Debut novelist Umar Turaki
Such a Beautiful Thing to Behold (Little A, May 2022) may be Umar’s Turaki’s debut novel, but he has already made a name for himself in Nigerian TV with his writing and directing, and previously been known for his short stories.
His first novel tells a tale of survival and love when a small town is cut off from the rest of the world due to a mysterious illness. It is appearing as part of a two-book deal with Little A, an imprint of Amazon. I had the pleasure of contacting him to find out more.
Was your story influenced in any way by the current pandemic?
I had been working on the novel off and on for three years by the time the pandemic hit. The concept itself, of this mysterious spiritual sickness that affects a community, I had had for nearly nine years, as I had tried to use it in a short story back then. This was a complete coincidence. I think I would have probably ditched the idea if I had had it during the pandemic. I tend to shy away from being topical in my fiction writing, unless it is an issue that chokes me and refuses to let go.
Was the transition from writing short stories to a fulllength novel a difficult one?
I wrote two full-length novels before I ever tried my hand seriously at a short story, which is actually the story this novel is based on. I started my first attempt at a novel when I was 14, and my second when I was 22. So, if anything, it was the transition from longform writing to short fiction that I found difficult. The short story is such a particular form, and I continue to fumble along, wondering if I’m suited to it at all.
You have a two-book deal with Little A – have you considered the content of your second novel or perhaps started writing it?
I’ve started on the second book. It’s a very old idea, one that has refused to leave me. When I decided to expand the story of Such a Beautiful Thing to Behold into a longer format, I intended it to be a novella, but it just kept growing.
So, for a long time, I actually thought the book I am currently writing would be my first full-length work to be published. My publishing story has been such a zigzagging affair. In order not to jinx it, all I will say about this book is that it will feature the desert as a major character.