A Life of Books: Onyi Nwabineli, author of Someday, Maybe

Author Onyi Nwabineli was born in Nigeria and grew up in numerous cities across the United Kingdom. She is the cofounder of Surviving Out Loud, a fund that provides fiscal support for survivors of sexual assault, and the founder of Black Pens (black-pens.com), a writing retreat for Black womxn. Her debut novel, Someday, Maybe, is about a woman overcoming the death of her husband and navigating what her new life is.

Debutiful asked her our recurring ‘A Life of Books’ questionnaire so readers can get to know her better.

Is there a book or series that, when you think back, helped define your childhood?

Definitely the Faraway Tree books by Enid Blyton. My very first foray into fantasy and I was blown away by how imaginative they were. I was also hooked on the Just William books by Richmal Compton, The Famous Five also by Enid Blyton, Matilda by Roald Dahl and of course, Charlotte’s Web

Would you want any children in your life (yours or relatives’) to read those too? Or what’s your philosophy on what children read?

I am buying my nephew all of these books. He’s almost three and already had such a rich vocabulary and imagination—I only want to encourage that. And my philosophy on what children read is pretty simple: make it broad and varied in terms of genre, diversity and subject matter. Kids are much better readers than we adults are

Moving to your school years: what book did you read in high school and hated (or skipped reading at all) that you learned you loved later in life?

Lord of the Flies! We had to study this as part of GSCE English and at the time, I loathed it with everything within me. Now? I think it is just a perfect illustration of human nature and I’ve re-read it dozens of times. It is up there with my favourites

What about the opposite way? One you loved in your teens, but realized you didn’t love it so much later on?

I actually can’t think of one! The way I sped through books as a kid and a teen played such a huge role in my falling even deeper in love with writing so I hold all those books so fondly in my heart. If one does come to me, I will circle back

Are there any books that you read while writing your debut that helped shape the direction you took your own book?

The one that sticks so firmly in my mind is one of my favourite books of all time: A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz. I had never read anything like it before and the voice is like none other. It helped give me the courage to really develop my own writing voice and not be too hampered by how I thought people might want me to write in order to receive my work positively. It proved to me that I can be wholeheartedly myself

What is a book you’ve read that you thought, Damn, I wish that was mine?

I adored The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North. That and A Little Life had me sitting back in silence for a while once I was done wishing I had penned them

What have you been reading / do you plan to read during your debut book tour?

I have been reading books my fellow debut novelists and loving every second: Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer is outstanding. Metronome by Tom Watson is a page turning triumph. And One for Sorrow, Two for Joy by Marie-Claire Amuah just snapped my heart in two

And, finally, I have to ask… I’m sorry. What’s next? But wait! Only use three words.

Hibernation. Focus. Execution.

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