Emem Bassey loves romance in all its forms. She writes what she calls a hybrid romance – love stories that aren’t plain romance, but include bits and pieces of other genres, definitely with a plus-size heroine. She discovered the joys of writing at age 17 and hasn’t stopped since. She staunchly believes the world is filled with tragedy, so she writes to entertain and lighten the heart.
Pelleura: Hi Emem Bassey, it is nice to have this chat with you.
Emem: My pleasure.
Pelleura: Please can you share details of your background with us?
Emem Bassey: I’m a graduate of Sociology and Anthropology from the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. I grew up in a middle-class Nigerian home with civil servant parents. They were strict and education was a big deal. As the first daughter of the family, there was a certain pressure to be the best at academics and moral behaviour – I tried my best and didn’t get into a lot of trouble growing up. I’m from Akwa Ibom State and live there.
Pelleura: What were your dreams like when you were in school?
Emem Bassey: Ha, 90s children weren’t allowed dreams, but the dream of my parents for me was becoming a lawyer. One of my aunties said I’d be a better doctor, I kept wondering if she didn’t know I hated maths. Seriously though, at 17, I dreamt of a vague good job after graduating university. I had no idea what profession that would be, I just wanted to have money. The only thing that has remained constant has been writing, the dream of publishing my books and becoming a known author.
Pelleura: Has being a plus-size affected these dreams?
Emem: Very much…in a positive way. One of the things that enabled my writing dream and gave me a niche I could be brilliant at was the fact of my being plus size. It gave me a course to write for people like me and I must say, that dream is a reality being fulfilled.
Pelleura: What is your daily experience with people like?
Emem: Over time, I’ve learnt that people are first people, they are not perfect and definitely won’t think like me. So, my experiences involve a whole lot of observations. For me, this is what helps me relate without much rancour with people. Besides, as a writer, I’m rarely out there meeting people unless mostly through my nine to five job. I don’t have a lot of friends and I’m okay that way.
Pelleura: How do you handle negative people who talk ill about your size?
Emem Bassy: Life is funny though. When you accept what the society feels is the negative thing about you, when you wear it proudly and are not ashamed of what they’d say, all those negative talks fizzles away. As a teenager and young adult, I had my share of body shaming, but, I thank God, I had natural resilience. I recall a stranger who came to my workplace one time, I was 21 at the time. Before this guy even greets, he goes “Why are you so fat?” I’m shocked for a couple of seconds and retort, “Why are you so brown?” His friend laughed so hard and he was embarrassed and said I was too harsh. Apparently, he wanted to market his gym to me, so I wondered why he had to make me feel bad first, except, he wasn’t expecting my reaction.
As an experienced adult now, my simple to reply to anyone who says “You’re fat o,” is “This isn’t new. I’ve been fat all my life. Say something else.” My body doesn’t bother me, it’s the one God saw fit to give me, I’m grateful, let’s all move on already.
Pelleura: Wow! Awesomeness. I love how you handle them. So, in terms of carriage and self-confidence, how would you advise a plus-size lady?
Emem Bassey: It’s simple – own it. It’s your body and it isn’t going away. If you want to lose weight, make sure it’s your decision, for yourself, not because someone said so. Additionally, clothes increase confidence, so dress comfortably but have style. Gone are the days when plus size women were barred from wearing certain designs of clothes, now, we can wear everything one desires. As for me, I pick trending styles and redesign them to fit my body shape. I enjoy being simple and comfortable, so you won’t easily find me wearing high heels.
Dear plus size lady, wear what is decent, stylish, and emphasizes your beauty. Stand tall in your difference. Own it.
Pelleura: What inspires you as a writer?
Emem: Everything! People, places, cultures, events, ordinary objects…anything inspires me, really. I mean, when Rochas Okorocha came into lime light as a great philanthropist early in the millennium, I’d listened to his bio on NTA network news and he’d inspired me to write Lethal Affair at age 20 0r 21. When at the University of Calabar for my one-semester stint, the lecturers’ quarters and the cleaners I passed every morning I hurried to lectures, had inspired me to write Baby’s Angels; you’ll find that scene begins the story. 00:00 AM (Dawn of Hope) was inspired by a, perhaps malaria induced, dream (laughs); Duct 1 was inspired by a real story from a friend about a kidnapper lured to arrest by chatting with a woman.
Pelleura: Can you share some of the titles you’ve written with us?
Emem: Duct Series (1-4); Unromantic Series – (1-4); Shots Fired; A Tycoon and Circumstance; Forever Destiny; Fine Wine (Age is no bother series 1); Aunty Vero and lots more. I recently published a teen book and the Age is no bother series 2 will be out next month, it’s called Fine Maple.
Pelleura: What has the feedback from your readers been like?
Emem: It’s been amazing, better than I expected. Feedback from readers encourages me to keep writing and not feel like I’m a crazy person for spending more than 8 hours a day, stuck in front of my laptop.
Pelleura: What advice do you have for upcoming writers?
Emem: I can only advice from my experiences; sometimes, I feel like my writing is useless, especially, when I come in contact with winners of prestigious writing competitions. I usually feel like I’m wasting my time when it pays in trickles, sometimes, the growth is never moving and well, I’m yet to win any writing competitions I’ve entered and there’s a wicked reiteration in my head that maybe I’m not good enough.
These thoughts come once in a while to writers. I even felt like my style of writing wasn’t addressing a serious component of the problems in Nigeria; people are writing about corruption, hunger, insurgency and I’m here writing about chubby women. But, I want budding writers to know that if they love what they write, then there are readers out there who will love reading it. The world is made up of a gazillion people, there will always be readers for your work. So, don’t give up, keep writing for the love of it and watch God reward your consistency.
Pelleura: Any last words?
Emem: Dreams come true. God answers prayers and consistency on the right path, pays.
Pelleura: Thanks so much for your time, Emem Bassey. It was nice having this chat with you
Emem: Thank you. I enjoyed answering your questions.
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