When you think Christian, the next thought in line isn’t usually ‘Romance’ I know but with author Unoma Nwankwor, penning down books on Christian Romance is just a perfect melding of her gifts and talents as a writer.
The Finance Professional who totes a suit by day and a book by night lays bare the basics of her faith, choices and successes in her particular niche.
Life is really about knowing and fulfilling purpose I tell you; in her words, “Stay authentic to your style and story!”
It’s a new morsel for the week…
When you think Unoma Nwankwor, you think Christian/fiction/romance; what influenced your decision to carve a niche for yourself in this genre?
UN: Oh that’s easy. I am a hopeless romantic. My favorite genre is romance and Christian fiction. I love watching chic flicks and look forward to the cliché misunderstanding and make up at the end. LOL. Then I’m on fire for the Lord, my faith drives me. So what better way to marry romance, faith and my gift but to write Christian Romance novels.
Would you consider yourself a full-time writer? If yes, how do you fare financially?
UN: No, I’m not a full time writer; I have a day job in the financial industry. Writing is my passion and purpose so I make time to write at night and on the weekends.
Let’s get up, close and personal; Give us a bit of history and ethnicity.
UN: I’m a daughter (nee Osiegbu), sister and wife to a wonderful man; Kevin Nkem Nwankwor (KNN) and mom to two beautiful kids. I am from Issele-Uku in Delta State, Nigeria.
Education; Where and what did you study? Did you have to take any additional classes to hone your writing?
UN: I have a Bachelor’s degree in Banking & Finance from the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria and an MBA in Global Management from the University of Phoenix. I did not take any traditional writing classes to begin writing but while writing my first novel, I read many craft books and aligned myself with seasoned authors I respect in my genre. I have also attended writing workshops, online or in person.
How did the world of writing open up to you? When did you realise you works were worthy of publication?
UN: I ‘ve always known I wanted to write or could write I should say. But never thought others would want to read it. You see I’m the only girl in a family of five, so journaling and writing short stories was my getaway. A way to share my thoughts since my brothers would never understand…LOL. I was a serious introvert, sometimes I think I still am in some way. The world of writing was always open, I guess I was just afraid to enter it. Thinking no one would ever want to read what I wrote. Those are the kinds of lies we tell ourselves that hinder us from reaching our fullest potential. Since I refused to enter the world of writing willingly, life threw me in it. It happened some years ago when I was faced with an illness that made me think of what my impact on the world would be if my Father in heaven called me to be with Him. What would I tell Him I did with the gift He gave me while on earth? That experience pushed me to pen my first novel, ‘An Unexpected Blessing’. I was going to conquer my fear and see what happens. The response has blown my mind and I haven’t looked back since.
UN: Yes. There are certain writers I admire whom I seek advice and learn from.
What are your influences as a writer? How do you utilise your experiences to influence your writing?
UN: The simple answer is my writing is influenced by my faith and life. The expanded answer would be I’m influenced by the desire to tell stories that are based on the message of Christ—hence Christian fiction—but also to educate non Nigerians about our culture. The characters in my books are mostly Nigerians or Africans that live or have lived abroad. They are inspired by the culture of their homeland and of their current base and also by things happening in their present environment. I was born in the United States but lived all my formative years in Nigeria. I only relocated back to the States after graduating from the university. So I know what it’s like to live at home and abroad. And so do my characters. My foreign readers love my books for the fusion of both sides.
Would we be in error if we described you as a ‘genre specific’ writer?
UN: I guess not since I only write Christian fiction. My first book, An Unexpected Blessing was specific to romance while my second novel, ‘When You Let Go’ is classified as women’s fiction but my main umbrella is Christian Fiction.
Who are your favourite authors and what books have made the most impact on you?
UN: I read almost every genre, but I’ll be remised if I didn’t give tribute to books like ‘Centerspread’ and ‘Dreammaker’ by the late MEE Mofe-Damijo or Double Yoke and Second Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta. Then more recently, books in my genre of Christian fiction like ‘Because of Grace’ by Kendra Norman Bellamy, this was the first Christian fiction book I read. Since then there have been many others like ‘The Guilt Series’ by Pat Simmons and ‘Dance Into Destiny’ by Sherri Lewis.
You are the CEO of Kevstel Limited; what does your company do and how do you tie it in with authoring on a consistent basis?
