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Drunk on Ink Q & A with Chika Unigwe and ‘Better Late Than Never’, short story collection

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series by Soniah Kamal author of  the novel Unmarriageable, a parallel retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and set in contemporary Pakistan

Chika Unigwe was born and raised in Enugu, Nigeria. She has written novels and Better Never than Late is her first collection of short stories.

About Better Late Than Never

Better Late Than Never is a collection about /around Nigerian immigrants in Belgium. Most the stories center around Prosperous and Agu, trying to make a new life in a country where they must learn new ways of being. It’s about friendship, community, love and loss. And everything in between.

SONIAH KAMAL: First author/book you read/fell in love with? Why?

CHIKA UNIGWE: First novel I remember reading cover to cover is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I got it as a 9th birthday present

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Coffee is a necessity (as is water). Wine

A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading? Why?

In today’s America, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ ‘A case for Reparation .’ It’s a long essay that details in sharp prose how and to what extent African Americans have been kept out of financial mobility.

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?

No. I read what interested me, what I had to for school. Reading for fun shouldn’t be torture. Life’s too short and there are many many many books to choose from

Favorite quote from your book 

He thought he understood now what was meant by being swept off one’s feet. She was an undertow pulling at him.  (Agu falling hopelessly and helplessly for Prosperous)

Favorite book to film? And why?

Shawshank Redemption. The film impresses with how much it expands the novella without appearing to do so. Also Tim Robbins has a lazy handsomeness to him

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

My neighborhood bookstore in Turnhout, Belgium

The one think you wish you’d known about the writing life?

Nothing has taken me by surprise so far

Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?

Not in my experience, no

Dog, Cat, Or?

Ideal vacation?

I am a city girl , I love shopping , I love sunshine. With my family

Favorite song?

This changes daily. At the moment, it’s Jerusalema  (the mix with Burna Boy)

Favorite painting/ work of art?

I love Victor Ehikamenor’s works

Any Lit Festival anecdote you want a share? A great meeting with a fan? An epiphany?

In Port of Spain for BOCAS, Earl Lovelace threw a lovely party at his home. His son Djayed and I danced with Fred d’Aguiar

Do you have a favorite film, or two, or three?

Everything by Almodovar

What is your favorite Austen novel, and film adaptation? Why?

Pride and Prejudice. Bride and Prejudice (watch trailer).  So much glitz and glamour and Bollywood dancing.   it’s somewhat Nigerianesque

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

Kweli. Brilliant mag.

Last impulse book buy and why?

Intimations by Zadie Smith because I love reading her essays, and a mention of it popped up while I was surfing

Soniah Kamal is an award winning novelist, essayist and public speaker.  Soniah’s novel Unmarriageable is a Financial Times Readers’ Best Book of 2019, a People’s Magazine Pick, a Library Reads Pick, an NPR Code Switch Summer Read Pick, a 2019 Book All Georgians Should Read, a 2020 Georgia Author of the Year for Literary Fiction nominee and more. Her novel An Isolated Incident was shortlisted for the Townsend Prize for Fiction and the KLF French Fiction Prize. Soniah’s TEDx talk is about second chances and she has delivered numerous keynotes addreses. ‘We are the Ink’, her address at a U.S. Citizenship Oath Ceremony, talks about immigrants and the real American Dreams, her keynote at the Jane Austen Festival is about universality across time and cultures and she’s given keynotes at Writers Conferences. Soniah’s work has appeared in critically acclaimed anthologies and publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, The Georgia Review, The Bitter Southerner, Catapult, The Normal School, Apartment Therapy and more.
She’s on twitter and instagram @soniahkamal

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Chika Unigwe, Better Late Than Never, short story collection

Anju Gattani: Duty and Desire, a novel

Christopher Swann: Never Turn Back, a novel

Zetta Elliott: A Place Inside of Me, middle grade fiction

Veena Rao: Purple Lotus, a novel

Tara Coyt: Real Talk About LGBTQIAP, non fiction

Maureen Joyce Connelly: Little Lovely Things, a novel

Molly Greeley: The Heiress, historical fiction novel

Donna Miscolta: Living Color, short stories

Mike Chen: Here and Now and Then, a novel

Ruth Franklin: Shirley Jackson A Rather Haunted Life, biography

Colleen Oakley: Before I Go, a novel

Emily Midorikawa: A Secret Sisterhood: The literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, biography

Shabnam Samuel: A Fractured Life, memoir

Elise Hooper: The Other Alcott, a novel

Anne Boyd Rioux: Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, non fiction

Devoney Looser: The Making of Jane Austen, non fiction

Kristen Miller ZohnThe Currency of Taste- Gibbons Georgian Silver, coffee table book

Vanessa HuaA River of Stars, novel

Chaitli SenThe Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss

Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz BathenaA Girl Like That, YA novel

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