This interview with Jumoke Verissimo was first published in February 2008.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria.
What was it that first got you into writing and when did you start writing?
I started serious writing after my secondary school. My first published work was accepted around this time too. I have always been an avid reader and I did a lot of writing while in primary school through junior secondary school. Although all I used to do, really, was just imitate the writer of whatever book I read. After reading a book I'd make my version of it for my friends, and my younger brother. I'd write a story and draw accompanying illustrations and give it out as gift. I became a lot more serious with writing after secondary school because I didn't know what I wanted career to follow. But I just continued to read everything I could lay my hands on. I had more management textbooks and encyclopaedia around me than fiction, because that was my father's interest. But, I had the benefit of reading some plays in the complete works of Shakespeare for me, George Eliot, Jane Austen, Chinua Achebe, and some other books be had in his library. My mother, told us stories, she is an unending basket of oral stories. So I started to write again. Initially, writing was something I did, and it didn't go past that. I assumed I was a writer by writing all those funny stuffs. But looking back now, I think my brain needed to dislodge all the information I was gathering.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
Wow! I think that is a rather difficult one for me. I like Margaret Atwood a lot! Romesh Gunesekera, Toni Morrison, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Chinua Achebe, and of course, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie…
What kind of things do you write?
I write short stories, poems and I keep working on a novel.
What are you working on now?
A novel. My collection of poems is due out later this year.
What is your writing day like?
Considering that I am now left with an opportunity to ignite my writing again, after a period of redundancy. I write for the Guardian Newspaper, Nigeria, where I interview writers, and in it has inspired me to continue writing. I learn from other every writer I interview. And I also work as a copywriter in an advertising company. And back to the question, my writing day is erratic, I write when I get the time and space. I have learnt that those two things are luxuries in my world, and a lot of time I wish I could just run away and write the many stories in my head. But I write best late at night after work as a copywriter. But if I get home dog-tired, I wake up early the next day to read whatever comes out of my tired brain. Tiredness depresses me, yet it inspires me to write.
What's the most exciting thing about writing for you?
The creation of a place, a being, a time and the idea that becomes bigger with each word.
What's the most frustrating thing about writing for you?
The fact that writing has failed to do for me—my fantasies.
What's the best piece of feedback that you've had from your audience?
"You write well." It was from Kadejah Sesay. I submitted some poems to her magazine, and mindless of the fact that it was rejected she sent me an email and offered some advice. At that point, she helped revive my courage.
Do you write for a particular audience, or is your first priority to satisfy your own creativity?
I deliver the baby (the writing) and hope someone can identify that he has all human features.
Do you have a homepage? Do you have any short stories or poems published online? (If so, please provide the URLs):
I don't have a URL, but my short stories, and poems are on these websites: