SAMUEL MONYE is young but knows his onions. His maiden fiction Give Us This Day is in the race for The Nigerian Prize for Literature 2020. In this interview with AnoteArtHub, he tells what it means to carry the burden of writing and what he aims to do with his art
Where were you when you heard the news that you had been shortlisted for the NLNG-sponsored The Nigeria Prize for Literature 2020?
I was in church. I got a WhatsApp message from Toni Kan and I was a bit surprised. The message started with the congratulations, so I was curious to see what it was about. He sent me a link to an article about the shortlist. It was unbelievable.
Why do you write?
I love stories and I want to share them with others. And I love the way stories can provide an escape into other realities and perspectives and give people a different meaning to life.
What would you say writing has done for you and what do you hope that writing would do for you?
Writing has been that one point where I channel my art and creativity easily. I am amazed at the myriad of ways I can capture thoughts and create worlds with my pen. And I hope to do this till the day I leave this earth.
Why do you think your book should be the one that emerges the winner of the prize?
Give Us Each Day, for me, is that book every writer hopes to write one day that cuts so deep to the hearts of everyone who reads it. Not only because of the story it tells but the light it sheds. I am grateful that I was the channel through which this story gets to be told. And I know it is a pebble in a pond – it will create ripple effects for good everywhere it goes.
What do you hope to do with the USD$100,000 money that comes with the prize?
I want to play a role in helping children who live on the streets. That’s a burden I have carried for a while now. And I have always wanted to further my studies in creative writing.
How does you book reflect contemporary challenges and what ways do you suggest out of them?
It’s like the challenges of society never seem to end. But we keep fighting. Give Us Each Day captures the pressing issues around illegal migration, modern-day terrorism, child trafficking, and terrorism. Writing this work was a journey for me. I had to study what it means to be these people. I can never fully understand but the pain they feel and carry each day is real.
We don’t have time machines. We can’t go into the past and fix all our mistakes. But we can do something about today. Carpe Diem. We can nurture, protect and raise the children around us today. When we fail to do so, history will repeat itself again and again.
What vision of society is espoused in your current work?
Give Us Each Day sees the future of a society where our children are protected and not fed to the wolves. A society where the vulnerable are defended and the chasm between religions and ethnic groups is bridged. A childlike future.
Who and what are your influences?
Generally, my faith plays a major role in my writing. My writing influences are far and wide. Titilope Sonuga, Veronica Roth, Terry Goodkind, and many more.
How much would you say The Nigeria Prize for Literature has energised writing in the country?
I have known about the prize since 2017. The Nigerian Prize for Literature, sponsored by Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas Limited (NLNG), has done wonders. I am in awe of the extent they’ve gone to appreciate literature in the country. And I believe I speak not only for myself when I say so, knowing that a prize like this honours and respects my creative work is a motivation to keep writing and creating great content.