Winner of the $100,000 Nigeria Prize for Literature reveals his writing secrets

If there’s a book that has sent chills (or thrills) across northern Nigeria in recent times, it’s Abubakar Adam Ibrahim’s Season of Crimson Blossoms.

Widowhood, sexuality, and love affairs are usually discussed in hushed tones in a conservative society where religion is deep rooted. Any novel that bares the truth of an affair between a 55-year-old widow, Binta Zubairu, and 25-year-old ‘weed’ dealer, Reza, was going to raise a few eyebrows.

But it isn’t just provocative. There are many widows across northern Nigeria like Binta who want to love again and feel the need to express themselves but their society frowns on them. There are also many young people like Reza who strive to do better by whatever means possible.

The book  Season of Crimson Blossoms was published by Cassava Republic Press, London in 2016 and recently won the NLNG Prize for Literature, one of the richest literary prizes in the world. Abubakar Adam Ibrahim was awarded $100,000.

He’s an unlikely author of such an explosive idea. He is usually quiet and not very outgoing. You’d more likely see him writing ‘wizardry and the underworld’ Harry Potter-esque books.

With Season of Crimson Blossom, he has proved that no topic or subject is off limit but as usual the writer is keeping the details very close to his chest.

I caught up with him to ask him one question:

So what advice would you give writers?

‘The only writing tip I have for upcoming writers is to sit down and write. Anything else is sugar-coating it. It is hard work, be under no illusions about that.

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Writing is hard. But if you can enjoy it, despite this, then you are cut out to be a writer. And nothing makes a writer better than writing more, reading more. But when you do write, put some heart and brain into it, write from your heart and write with your head.

There is a need to create a network where African writers and book readers can talk to themselves without the intervention of London or Paris.

‘Every writer needs to find or create an environment where he is comfortable working. Some writers are particular about certain rituals they need to perform before they can write. If it works for them, fine. But I have always found that these rituals, whether it is drinking coffee or smoking weed, or having sex or abstaining from it before one writes are often limiting because they are an imposition.

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A writer should be free to write whenever the muse takes him. But different people work differently.

‘However, there is a need to create a network where African writers and book readers can talk to themselves without the intervention of London or Paris. Nigerian books should be available in stores in Nairobi and Dar es Salam and vice versa and the African literati needs to open these channels for the free flow of books across the continent. When we do this, I think we will be surprised how much we can move the world.’

Find out more about Season of Crimson Blossoms

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