Sistah Girls, I’m so excited!!! Can you tell? As a Nigerian living in Nigeria, I decided to celebrate Nigeria’s 60th anniversary of Independence (It was on the 1st of October) with a few articles for our Nigerian Independence Spotlight Series.
Chio Zoe made her debut as a fantasy author with Memory of Stone. I got the chance to sit and talk to Zoe about her writing process, her novel, and so much more.
The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
SGBC: Tell me a little bit about yourself. How long have you been writing?
Chio Zoe: I was born and educated in Nigeria and received my Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture from the University of Nigeria (UNN). My free time in secondary school – when I wasn’t training as an athlete – was used to write stories in different genres such as children’s horror, paranormal, romance, which I shared with schoolmates. My unpublished children’s horror gained the interest of a publishing house, which led me on a path to writing professionally.
I took up work as a ghostwriter in University, where I wrote mostly fantasy-based stories influenced by Nigerian and Roman mythology. After university, I stopped ghost-writing and took on a variety of jobs as I tested out my different interests.
Later, I decided to focus on honing my own writing style and eventually landed a job in a start-up mentoring program as a writing mentor. You can say I’ve been writing pretty much all my life, and I was always going to find my way back to it. I spend most of my time bent over my laptop working on new books, and I sometimes take breaks to come up with clothing designs for my fashion line.
I also have a YouTube channel Chio Zoe Writes dedicated to teaching writers, reviewing books, and promoting the reading culture in Nigeria.
Reading the book, I was actually quite surprised, I assumed it would have heavy African cultural influences. What made you decide to write the sort of story you wrote instead?
Chio Zoe: I had been in such a writing funk for some time because I was too focused on the immediate stimuli in my environment, what others were doing and what was expected of me, that I didn’t have time to really think about what I wanted. When I let it go and just enjoyed reading for reading sake, my passion was rekindled, and with it came the idea for Memory of Stone.
As you can imagine, this was met with surprise and in some cases, disapproval. But knowing what it took to get there, and finding out that there were people who felt their ideas were drowned out because it didn’t fit the mold, made me want to write the story all the more.
Memory of Stone was born of ideas, inspiration, passion, and wonder. It was nurtured by the belief that someone out there needed to read the story, find out who wrote it, and be inspired to write what they loved.
What authors do you enjoy reading and what authors greatly influence your work?
Chio Zoe: I’ve enjoyed reading books by so many writers, writers like Chimamanda Adichie, Jane Austen, Sarah J. Maas, Victoria Schwab, and of course Leigh Bardugo.
While Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows propelled me to write again, I can’t say I’m influenced by any author. I get inspiration from the most random places and do my best to turn all the ideas and emotions I have into something I can recognize as my own.
What are you currently working on? Is there any other genre in which you’d be interested in writing?
Chio Zoe: I’m currently working on the sequel to Memory of Stone because my readers really want it and I really want to give it to them soon. I am also tackling a big project, which is a secret for now, but I’m bursting with excitement and I cannot wait to be able to share it.
I’d like to put all my energy into writing Fantasy, but if I had to pick another genre to write in, it would be Romance because so many other genres and elements can be covered under it.
What do you want people to know about the genre and writing overall?
Chio Zoe: I would like people to know that fantasy, like any other genre, is worth writing and worth reading. I also want them to know that people should be allowed to share their passion, governed by morality, and not be judged or ridiculed for it.
And as a Nigerian, I want people to know just how vast and diverse our characters, experiences, and passions are, and to understand that we can express what we feel in infinite ways. Lastly, read Memory of Stone.
This interview is part of my Nigerian Independence Spotlight. How does that make you feel?
Chio Zoe: It makes me feel appreciated to be selected for such an interview. I am grateful to know that my book is seen as a piece worth discussing with respect to the things we create in Nigeria.
In addition, I’m happy that people from different parts of the world will be able to read this and get an idea of the individuality we have, and not just the stereotypes.
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