Edwin Madu is the second author in our Launch Collection. His short story To Kill a Watchman is a great short story about a thrilling event in the life of a Nigerian watchman. In this interview, Edwin talks about his experiences writing the story as well as how his real life experiences and interactions influence his writing.
THE JELI: Tell us about yourself (educational background, work background, where you’re from, etc.)
EDWIN MADU: I am from Enugu state in Nigeria. I grew up and currently live in Lagos. I went to school in Lagos and I completed my bachelor’s degree in Computer Science in 2015 from Covenant University. Since then I have worked in the African Artists’ Foundation and I am currently the Editor at Funny Africa and writer at Gree-oh media. I am a content creator and a business process consultant (in training).
THE JELI: When did you start writing?
EDWIN MADU: My earliest memories of writing stories are of exams. The English exams in primary and junior secondary schools sometimes had questions with writing prompts like “write a story that ends with ‘Had I known’” and I remember always getting excited and choosing this sort of question and finishing it first before any others. Fast forward to 2010, I created a blog because, well, everyone else was doing it. In 2012, I lost my sister and after writing a piece for and about her, it sparked something and I just kept writing, on my blog still, in my own little corner. Some validation came for my writing in the form of being selected to participate in the Farafina Trust Creative Writing workshop in 2015.
THE JELI: When did you begin writing this story? How did you come with the idea?
EDWIN MADU: This story was inspired by an actual gruesome sight I witnessed as a child. I remember walking past a dead body with the head opened on my way to school. No one ever told me how it happened. I only heard them whisper that he was the gateman of some house. Many of my stories come this way, one event has a story that leads to it and with this story come characters, living, existing, leading to the event.
THE JELI: Where & how do you write? Do you have a particular writing spot, a writing buddy or any writing rituals?
EDWIN MADU: Where? Anywhere I find a table and a comfortable chair. I cannot overstress the importance of a comfortable chair. My usual writing spot would be at my desk in my room. I have no writing rituals, but I find that I prefer to (and it seems the stories prefer it too) when I write late at night (11pm – 4am). The day, for me, is for living, experiencing, reading. And when the night comes, while others sleep, I feel like there’s this unused energy left and, tapping into this energy, I find that the words come easier, and I see my characters better, I hear them talk and I write accordingly.
THE JELI: How do you create your characters?
EDWIN MADU: Most of the time, my characters are made up of several parts of real people. They could have the temperament of a bus conductor I encountered and the soft voice of the lady who tells you the number you are calling is switched off. There is no straight forward creation process, sometimes the characters come to me before the story, sometimes the other way.
THE JELI: What did you enjoy most about writing this story?
EDWIN MADU: I enjoyed writing about the singbere and the calabashes with food offered to the gods. I find that I have a certain affinity for mystical things that cannot be simply explained. I believe in the supernatural and so I write stories just showing some things I have heard but not trying to explain, mostly because, I really can’t.
THE JELI: Apart from this story, what other things have you written recently?
EDWIN MADU: I have been working on several stories to be published soon. One of my published stories, titled Houssou is in the Jalada Languages anthology, Beaten Gods is on The Kalahari Review and also, ‘This thing will kill this child’ was published on Brittle paper. I have a lot of my poetry on my blog edwinmadu.com.
THE JELI: What are your ambitions as a writer?
EDWIN MADU: I hope to someday write for the screen. Coupled with my love for words and their ability to tell stories is my love for visual storytelling. My main goal is to have people read and see my stories the world over.
THE JELI: What are your thoughts about the writing publishing scene in your country?
EDWIN MADU: I applaud the efforts of the publishing houses and numerous litmags that are making it easier for writers from the country to have their voices heard.
THE JELI: Who is your favourite writer?
EDWIN MADU: Chinua Achebe
THE JELI: What is your favourite piece of fiction?
EDWIN MADU: Let Us Tell This Story Properly – by Jennifer Makunbi
THE JELI: What are your biggest creative inspirations?
EDWIN MADU: Photographs, music and conversations I overhear.
THE JELI: What are your biggest creative challenges?
EDWIN MADU: Staying focused on one project at a time. While writing a story, the idea for another appears and soon I find myself starting yet another, leaving one unfinished.
THE JELI: What else have you got coming up that you would like people to know about?
EDWIN MADU: I have my eyes set on finishing a non-fiction manuscript sometime this year. But in the meantime, I am working on several short stories to appear in different places soon.