Janet Chinenye Eze is the author of two captivating books: Nnenna (a novel) and The Kayan of the Mata (short stories), both of which have found their home on the shelves of readers worldwide. In this interview with Obinna Emelike, Eze digs deep into the inner recesses of the implication and relevance of her work in today’s society, amid her concern for the female folks, which is a subject of interest to mitigate gender imbalance.
Your two books are gaining traction in the past few years.
What are the thematic concerns you have explored in your writings and how important are they in today’s world?
In my debut novel, Nnenna, I delved deep into the intricacies of the human heart, painting a vivid portrait of a woman whose insatiable desire for love eclipses her ability to make rational decisions. This captivating narrative takes readers on a poignant journey, exploring the profound impact that love, or the yearning for it, can have on an individual’s life. Nnenna, the central character, represents a universal yearning for connection, a desire that often finds its roots in the deepest corners of our hearts. As readers follow her story, they are drawn into the complex web of her emotions, which lead her into a series of choices that might seem irrational from an outsider’s perspective. Her relentless pursuit of love and affection becomes a driving force, steering her life in directions both unexpected and, at times, perilous.
This tale serves as a poignant reminder of the extraordinary power of love and how it can sway our decisions, shape our destinies, and sometimes lead us down uncharted paths. Nnenna’s journey is a reflection of the vulnerabilities and strengths that reside within all of us, offering readers an opportunity to connect with her on a deeply human level. As the story unfolds, it prompts readers to question the boundaries of love and the sacrifices individuals are willing to make in the name of that ever-elusive emotion. It is a compelling exploration of the complexities of the human heart and the decisions that, in the quest for love, can sometimes defy logic. In Nnenna I sought to create a narrative that transcends the page, encouraging readers to reflect on their own experiences and the transformative power of love in their lives. Through this engaging story, I aimed to showcase the beauty, vulnerability, and sometimes the pitfalls of the human heart’s most profound desire – love.
Meanwhile, in my collection of short stories, The Kayan of the Mata, I embark on a mission to unveil the intricate tapestry of women’s lives, with a focus on the various challenges they silently bear and are unable to articulate. The narratives within this collection serve as a mirror, reflecting the unspoken issues and diverse tribulations that many women face, resonating with the complexities of their daily experiences. Through a mosaic of characters and scenarios, I strive to encapsulate the multifaceted challenges that women confront but are often hesitant to discuss openly. These stories delve into topics ranging from societal expectations and cultural norms to the profound impact of personal battles, and they shed light on the oft-overlooked aspects of a woman’s life.
My aim is to provide a voice to the silenced struggles, shedding light on the often-neglected stories that deserve to be heard. Importantly, it is more than just a collection of stories; it is a conduit for fostering connections and solidarity among women. It reminds readers that they are not alone in their experiences, that their unspoken challenges are shared by others in different corners of the world. It reinforces the idea that within these stories, there is a collective voice, a harmonious resonance that emphasizes the strength, resilience, and unity of women.
As readers engage with the different women in the collection, they embark on a journey of empathy, understanding, and empowerment. My hope is that, through these stories, women will discover a newfound sense of camaraderie and recognition. They will understand that their struggles are part of a shared narrative, and that together, they can navigate life’s challenges with greater resilience and support. For me, The Kayan of the Mata is a celebration of women’s strength, diversity, and resilience. It reminds readers that there is beauty in their shared experiences and that, as they explore these narratives, they will find the empowerment to confront the unspoken challenges that shape their lives.
Both books were thoughtfully crafted and set in contemporary Nigeria and tell immersive stories that invite readers to explore the depths of human experiences. Thankfully, they have received their fair share of accolades and celebrations. I am immensely grateful for the support of my publishers, Purple Shelves, for nurturing my literary talent and helping authors like me share our stories with a global audience. Their commitment to promoting quality literature has allowed my books to find their way into the hands of a wide range of readers.
Do you think that the books tackle trauma women face in the society?
In Nnenna I tell the poignant story of a young girl whose search for love leads her down a perilous path. This novel explores the depths of human emotions, the complexities of family relationships, and the challenges that women often face in their pursuit of love and fulfilment, especially in marriage. Nnenna’s journey serves as a powerful allegory for the vulnerabilities many women encounter in their lives.
The Kayan of the Mata a collection of short stories, takes a multi-faceted approach to shed light on various unspoken issues that women confront daily. Within its pages, I endeavor to capture the diverse facets of the problems women grapple with but are frequently left unspoken. These narratives tackle a spectrum of subjects, from societal expectations to domestic struggles and everything in between. They offer a raw and unfiltered perspective on the often challenging aspects of womanhood, resonating with the universal experiences of women from all walks of life.
These stories are profoundly relevant because they illuminate the intricacies of being a woman in a world filled with expectations and obstacles. My aim is to prompt readers to reflect upon these challenges and, in doing so, instigate conversations about the trials and tribulations that women endure. Through the rich tapestry of my characters’ lives, I hope that my readers glean valuable insights into navigating the complexities of life and the importance of advocating for women’s rights and well-being.
Women grapple with a multitude of intricate challenges, encompassing both internal and external realms. As I previously mentioned, my earnest hope is that through the compelling journeys of my characters, readers will discover valuable insights on how to effectively navigate the complex terrain of life.
