Abubakar Adam Ibrahim is the author of books including: Season of Crimson Blossoms, and The Whispering Trees. In this interview, he talks about his latest collection of short stories, Dreams and Assorted Nightmares, the One Read Book of the Month for January 2021.
One Read: Congratulations on the publication of your short story collection, Dreams and Assorted Nightmares. How do you feel about the book being the One Read Book of the Month for January 2021?
Abubakar Adam Ibrahim: Thank you. I am excited. It is a great way to start the year considering how last year was and how it went. I am delighted readers will get the chance to encounter these characters and these stories and I hope it gets their 2021 going on an exhilarating pace.
There are twelve amazing stories in this book —from the relatable to the comical and the extremely bizarre—all set around the fictional town of Zango. What was the idea behind Zango as a setting?
It is this fascination with what place means in the lives of people. It is an interrogation of how space affects and, to a large extent, shapes who we become and the choices we make and ultimately, how the space we inhabit claims us. I wanted these twelve stories to be portraits of the people who inhabit Zango, and explore how their lives are intertwined.
What inspired you to write the short stories in this collection?
Well, many things. First the desire to tell stories that I hope readers will find engaging, exciting, titillating, funny, in some instances, sad in others. Secondly, I was inspired by the idea of exploring how people of different backgrounds and orientations and often with different goals, like Nigerians, are tied to a common tree.
From the first story, we see the origins of the book’s title. How easy or difficult was it to make this decision?
Really easy. I wanted it to be clear that the setting was an important part of the story and that was accomplished, I think, in that first story. It set the tone and begins a cycle. Of course, when I conceived the idea, that was not the title I had in mind, it wasn’t even the working title. The title occurred to me long after I had finished the first draft.
What did you enjoy most about writing this collection of short stories?
Freedom. I enjoyed writing without inhibitions. I gave myself permission to be wild with these stories, to push boundaries and limits and for my characters to do so as well.
It must have been daunting to write and publish a book, especially amid a pandemic. What was the toughest part of the process and how did you overcome it?
This book predated the pandemic. I actually finished writing it in 2018 and put it away. Just before the pandemic struck, I was in the midst of writing another book, a novel, and the publishers wanted me to get back to them on the edits of Dreams. It was just a hassle removing myself from the new mental space I was in to return to Zango. During the first lockdown, I had to force myself, drag my mind away from the pandemic and the new mental space back to Zango to give them feedback on the edits. Of course the pandemic forced the postponement of the release date. But what can one do about that?
How long did it take you to write Dreams and Assorted Nightmares?
I can’t say. I wrote the stories in-between other writing projects. Zango was the place I returned to occasionally to lose my restraint.
Describe your writing process. Any writing habits you’ve found useful?
My process is often determined by the story. So that is often unpredictable. A process I have found useful however is staying with the story once I am in it. Just keep writing, every day, even if it is for 30 minutes, every day. I have found that very useful in keeping the rhythm and not disconnecting mentally from the work.
What do you want the readers to take away from Dreams and Assorted Nightmares?
That there is always a bigger picture we are not always aware of.
What are you reading at the moment and what are you working on?
Bisi Adjapon’s Of Women and Frogs. Right now, I am taking a break from creative writing. Just that long deep breath you take before you plunge in again.
Dreams and Assorted Nightmares is published in Nigeria by Masobe Books and is available to purchase in bookstores. Download the One Read app to listen to an extended conversation on the One Read podcast.