Author Okechukwu Nzelu: “I’m interested in love stories that go far beyond the meeting between a boy and a girl”
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“So the novel is definitely about family in different ways, especially chosen family, the kind of family that you could find and build for yourself. You know, what does it mean to be someone’s most important person even if you are not their parent, child or close relative in a way that is formally recognized by law.
In addition to a broader demographic, Nzelu suggests that heterosexual cis parents who love, or want to know how to love, their gay children are part of the novel’s target readership.
“I think this [Here Again Now] can be something for parents who just need a nudge in the right direction, or who just need to be shown that certain things are possible. That it’s not completely ridiculous to say: ‘Yes, I come from this culture, it’s my heritage, it’s my parents and my ancestral history but I can still support my queer child who is in front of me right now ‘. I wanted to show that it is possible to keep these things in balance,” he says.
As well as being a best-selling author and Northern Writers Award winner, Nzelu is also a lecturer in creative writing at Lancaster University. It is therefore not surprising that important life lessons can be learned from his work.
“When I look back on the things I’ve written, I want to be able to say, ‘OK, I explored and helped my readers explore what it means to feel and experience human love,'” Nzelu says.
“I think it can take so many different forms and there’s this really interesting paradox that we put so many conditions on it. Many of them are arbitrary and culture-specific and not really useful. I really want to see what it means to go beyond these things for the benefit of the human heart.
So what advice does the author have for young writers looking to break into the industry from underrepresented backgrounds?
“I think it’s really important to try and find your ancestry – and I’m using that word as loosely as possible, go to your local library or your local bookstore if you have those resources, and try to find your people in terms of reading. Try to find writers who are interested in the same things as you are,” says Nzelu.
“As a human being, I think it’s so important that you have this wonderful feeling of knowing that you’re not the only one.
“I think it’s a lot easier to write something you’re proud of when you’ve done some research and looked around and said to yourself, ‘OK, this writer could do this, but my stuff is kind of a different take on that. ‘, or: ‘I’ll try to do this my way’. I think it’s a lot easier to do that when you bounce off people you’ve read and are passionate about.
Here Again Now releases Thursday, March 10.