The experiences of women often span a broad spectrum, touching on everything from societal expectations and family dynamics to personal growth and self-discovery. These internal battles can include issues related to self-esteem, identity, and emotional resilience. At the same time, external pressures and obstacles such as gender bias, discrimination, and systemic inequalities add to the burdens that many women must shoulder.
By immersing themselves in the lives and struggles of my characters, readers can glean lessons in resilience, empowerment, and self-advocacy. These fictional heroines serve as beacons of hope and inspiration, demonstrating the strength and determination required to overcome adversity. Their stories provide a mirror through which readers can reflect on their own experiences, perhaps finding solace in the fact that they are not alone in their journey.
Ultimately, I aspire that my stories serve as a source of empowerment and enlightenment for women, fostering a sense of solidarity and encouraging them to face their challenges with courage and resilience. I also aim to contribute to the ongoing dialogue surrounding women’s rights and the importance of addressing the multifaceted issues that women confront in today’s world. Being an author is akin to embarking on a perpetual adventure through the boundless realms of creativity. The sheer joy of crafting worlds, characters, and stories is a privilege that fills my heart with exuberance. There is a certain magic in the art of writing, an enchantment that captivates my soul with each stroke of the pen or tap of the keyboard.
With every word that flows from my mind to the page, I find myself transported to places both real and imagined. The act of creation is a journey, a thrilling exploration of uncharted territories where my imagination is the compass, and my words are the vessels that carry me forward. It’s a sensation of freedom, a sensation that I can traverse the past, present, and future in the blink of an eye.
Is any of these works going to be adapted into a movie soon?
I currently have several exciting plans in motion in that regard. For example, I am in talks with a screenwriter about adapting Nnenna into a movie script. But I eagerly anticipate sharing diverse adaptations of my books with the world.
I can only describe the thought of characters I created coming to life through the talents of actors and actresses; the scenes described being realized on screen or stage, and the emotions I’ve endeavoured to convey resonating with a broader audience as surreal. And I hope that each adaptation is an opportunity to explore new dimensions of the story, to witness it through the eyes of talented directors, actors, and artists who bring their unique interpretations to the narrative.
It is a thrilling prospect that ignites my imagination and fills me with a sense of wonder, knowing that the story I’ve crafted can take on multiple lives in a multitude of artistic forms.
How does it feel being a writer?
The writing experience is a blessing. As an author, I am not confined to one existence, but I can live countless lives through the eyes of my characters. I revel in the symphony of emotions I can evoke in readers, from laughter to tears and everything in between. It’s a profound connection, an invisible thread that links me to the hearts and minds of those who engage with my work.
Moreover, the act of writing is a catharsis, a release of thoughts and ideas that have been fermenting within me. It’s a dance with my inner self, a melody sung by the depths of my soul. To be an author is to embrace the alchemy of transforming thoughts and feelings into tangible, shareable creations.
My joy as a writer lies not just in the final product but in the journey itself. It’s the countless hours of labour, the exhilaration of inspiration striking, and the satisfaction of watching a story unfold. It’s the joy of knowing that somewhere, someone might be turning the pages of my work, finding solace, laughter, or illumination.
So, in the world of writing or ink and imagination, I find my sanctuary, my passion, and my purpose. To be a writer is to savour every moment of this enchanting voyage, cherishing the privilege of shaping worlds and touching hearts with the power of words.
What do you have next on the radar?
Exciting times are on the horizon for me, with an abundance of new and diverse ventures in the works. Apart from my ongoing efforts on another book, my journey extends into a multitude of other realms, each driven by passion and purpose.
In addition to my literary pursuits, I’ve also embraced a role as a registered nurse. This profession allows me to offer support, empathy, and care to individuals in need.
Furthermore, my love for beauty and cosmetics has led me to venture into the world of makeup. I’ve started my own makeup line, CJAY BEAUTY, where I create products that not only enhance beauty but also empower individuals to express themselves artistically and confidently.
Beyond that, I’m setting my sights on the culinary world and considering an investment in a food business. This exciting endeavour is a testament to my passion for creating delectable dishes that bring people together. I envision a future where I can share my love for food with a broader community and create memorable dining experiences.
I am also excited about my Initiative, the ADOPT Initiative (Adolescent Development Outreach & Programmes for Transformation), a NON Governmental Organization which is an upshoot of my humanitarian endeavours. I have been actively involved in the humanitarian space for over 7 years now and my interest is the development of Adolescents, especially those who are in correctional centres and vulnerable communities. With my team of passionate and knowledgeable young social workers and volunteers, we are committed to promoting justice, education, and healthcare by empowering young girls and boys with literacy, vocational skills, mentorship, and internship opportunities, fostering their financial and social empowerment. We strive to align our initiatives with Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) and adhere to best practices to guide adolescents towards a brighter future.
I look forward to a systematic approach to solving the issues of education, literacy and poverty as my team and I focus on the vulnerable and develop frameworks that will address these issues in a systematic, progressive manner in line with global best practices.
The future is ripe with potential, and I’m wholeheartedly embracing this journey of exploration and expansion. There’s a vast spectrum of opportunities waiting to be explored, and my commitment to personal and professional growth ensures that there is indeed a whole lot more on the horizon. I guess what I am trying to say is that I aim to leave my mark, make a positive impact, and continue to learn and evolve, enriching both my life and the lives of those I touch along the way.