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Interview with Olunosen Louisa Ibhaze

She is a Nigerian Canadian who enjoys creating memorable characters while telling real stories about the African experience. She writes for both children and adults. She has worked as a Literary Series Advisor Consultant for Penguin Books on the Kofi and Lulu series. She is the founder of The Ottawa Black Book Club, with a global membership of multicultural members that focuses on books by authors of African and black descent, and also the host of The Melanin Djali Conversations Podcast on YouTube, where she chats with diverse children's authors about diversity and representation in children's storytelling, entertainment and edutainment. She is also the founder of the Simple Esan Girl Initiative.

She holds a Master’s Degree in Globalization and Development, a Second Master’s Degree in Medical Sociology, and a Bachelor's in Sociology and Anthropology. She loves history, music, and photography, and her writing is inspired by everyday life and human experiences. She has lived in Nigeria, the United Kingdom, and Canada and is a Champion for Anti-racism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself that not many people know?
I love history and cryptozoology.

Q.2 When should we expect your next book? What will it be about?
Before Christmas. I am currently working on a children’s book series that educates children on the rich and diverse cultures of the continent of Africa.

Q.3 Where’d you get the idea to do a collection of short stories named Purple Mangoes instead of a full-length novel?
My culture and society. I find the social construct of gender and its complexities interesting. Many times I find myself analyzing how experiences and situations shape the experiences of both genders and how, especially women, react to situations they can either control or not control. 

It is important to note that when people hear the word “gender experiences”, many just assume one is speaking about “women’s experiences”. Gender has to do with both male and female. With regard to my short story collection Purple Mangoes, I chose to write about African women because I am an African woman, and I believe it is important to write about what I know and the intricacies of being female in Patriarchal societies. 

This is the reason why, in the collection, I touched on experiences ranging from childbirth, the marriage bed, prostitution, child marriage, widowhood practices, gender-based violence, and the birth of a baby girl.

Q.4 How do you select the names of your characters?
I select character names based on their peculiar traits that make them easy to remember.

Q.5 What were your feelings when your novel was accepted/when you first saw the cover of the finished product?

Q.6 What do you want readers to take away from your book?
The experience of new cultures and the understanding that everyone is beautifully flawed and imperfect.

Q.7 What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing Purple Mangoes?
Writing short stories is an art in itself. It’s different from writing a novel.

Q.8 What was the hardest part of writing this book?
I keep feeling it is unfinished and still needs polishing!

Q.9 Do you feel that there are specific challenges in marketing and promoting short fiction compared to novels? How do you promote your short stories?
Yes, if you are new to publishing and choose to self-publish, marketing can be challenging.

Q.10 What’s your advice to short story writers who may not be published yet? What are the keys to success, in your opinion?
Keep writing, as writing is an art that promotes continuous self-discovery and writes real stories close to the heart that readers can either connect with or get curious about.

Q.11 Who would you most like to thank for their involvement in your writing career?
Everyone who has ever given words of encouragement, supported me in any way, and also those who have bought my books.

Q.12 What impact, if any, do you feel the advent of e-readers has had on increased interest in short stories?
It makes books easily accessible as readers can purchase and start reading almost immediately.

Q.13 Who edited your book, and how did you select him/her?
Purple Mangoes was first published by Bahati Books in 2017, and they got a professional editor to edit the manuscript before publishing.

Q.14 Can you work anywhere, or is there a certain space and quietude required to write?
I can work anywhere.

Q.15 How do your family/friends feel about your book or writing venture in general?
They are proud and very supportive.

Q.16 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good and bad ones?
Yes, I do read reviews and see bad reviews as constructive criticism and understand that everyone is entitled to their personal opinion, and that’s fine.

Q.17 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
 I have written six books, and all my books are special to me as they reflect different seasons of my life. I have self-published two
 children’s books, Crowning Glory: A History of African Hair Tradition (2022), The African Safari: An Introduction to Africa's Indigenous Animals (2022), two novels, Truly, Deeply (2005), Authentic Mama (2016), a collection of short stories, Purple Mangoes (2017), and a free verse collection, Winds of My Sahara (2017).

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?
A. Sidney Sheldon
. He is one of the greatest storytellers of all time, and I have read all his books.

Q.19 What books have most influenced your life?
Different books and genres. It just depends on the time and situation.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
It’s been an interesting journey and a great learning experience. I keep fine-tuning my writing and getting better.

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