World of Horror: Interview with Chinaza Eziaghighala
Chinaza Eziaghighala is a medical doctor and storyteller. She is a University of Iowa International Writing Program, Voodoonauts, and EbonyLife Creative Academy alum. Her works are in/forthcoming in British Science Fiction Association’s (BSFA) Fission #2 Volume 1 anthology, Mythaxis, Planet Scumm, Metastellar, BrittlePaper, Afritondo, and BSFA’s Focus. Chimera, her debut novella, is forthcoming in 2024 from Nosetouch Press. She is diversifying her writing by working as a screenwriter for TV and film and also moonlights as a budding film development executive. In her free time, she enjoys mobile photography, meditation, dancing, and spending time with loved ones, because she is a human being, not a human doing. Connect with her here: chinazaeziaghighala.disha.page or @chinazaezims on Twitter.
What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
No idea. I have only noticed that since I was a child, I preferred dark stories. It is my nature to be a very serious person, so sometimes, I think that serious and dark themes are best expressed as horror.
Is there a horror tradition in your country, in your culture? A taste for horror, a market? Not necessarily literature; perhaps oral tradition too.
Yes. I will say there is a horror tradition but not for reasons you may expect. Our daily living in Nigeria can be summarized as a horrific tragedy, if I am being honest. On August 1st, a colleague of mine lost her life in an elevator accident. The elevator fell from the 9th floor of our accommodation, and she died. Said elevator has also been faulty for the longest time, but all attempts to alert relevant authorities were ignored or met with false promises. Sometimes, it feels like her spirit is still there. That is just one scary real-life horror experience. However, there are many others that present themselves in the most bizarre ways. Stories about ritual killings and harvested organs, jazzified cybercrime (a.k.a., Yahoo Plus), pin, and much more. I am still learning more myself. Growing up, we were told cautionary tales under the moonlight about gods, vengeful spirits, love potions, and juju. We learnt about how bad things would happen if we did wrong and good things would become ours if we did right. It is no wonder our society can be very religious. There was even a period when Nollywood films were mostly horror films showing men using their wives and children as ritual killings in order to get financial gain. We used to eat it up, because daily living can be so difficult to process. Therefore, all you are taught is to pray to whatever spirits that orchestrate these happenings to favour you and your loved ones, because nothing is stopping you from being the inspiration for the next horror story. You enjoy seeing the tragedies that could have been and were luckily avoided and say, “Thank you, Lord.” Often times, my peers have this saying: Nigeria is not a real place. I believe that nothing is more true.
Who are some of your favorite characters in horror, internationally and/or in your own culture?
Internationally, I have always been a fan of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I like how it has this underlying metaphor about how human beings have shadow selves and have the ability to create their own worst nightmares. Frankeinstein was a self-fulfilling prophecy. In my culture, I appreciate scary characters I was told about in secondary school. An example being Ms. Koin Koin, a teacher who was said to be raped and killed after flogging her students, after which her spirit returned to the school where her death occurred and has haunted it, as well as other Nigerian secondary schools, ever since. You can hear her approaching from the “koin koin” sound her shoes make against the floor. There are many variations of the story. I tried my hand at an origin story of her’s that you can read here: https://hellboundbookspublishing.com/kidsarehell.html?fbclid=IwAR1TE7tMg1Di2iEPL5ayUuoEX6BuKdqrakc5U-P-bMz2ituh395XH5VF2OY&
Another character I enjoy is that of the bush baby. A child spirit that is trapped on earth in search of its mother. It can be heard calling out for her at certain times. I wrote a story about it here: https://mythaxis.co.uk/issue-31/nwanebeakwa.html
Do you make a conscious effort to include characters and settings from your country in your writing, and if so, what do you want to portray?
I always write what I know, and what I know is my country, because it is my home. I want to portray the beauty and the darkness that I have become accustomed to because it is my point of view.
If you are not a native English speaker, but write in English, do you first think of horror in your native language or English? How do you draft them in your mind, in English or your mother tongue?
English may be my second language on paper but it is my first language at home. Most of my friends cannot speak their first languages so fluently anymore, because we had parents and guardians who ensured that we spoke English and had English names. Dare I say that it is a Nigerianized kind of English, now, peculiar to us. I am relearning how to express myself in my language, but I am afraid most thoughts come in English first before I translate it into Igbo. I do express myself in Igbo, although not as fluently as I would like.
What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?
Writing horror has taught me that we all have a dark side, and this is not inherently bad. It is just part of life. There can be no good without evil, dark without light, joy without sorrow. Writing horror has taught me acceptance.
How do you feel the International horror writing community has been represented thus far in the market and what hopes do you have for representation going forward?
I find it rare to see African horror authors. If I had not discovered Amos Tutuola, I am certain that I would never have known that Nigerians have been writing horror for some time. I am not sure if it has to do with the fact that most of our horror stories are shared through oral tradition or if it is because the market does not seem to favour authors from this side of the world. My hope is that there will be better representation and appreciation for African stories in general.
Who are some international horror authors you would recommend?
Nuzo Onoh. Her tales are gripping and terrifying. Tobi Ogundiran. Dare Segun Falowo. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki. Tlotlo Tsaamase. Pemi Aguda. Mazi Nwonwu. There are so many others that I have not mentioned, but they are a lot, and all worth their salt.
What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors ?
Focus on your voice, and ignore desperation. This is what I tell myself.
And to the writers from your country out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?
I have no advice. I am literally just starting out as well and making it up as I go. I am also discovering my place as a writer in the world and what I have to say. For now, mostly, dark stories are how I choose to say it.
Juju: Dark magic
Jazz: A cooler way of saying juju
Pin: A type of Igbo dark magic
Yahoo Plus: A type of cybercrime that is believed to be upgraded by the use of dark magic.