Happy Tuesday, good people! As you may have seen, we announced the acquisition of David Mogo: Godhunter last week, a powerful and atmospheric tale of gods at war in West Africa’s most populous metropolis.
Suyi Davies Okungbowa is a Nigerian writer of science fiction, contemporary and dark fantasy, and crime fiction. His work has appeared in Lightspeed, Fireside, Podcastle, The Dark, Mothership Zeta, Omenana, Ozy, Brick Moon Fiction; amongst other magazines and anthologies. He is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Arizona, and has worked in editorial at Podcastle and Sonora Review. He lives online on Facebook, tweets at @IAmSuyiDavies, and blogs at suyidavies.com. His urban fantasy novel about gods in Lagos is forthcoming in 2019.
If you’ve seen the announcement of David Mogo: Godhunter, you must be curious about the man behind the book…we sat down with Suyi to ask a few ‘getting to know you’ questions…
What is the first book that made you cry?
I’m very bad at crying, sadly, so I still haven’t cried in response to a book or film yet. Still waiting on the one, so fingers crossed!
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I come across a few often in my tutoring. Wanting to run before walking (say, writing a 120K epic when what they really need at that stage is to learn sentence clarity, character complexity, revision techniques, etc) is a common one. I recognize it because I’ve been there. Another is paying too much attention to world noise: hot trends, book deals, all buzz no substance; when they really should be paying attention to the world itself, the actual thing that fuels stories. A last one is holding a story too close to your heart. I’m of the opinion that the minute you put a story down on paper, it becomes its own living, breathing thing. Throw in a literary community of publishers, readers, reviewers, and the story morphs, becomes bigger than you. Holding on to it–especially, say, in revision–is doing yourself a disservice.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Video gaming? Specifically playing football (what Americans would call soccer). Put me behind a screen with a controller, and I could literally abandon my writing for days, haha. Another one is on-demand TV. I have like 5 subscriptions running at a time, and there’s always so many things to watch. But I manage to keep both subdued when I need to. I tend to discipline myself a lot.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I do write under a pseudonym, if it qualifies to be called that. As S.O. Okungbowa, I write crime-thrillers (I have one out in 2020), and this is technically a distinctively different identity from my SFF one. I haven’t ever considered writing under another name, because my identity as a Nigerian + African and a Black person are at the core of my stories, and I want to represent that both on and off the page.
Do you Google yourself?
Hahaha. Sadly, yes. I have Google Alerts set up for my name, mostly so I can see publications where my name appears and link it to my website.
What is your favorite childhood book?
A little novella called An African Night’s Entertainment by Cyprian Ekwensi. It’s not really a kid’s book–it’s violent and difficult and features vengeance, romance and a good dose of misogyny. But it offered a very strong sense of wonder to me, and features a lot of adventure. Found it on my father’s shelf and read it a gazillion times. Recently purchased a new copy for my library because the book is now difficult to find.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
The Harry Potter series. Mostly because I’d like to author something that could have such a global impact, birth its own culture, and affect the world in such a way. Remember what I said about stories running away from you? Case in point.
What makes this particular genre you are involved in so special?
My website says: African gods, starships, monsters and detectives, which sums up the spectrum of speculative and other fiction I dabble in. I feel that in speculation lies the opening up of all possibilities, and this makes for a much more equitable and progressive worldview. It also allows us to explore and re-shape Otherness by giving voice to entities that wouldn’t otherwise have one in this day-and-age. If you’ve been an Other for so long, like me, it’s a great feeling to get out of yourself and represent the matters that concern and affect you, and have the same impact on readership, but just shy of the real-world weight.
If you were given the opportunity to form a book club with your favorite authors of all time, which legends or contemporary writers would you want to become a part of the club?
Stephen King, Octavia Butler, Neil Gaiman, Helen Oyeyemi, Cyprian Ekwensi, all to start with. From there on, it becomes a real struggle because I read very widely and love stories from just about everywhere, so it’s a tough pick. Maybe I’ll just stick with those five because I’m fine with picking these brains forever.