Helena Omoka Adoyi is a literary success story. At such a young age, this Benue state Nigerian writer is female and married, has a degree in History from the Ahmadu Bello University and has published four books – The Price, Eno, Black Moon and The Landlords. She is also currently pursuing a post graduate diploma in Peace and Conflict Resolution. In this interview with the Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku, she tells of her journey through to this literary success and what has inspired and supported her all through. Enjoy.
Hi, would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?
I am Helena Omoka Adoyi. I am from Benue State. I got into writing from 2012 as a final year student of the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria.
You got into writing from 2012? Most get into it much earlier.
The earlier part of the ASUU strike in that year got me very bored just sitting there at home. But growing up as child I loved reading and writing – both were my hobby.
So how did reading and writing help you write four books at such a young age?
The whole thing cannot be said without my bringing my mother in. She was actually the one who made me read all of the books that I have read, even though then I used to see it as an act of wickedness from her. But it helped because when I got to Primary one I had written my first letter and read the Bible from Genesis through to the Synoptic Gospels. She made me read, read, and read …
Sorry, at what age was this really?
Oh yes, I was just six years old. In fact at my first book launch she was there to tell everyone about my interest in reading and writing. She said that I used to write, tear it off the page and start all over again.
You have mentioned your mother severally in this interview. Who is your mother?
She is Regina Susan Adoyi. She works with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and currently on external posting at the Vatican in Rome Italy.
You are married. How do you balance matrimony with writimony?
(Sustained laughter) Well I’d say that it’s not been as difficult as you’d imagine. I met my husband as a student of the Ahmadu Bello University. We were both in the same class. We read the same course and we dated all the while at school. He was there when I wrote the short play. In fact, he was there when my short play was announced on air as winner of a competition with Radio Nigeria, Kaduna. We always put our heads together when it comes to my writing. For my book Eno, he was the one who typed the entire manuscript after I wrote it. He’s always been there for me…and God has been good because the relationship culminated in marriage.
Apart helping you like this, is there any other thing he does to help you write?
He helps as well to surf the internet for opportunities for writers. My husband encourages me to read the profiles of matured and successful writers. He also critiques my work before it ever goes out to the public and adds one or two things from his own personal research.
How do you see yourself as a married female writer from the North and how do you think your society sees you?
I see myself as talented young woman and writer. Marriage or no marriage, that talent and potential is already in me. And with the kind of husband God has blessed me with I see myself going very far in the next decade. However, my society continues to kick, to see me as female and married and writing as inappropriate. I often get pieces of advices here and there that if I am not careful, this and that would happen to me…but my husband refuses to allow this stereotypical thinking to get to me.
What were the challenges you faced in getting published?
Our people give little or no attention to reading and writers and this is not very encouraging. The reading culture here is poor and even made worse with the advent of social media. Good publishers are also scarce. The good ones are only ready to publish the big names not little ones like me. But my Professor in school then, Enoch Oyedele, helped surmount the initial problems by personally taking me to the Ahmadu Bello University Press. He introduced me formally and got talking with my parents about my writing. Thereafter, my father got involved with my progress and growth as a female writer in this part of Nigeria.
What are your books about? What messages do you want to pass across?
I want to focus on moral decay among young people with my writing – I want to be able to encourage them to excel and be productive and not be involved in religious bigotry. Eno is gender specific – the themes there centre on young girls from the ages of 13 and 18. This book encourages parents, particularly mothers in the North to get close their children – especially their daughters. There is much psychological and physical damage going on when parents don’t take an interest in understanding the sexuality of their children. Many young girls found out about life the hard way. And that is why I believe that sex education is vital. I have received a lot of positive feedback from people who have read Eno. We believe in impacting young people and beyond writing, my husband and I have a small organization called HOMNIK – even though we’re not employed and not rich, we are planning to help young people in the near future to set up their own businesses and be productive.
If there’s a woman from the North who is married and having writing problems, what would you tell her?
Writers need peace of mind to write. Both husband and wife should come to an understanding. The writing wife, and mother needs the support of her husband. Both can create her personal space, time and allocate them equally for both the writimony and matrimony (laughter).