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Interview with Ono Ekeh

I think I spent ten minutes trying to say your name correctly. Don't feel bad it took me three days to learn how to pronounce my home town.

Tell us about your latest novel or project:

My latest novel is a 65K project called Icon of Clay. It is the third book in my The Children of Clay series. In this novel, Bridget Blade is a reincarnated god, who has been forced into hibernation by her husband and the military but wakes up unexpectedly, decades ahead of schedule. Bridget now has to deal with the fact that her husband has found a new love and that she is now officially classified as dead, and has no one. She is determined to win her husband back but he goes on a secret mission to Africa where his life is in danger and she would have to use her powers to rescue him even though there’s no guarantee that he would return to her. The story is a supernatural thriller with a strong dose of romance and science fiction.

What got you started writing?

I was a better storyteller than I was a writer so I never considered writing for others. I simply wrote for myself. In college, I wrote a novel that has never and will never see the light of day. But it was an interesting experience to go through the process of writing so many words and connecting so many strands. Eventually, I became confident enough to publish a novel.

How long does it take you to write a book? Do you have any secrets to productivity?

Icon of Clay took me less than a month to write. Originally The Children of Clay series was going to be four books. The first book was going to be a 130K novel. But the first two parts/acts were a little disjointed many of my critique partners often noted the time jumps and the fact that the story needed more. The story was always in my head, I just saw it as backstory to fill out my understanding of the characters. I then decided to break up the first two parts of the novel and that gave me The Clay Queen, Clay to Ashes, and now Icon of Clay. When it was time to write Icon of Clay. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. It probably is the most structured writing process, I’ve had. If I had time, it could’ve been completed in a couple of weeks.

The Children of Clay series has been in my head for over ten years. It was at first a series of separate stories, that became joined by time travel, and then actually morphed into the form it is now. Right from the start, I had been writing down scenes and then I’d get moments of inspiration where I would do the hard bit of connecting scenes and creating consistency. There are some scenes I love writing, but some I absolutely dread. The scenes I loved writing (not necessarily my favourite scenes) are easy to write and I can churn out hundreds and thousands of words in these cases. Some scenes take days or months, especially when I put it off for a while.

I tend to write more and accomplish more when the story is settled in my head. So I don’t take non-writing periods as unproductive. I’d rather wait and let the story work itself out and settle and then I write it.

Where did you get the idea for your first or latest book?

I got the idea for The Children of Clay series from, among other things, an episode in the bible. God shows the prophet Jeremiah, that just as a potter can discard any clay pots that do not meet his standards, so to can God cast aside any of his people who fall short. Well, having the kind of mind that I do, I wondered what the clay pots would say to the potter if they could speak. So I wanted to write a series that is one long apology for the idea that humans for all their flaws can be expressions of the divine. And the best way I thought to do this was to explore the idea of a human god. A human god would be a finite and limited god. One who has fears, anxieties, who hungers and thirsts, is weak, etc., but in the final analysis, cannot be denied the title, god.

There are two gods in this universe. Ryna is a transcendent sky god who is creator of all. The demiurge is the second god, who is pure passivity and is the “stuff” that Ryna uses to create. The demiurge in this series is manifested and incarnate as Queen Nouei, who is human and wants to give voice to the children of clay. Bridget Blade, the main character in the first few books is a reincarnation of Nouei. But, the gods willing, we will see Nouei in the later instalments.

If any of your books was to be made into a film, which one would you pick and who would you have play the main characters?

It’s never going to happen, so I can engage in this fantasy and dream. (If it does ever happen, I would eat a pickle dipped in horseradish and sprinkled with hot sauce.) I don’t have a great memory for actors, so forgive my lazy choices. The book I would pick is The Clay Queen. I’ll take Idris Elba for Jeremy, thank you. Queen Nouei would be played by someone like Kin Hawthorne. Bridget? I don’t know. I think someone like Gugu Mbatha-Raw or Naomie Harris. (Okay, snap out of it!!)

How important do you think marketing is for authors today?

Marketing is everything. You might write the perfect book, but if no one knows it’s out there, then it might never get to its intended audience. Besides, the relative ease of self-publishing has brought out so many very good books and authors. So there is so much good stuff to choose from. They always say that it’s a marathon not a sprint. So marketing has to be a patient process of finding your audience.

Do you have any book you have written that won’t ever see the light of day and why?

(He smiles) Yes! My first attempt was very raw. But I like the idea and I’ve been toying with bring it out of the grave. It’s about an angel who escaped eternal condemnation with Lucifer.

Often writers get to approach some serious subjects. Which serious subject are you most proud to have written about or was the hardest to write about?

In The Children of Clay universe, in the contemporary world/setting, there are two religions. One worships Ryna and the other worships a god named Thysia. They are essentially the same god but the Thysians broke away from the Ryneans hundreds of years ago because Ryna is somewhat bloodthirsty.

Ryna devours what she loves, so her followers are quick to offer themselves to her and embrace death. Thus, in the Rynean religion, ritual suicide is not uncommon. It is a little uncomfortable to write about a religion that so wholeheartedly embraces death so much so that they call ritual suicide, Euthanasia, which in the original Greek means, a sweet/beautiful death.

But the beauty of writing fantasy is that you can create an atmosphere in which such rituals are solemn and have beauty to them.

Thank you for sharing some of your story. Good luck with you next project.

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