.I: Well it seems … I feel part fulfilling. I know that it speaks to persistence and all of that and I totally agree to that. But it also speaks to my belief in the platform. There was no assurance I was going to win whether though I submitted now or in the future but it speaks to the fact that there was a platform and if I even get into the longlist, the book gets some public notice and that is what I aimed for, the public notice. But I just celebrate it as a platform where books can get a wider audience than they usually get. Yes, I am fulfilled that my book won, and I am happy that there is reward that comes with it, I am also energized to keep going, because to whom much is given, much is expected. So, now I know the game has been upped and there will be more scrutiny of my work and I know that I have to step up my game. I think I am ready.

T.K: But during these 5 times you entered, was there any point you thought you had tried enough, so let me just give up?

 J.I: That is what I am trying to say, that because I wasn’t aiming for the prizes, I never tired out, because I was hoping to at least get into the longlist for the book to be noticed. I guess maybe if I was looking at the prize then I would have gotten jaded and tired.

T.K: Another book, do you think you will apply for another prize?

J.I: Oh certainly. I mean Margaret Atwood just won the Booker and this is like her second time. And yes, people will say ah ah, let other people win and all that but like I said, I just believe that it will be a platform. And I really want to celebrate the fact that it is a local prize. I was speaking to some writers the other day and was saying, we all support the Caines, why not the NLNG’s Nigerian prize for Literature?

T.K: Yet the Nigerian prize gives one of the highest amounts of money for an African literary prize.

J.I: So, it will really be a shame if the best of us, do not put our foot forward to support it. I will totally go on, so long as I keep producing standard work.

T.K: Thank you man.

J.I: Thank you, I really appreciate.

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