There’s only one Onyi – and she’s a very talented illustrator!

It is my pleasure to interview Onyinye Iwu today, who illustrates the covers of my books for Ankara Press. You’ll notice that they’re very different as romance covers go. Readers tell me that they really stand out. That’s because we’re a #newkindofromance!

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Hi Onyinye, and thanks for chatting with me today –

Where do you live and how old are you?

I live in London UK and I am 26 years old.

Please tell us about the kind of work you do.

I do a variety of graphic work, from book covers, custom illustrations, to branding.

Who do you work for or are you freelance?

My day job is teaching, I teach design in a secondary school in London, so all my graphic design and illustration work is actually freelance. I have worked for many different clients, one of my main clients being Cassava Republic.

Where did you study or train?

I did a degree in Architecture at the University of Nottingham and PGCE in Design Technology, however I did study art and graphic design in secondary school.

What does your brief for Ankara entail?

I was lucky enough to be there at the very beginning of the Ankara press imprint, the brief was to create unapologetically strong African female protagonists for a series of romance novels. They needed to be confident, attractive and true to the amazing young women that populate the continent!

What is hard about doing romance covers and what do you like?

The hardest part of designing covers for romance novels is to capture such a rollercoaster of emotions in just one image, but I do love reading the stories and I adore dressing them in Ankara styles.

What is your favourite kind of work?

I have designed many book covers but my favourite work would be to create picture books and graphic novels which is something I am working on at the moment through personal and commissioned projects.

Please tell us about any awards you’ve won.

I won a CHUB award last year as best Graphic Designer.

What advice would you give illustrators starting out?

Find your illustration style, find the time to draw and don’t stop whatever anyone says. Illustration is such an amazing but competitive industry and you need the tenacity and resilience to overcome challenges!

Where can fans see more samples of your work?

You can follow me on Instagram @only_onyi

Where can future employers contact you?

My email address is onyinye.iwu@gmail.com

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“Show us what you’ve got”: An extract from The Seeing Place

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That woman’s face was incredibly familiar … And she was beginning to address him. It was her. No doubt about it. Andile froze.

Damn, she’s lovely. She was wearing a kind of skin-coloured chiffon number that made her look almost naked.

What the hell is she doing here? Was she Gordon Tshabalala’s buddy? Or, heaven forbid, his sister or his wife?

“Yes,” he stuttered, hearing her say his name.

“My name is Thuli Poni.” She cleared her throat. OK, it looked like she was going to pretend they’d never met. “I am the producer and casting director here.”

First his heart leapt into his mouth and then it ricocheted down to his feet, with an almighty clang.

“How do you do?” he said politely, thanking God and his theatrical training that he could play nonchalant.

“Perhaps we could have a brief word before you begin. You are aware that these are the auditions for The Lions at Night?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“And you are auditioning for the role of David Ranaka, the Reverend?”

“Correct.” He marvelled that his voice was holding up so well.

“Then why, may I ask, are you dressed so stylishly? The character is a rascal and a jailbird.”

“Doesn’t mean he can’t be a snappy dresser.”

“Explain.”

“Well, I don’t have a penny to my name and I managed to source this suit, so.”

“Don’t get sassy, wena.” It was Gordon, tapping a pen on the desk. Andile ignored the comment.

“Why are you dressed like that, Andile?” Gloria asked, rescuing him. “This is not The Matrix.”

“Ranaka has resources. He’s no fool. He’s an inveterate ladies’ man, so he’s likely to have a few tricks up his sleeve. And some stylish outfits.”

Thuli seemed to shift uneasily in her chair. Or perhaps, he thought, admiring her shapely leg slung over the seat in front of her, she was getting turned on. “Carry on,” was all she said.

“This is how he works it. It’s his suit for special occasions, for getting a girl, like this is mine for getting parts.”

Gordon snorted. Andile went on, “In the first scene, the one I’ll be reading from, we see him in full strutting mode. That’s why it’s such a shock to his wife later. She has no idea about this side of him. That he’s the lion at night. That’s the deception. All these years, she’s been loving him, thinking he’s the quiet one, meantime he’s more like the Long Street Festival.”

It was a foolish thing to do, alluding to their earlier meeting under these circumstances, but he couldn’t help himself. Besides, he was getting heartily sick of the attitude coming from the director’s table. What did they think this was, So You Think You Can Dance, wena?

“Go ahead,” Thuli said in a voice like ice. “Show us what you’ve got.”

****.5 stars on Amazon

Ankara Press 2016

The beauty of notes

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I just love notebooks. I have drawers-full. But none of them are about plot lines. They’re mostly about personal growth (which I think is vital for writers, like everyone else!) But there are also ideas notebooks. These are recognisable by their utter randomness and lack of order. In fact many of them are not notebooks but receipts from restaurants, with scribbled words like

Smoke machine!

Jokes aside, I do keep a notepad next to my computer, and I try to keep a small one in my handbag. And a pen. Am I the only writer who never has a pen?! My child, who can’t write, has claimed all forty of my working ones.

The notepad is good for ideas that come to you when you are tapping away, and for doodling of course. I believe there is a relationship between words and images in your head, and it’s good to keep those linked. When I first started trying to write (the Agony Days, more about that later I promise) I actually put a set of paints and a small canvas next to my laptop, because I knew the painting mindset was important somehow. I didn’t get much of either done!

Nowadays I know that it’s the freedom that writing and painting share.

I also jot ideas down on computer at the end of the manuscript, a section of text that can become up to twenty pages long and play havoc with my word count!

If there is any advice I can give authors, it’s to honour the uniqueness and weirdness of your own creative process. Never try to hone it or make it more like someone else’s (and other people will suggest you do.) Do it your way. Receipts and all.

By the way, in my latest manuscript (being finalised now) the heroine gets into a bit of trouble surrounding her own notebook … hopefully be bringing you this one by Feb next year! You can check out all the exciting research I’ve been doing on Kenya for it lately on Twitter.

Thanks for tuning in.

EDEN’S LOVE BLOG: Welcome to my world

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Published by Ankara Press:

“Our stories feature young, self-assured and independent women who work, play and, of course, fall madly in love in vibrant African cities from Lagos to Cape Town. Ankara men are confident, emotionally expressive and not afraid of independent and sexually assertive women. Our sensuous books will challenge romance stereotypes and empower women to love themselves in their search for love, romance and wholesome sex.”

Published by Tirgearr:

“City Nights is a unique erotic romance series with authors contributing stand-alone stories to the collection. Each book title starts One Night in . . . and takes place within a 24 hour time frame in a city somewhere in the world.”

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amazon.com/author/edenwalker