UN: (She laughs) I am not the CEO, my husband is. I am however the COO; we are a faith based entertainment company divided into two sections movie productions and book publications. Under our belt we have two short films and our latest movie which was written and directed by my husband is titled ‘Tempting Fate’. It will be released in Nigerian theatres April 3rd 2015. Our goal is to spread the message of the kingdom through visuals and print and we strive to do this by entertaining with a purpose. I run the day to day operations of the company. Right now my books are the only ones published by our publication label but we hope to start accepting manuscripts and publishing aspiring writers in the very near future. You can find out more at www.kevstelgroup.com
Challenges of authoring and publishing in developing countries?
UN: I can’t really answer this accurately since I don’t live in a developing country. I’m thankful to God for the opportunities provided me in regards to where I live.
You are at a Writers Workshop; what do you tell the eager listeners who seek to better their skills?
UN: To better your skills, you have to practice. There are no shortcuts. There is a difference between being a story teller and being a great writer. The first we might be born with but to attract readers and keep them we have to master the writing craft. Read more than you write, set goals that are attainable, attend workshops, read craft books, join critic groups and hang around like minded people. Finally, never let your fears hinder you from what God created you to do. If that’s writing for you, then just do it. Start!
What’s the best perk of being a writer?
UN: The best part is being able to entertain and educate my readers at the same time.
The impact of Social Media in propagating your brand?
UN: It has helped a great deal. Social media has virtually changed the way the world communicates. It has made the world a smaller place. I have four main platforms, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +. You can also find me on Instagram and Goodreads.
Kindly list your bibliography; what online and offline platforms can they be obtained at?
UN: An Unexpected Blessing( August 2013 a novel); The Christmas Ultimatum. (November 2013, a novelette); When You Let Go ( May 2014, a novel).
Currently I’m writing a series of three books about the journey of three brothers to Christ despite their childhood scare of an absentee father. The first book titled ‘A Scoop of Love’ is set for release in December.
My books are on Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, iStore and Africa BookClub.com
You recently released a new book? Kindly share a synopsis to whet our appetites.
UN: My latest novel was released in May 2014. It’s titled ‘When You Let Go’. An answered prayer; An unforeseen betrayal; A family healed by grace.
Amara and Ejike Dike had been married for six glorious years. Amara was convinced Ejike, was the perfect gift from God; Loving, charming and very easy on the eyes. They had a beautiful life. Well, not so beautiful. Amara’s inability to bear children made her feel like a less than the perfect mate for her husband. Then after many years, God lifted her faith and had finally heard her cry. The Dikes couldn’t be happier.
A surprise visit from Chinelo, Amara’s long lost cousin, turns Amara’s world upside down and threatens to turn her once-perfect existence into ashes.
Ejike loved his wife with a passion. They shared a burning desire and faith in God that burned deep. However Chinelo’s appearance would open a Pandora’s Box that had purposely been kept shut.
Faced with the loss of all she holds dear, Amara finds herself at crossroads. Would she lean on God’s sustaining grace to let go and travel the rocky path to forgiveness? Or would she throw everything to the wind and walk away?
When You Let Go is a novel about people who know what the Word of God instructs but struggle with actually doing it when the chips are down.
Why should we read a Christian Romance novel as opposed to the more popular and well established romance series eg Mills, Harlequin and the like?
UN: Christian fiction (romance) might not be as popular in Nigeria yet but it is quite an established brand abroad. There is nothing that says a reader has to read one over the other, they can read both. However to answer the question, maybe telling you why I write it will give a little insight as to why I think readers would want to read it.
The themes of my books are hope, reconciliation and forgiveness and I use everyday life experiences to demonstrate these concepts through stories of faith, hope and love. Christian fiction novels are really no different from the others, except that the focus is on romance and not sex, also the stories contain Christian principles. So if a reader is looking for a page turner, that isn’t raunchy and at the same time teaches life lessons through Christian principles, I’d encourage them to try Christian fiction.
Are there associations of female writers in Nigeria? Are you an active participant in any?
UN: I do not know since I don’t live there but I am sure there are association for female writers.
In these times when the printed book seems to be scorned, would it not seem more pocket-friendly to publish e-books?
UN: It is more pocket friendly; however there is still a surprisingly huge market out there for print books. I am an AVID reader and would only buy print books until last year. I finally broke down and got a Kindle. Yep! I had refused to buy an e-reader and the only reason I got one was because one of my favorite authors released a book only in E-format.
Inspire an aspiring African writer in one sentence…
UN: I’m a writer come on you can’t ask me to do this in one sentence…okay let’s try two. Every day when YOU wake up, the only person you should strive to be better than is the person YOU were yesterday. Do your best every day and stay authentic to your style and story.
It’s great to have a little background on Unoma! Thanks for a great interview Jennifer. 🙂
Thank you for reading Simone! I know this response is reallly late, but better late right?