Read an appealing conversation between Chinelo Mgbeadichie and Gbenga Kajopaye as the author of the compelling mystery novel steeped in domestic violence– Mrs. Unmarried speaks exclusively on what inspired her story, her idea of a marriage and her love for the mystery genre.
Gbenga Kajopaye: Your book- Mrs. Unmarried deals with domestic violence and abuse and its effects on victims who mostly are the female gender. Why did you choose to write a crime story from that angle?
C. Mgbeadichie: First, I must say that Mrs. Unmarried came from a dream I had back in Law school, so I didn’t plan to write on domestic violence. It so happened that last year pictures of the dream began to resurface in my subconscious [mind] and I started penning it down and years down the line it became this amazing piece called Mrs. Unmarried. And truthfully, I am proud of what it’s become and yes it is true that domestic violence affects mostly the female gender but that is not to say that the men are not victims too. Don’t quote me on that.
Gbenga Kajopaye: Okay. Let’s talk about your book title- Mrs. Unmarried. It’s an interesting oxymoron, but how did you come about this title? And what mental picture did you hope to create with it in your readers?
C. Mgbeadichie: Thank you for that question and of course for the complimenting observation. Well, the story is about a woman who is married and still not married. I mean, in the beginning you can see she is struggling with the idea of her being married in the real sense. Marriage is well beyond living in the same house or signing the marriage certificate, so Mrs. Unmarried is a symbol representing those who are married on paper but not necessarily married to each other.
Gbenga Kajopaye: Alright. Your main character- Ezinne is a kind of submissive character, until she met her childhood friend –Akunna. This submissiveness is a weakness her husband- Chukwuma capitalised and took advantage of; why did you use this approach to tell your story?
C. Mgbeadichie: Hmm, I wouldn’t exactly call Ezinne a submissive wife. I would refer to her more like a woman with low self-esteem, a defeated woman. Submission is a choice to allow the other spouse lead. Submission cannot be taken; it is given [and] that is why I don’t call Ezinne a submissive wife. To your question, I would say that the point of view is more like a correction of the mind-set. It was the same woman, who gave in to all her husband’s domineering attitude that also said ‘no’ to a man who loved her but whose character she wasn’t sure of. Something changed, even though she was in physical prison, she had met with women like herself who buoyed her. The message there is [that] your mind set can do a lot to your self-esteem and to who you are.
Gbenga Kajopaye: One of the characters that attracted my attention is Akunna. She’s an unpredictable character. In the story, she’s a celebrity and she’s brave, independent, strong, ambitious, and not religious. What exactly did you have in mind when you were creating Akunna.
C. Mgbeadichie: [Laughs] Wow let me commend you. You have really taken time to study each character trait in the book and that is amazing. Yes, Akunna is a strong woman but she also has her low moments too, but her strength is what you see most of the time. She is that woman who has gone through a tough time too and has come out strong. And I know a lot of women who have been through tough times and [have] grown a thick skin too. In every situation God brings people who have been there to help those who are there. It’s just the way life happens.
Gbenga Kajopaye: On page 10 of your book Mrs. Unmarried, referring to Ezinne you narrated “…she pitied herself all over, hadn’t it been because Samantha had gotten married to a cute young football player that she had been on the edge and in haste to get married to a young cute guy too and somehow she had disregarded every virtuous requirement her father had told her”. By implication, you seem to blame victims of domestic violence for engaging in mismatched and hasty marriages. Is that a right observation? Are you of the opinion that most mismatched marriages end in domestic violence?
C. Mgbeadichie: [Laughs] Okay, don’t get it wrong. Samantha was also a young lady who married a young guy and her marriage seemed rosy and comfortable, I mean I am not saying it was but at least she appeared happy to Ezinne. There is actually no one who can determine if a marriage is a mismatch. It takes two to Tango. Marriage works if the two parties are willing and actually striving to make it work. I am no marriage counsellor, trust me, but I know that if I put in efforts into my marriage and my partner did the same the marriage would work. The bible asks, “Can two work together except they agree?”
So no, I do not blame domestic violence on mismatched and hasty marriages, rather I blame it on selfishness as well as the failure to treat others the way we want to be treated. I have heard of people who met and within a few months they were married and their marriages are working because the two people know that it is their responsibility to make it work and not the woman’s responsibility.
Gbenga Kajopaye: That’s great. I was a little surprised that in Mrs. Unmarried you cleverly introduced what I assumed to be your debut novel- Behind Dark Clouds which was published in 2015 by Partridge Africa. Can you tell me more about the book, and why you introduced it in Mrs. Unmarried?
C. Mgbeadichie: [Laughs] Yes it is my book and I decided to do a little pointer to it. Okay so, Behind Dark Clouds is a legal fiction as well, it’s about a young woman by the name Monalisa or Lisa as her family and friends call her, who was raped at a very young age and this incidence brought forth a beautiful daughter, but then her dream to become a doctor was about to be snatched away by fate because her parents were gone and there was no one to help her further her education. She took her destiny in her hands, abandons the child and runs off to fulfil her dreams. Then [she] returns only to be hunted by the fact that she had abandoned the child. The question is, if life put you in such a dire situation, what will you do?
Gbenga Kajopaye: Looking at some of your stories and the events unravelled in them, it seems that Murder cases are common in them. Are there possibilities that you would shift your focus from Murder crimes to any of the other crimes like drug trafficking, arm robbery, bribery and so on?
C. Mgbeadichie: Sure, definitely! The next book in the series is a political drama and has to do with racketeering and drug trafficking.
Gbenga Kajopaye: You’re a legal practitioner with a Masters Degree from the University of Buckingham, United Kingdom. This simply might explain why you write mystery or crime novels. Do you have any other reason or reasons you engage in this genre and what are they?
C. Mgbeadichie: [Laughs] I write mystery novels because I love the tingle I feel in my stomach when I am imagining the scenes. It’s like a love feeling; there is this ticklish [feeling] in my toes when I weave those suspense. It’s kind of comes with the territory though.
Gbenga Kajopaye: Can you tell me particularly the authors and books that influenced your writing along the mystery genre?
C. Mgbeadichie: As a child I used to read a lot of Harlequin novels, I read premeditated murder, and a couple of others which I can still remember their story lines but somehow have forgotten the titles. I loved books that had mysteries in them.
Gbenga Kajopaye: Are you currently working on another literary piece? Can you talk about it?
C. Mgbeadichie: Oh sure, I have posted some portions of them on my Facebook Author Page, [and] that’s @nelomgbeadichie and on my blog, nelowrites.wordpress.com. It’s a sequel to Mrs. Unmarried, and it focuses on Kim, the Movie producer in Mrs. Unmarried. Like I said earlier, it is a political drama of betrayal, love, [and] blackmail. There is a whole lot packed in the story. I feel the tingling already [Laughs].
Chinelo Mgbeadichie is a legal practitioner with a Masters degree from the University of Buckingham, United Kingdom. She loves to create and spin mystery tales. Currently she is in active practice and resides in Lagos, Nigeria.
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