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Davina Owombre: Secrets determine what people do

Davina Owombre is a Nigerian writer whose stories are fast gaining popularity in the country and beyond, especially with internet users. Known for being somewhat secretive, she agreed to this interview session about her writing only if it would be conducted via email.

Davina Owombre’s fiction appears at eFiction MagazinePithead Chapel MagazineGravel MagazineBurrow Press Review, and Litro Magazine. Her printed work includes stories in Queer Africa: New and Collected Fiction (MaThoko’s Books) and See You Next Tuesday: The Second Coming (Better Non Sequitur). A finalist in Narrative Magazine and Glimmer Train fiction contests, she’s also the occasional pseudonym of a Nigerian writer who tweets from the Twitter handle @dowombre.

Below are excerpts from the exchange that ensued:


Odoh Diego Okenyodo: I’ve read a few of your stories and there’s often a sexual encounter or something sexual in them. Do you write erotica?

Davina Owombre: Forgive me, but I can’t help thinking that’s one of those questions designed to pigeonhole writers and keep them in neatly labelled boxes. All the same, let me attempt an honest answer. I write what I hope is accessible literary fiction with a sensual edge.

Odoh Diego Okenyodo: Isn’t that erotica?

Davina Owombre: I won’t resist the label if you insist on it. I’d just like to clarify that in writing about sex, my interest goes beyond the physical act to include the complexities that sex inevitably introduces in our lives.

Odoh Diego Okenyodo: Some people consider sex to be fluffy and not worthy of serious literary effort.

Davina Owombre: True, and that’s why it’s such a challenge to engage the subject and its ramifications. I mean, I find it amusing how people are casually accepting of violence, death, murder but would squirm and sweat the moment sex comes up. They even extend it to biological parts and would search for all kinds of silly euphemisms rather than say ‘vagina’ or ‘penis’. It’s a shame because sex, and sexuality, inform a big part of what makes us humans and rather than relegate it to something to be embarrassingly glossed over, we should engage and interrogate the subject fully.

Odoh Diego Okenyodo: So, is that your main motivation as a writer?

Davina Owombre: Yeah, but I think what really gets me fired up about a story is deviance in a character. You know, a character with at least one big secret. That’s what makes my heart race. I see secrets as something essential to our lives. When I hear people say they don’t have any secrets, I roll my eyes. Come on! We all have secrets. And despite the negative connotation, secrets aren’t necessarily always bad. They just add depth to people and more often than not secrets determine what people will or won’t do.

Odoh Diego Okenyodo: What is your writing process like?

Davina Owombre: I’m not sure I have one. Some days I write a lot. Regardless of what I’m doing. I could be in a meeting and manage to type up a scene on my phone. Then there are periods when I totally forget about writing. Like, I just can’t be bothered. That could last a few days or even a couple of months.

Odoh Diego Okenyodo: Is that like writer’s block? How do you get past it?

Davina Owombre: Funny enough I’m not sure I’ve ever had writer’s block. No, it’s usually me just saying, “To hell with this. Let me go do something that can earn me some money.” You know writing short fiction is mostly a mad person’s endeavour. It doesn’t help with the bills. So, every now and then it’s important to cure myself of the madness. Anyway, one day the madness returns and typically I wake up in the early hours—3 or 4 AM, unable to go back to sleep, and I just start writing something new or continue something I’d abandoned midway.

Odoh Diego Okenyodo: You’ve had quite a number of short stories published now. When are you going to publish a novel?

Davina Owombre: I have no idea when that will be. The thing is, I’m superstitious and I don’t want to jinx myself or anything like that. So, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.


Image: hans van den berg via Flickr

Odoh Diego Okenyodo
Odoh Diego Okenyodo
Odoh Diego Okenyodo is a Nigerian writer. He is one of the Directors of Splendors of Dawn Poetry Foundation. He co-edited Camouflage: Best of Contemporary Writing from Nigeria, an anthology. His collection, From A Poem to its Creator, was shortlisted for The Nigeria Prize for Literature in 2009.

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