“Weaving treasures of the Catholic Faith” – An interview with Catholic children’s author Linda Unugboke
Education: BEng Computer Engineering, MSc Digital Communications, MBA (in progress)
Current Employment: Writer / Publisher
Profile: Down to earth, easy going, woman of faith. Awesome wife and mother. Inspirational writer who speaks from her heart with the desire to encourage and help others become all that God has destined them to be… Above all, a daughter of God, who is loved and overflows with love.
List of Books Published:
Tomy the Dreamer
Tomy Learns to Celebrate
Princess on a Mission
The Story of P.O.C. O (Potato. Onion. Carrot. Orange)
Author Website: http://tomythedreamer.authorsxpress.com
Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/TOMY-the-Dreamer/178616445568951
Author Twitter Account: https://twitter.com/LindaUnugboke
All the world’s a stage
And all the men and women merely players
They have their exits and their entrances
And one man in his time plays many parts – William Shakespeare – As You Like It.
Favorite Movie: Fireproof (2008).
Favorite Piece of Music: Handel’s Messiah (“Hallelujah Chorus”).
Favorite Song: “That’s What Friends Are For” sung by Dionne Warwick & Friends (written by Burt Bacharach and Carol Bayer Sager).
Favorite Classical Song: “Ave Maria” by Franz Schubert.
Favorite Place to Be: Apart from home, any quiet Catholic church.
Last Book Read: The Velveteen Rabbit
Last Trip Taken: Abuja, Nigeria
Last Non-literary Feat: Embarking on an MBA program whist raising three young children and starting out a new business.
CatholicFiction.net: Why do you write?
Linda Unugboke: I write to inspire, faith, hope and love in the hearts of all children, everywhere!
CF: What first inspired you to become a writer?
LU: When I was much younger, I always dreamed of writing stories for my children, simply for their enjoyment. When I became a mum, I started buying books from mainstream children’s publishers and book club catalogues. I quickly realized though that a lot of books published for children aged 7 and above were very unsuitable and way too mature for their young minds. I became increasingly alarmed at the popularity of such mainstream books, and I started to crave contemporary children’s books that were wholesome, fun and entertaining.
The desire for such books led me to write and publish my first book: Tomy the Dreamer…and two years on, I have made somewhat of a career shift into authoring children’s books.
CF: If you were a critic writing about your own books, how would you describe the defining characteristic of your writing style?
LU: I would describe my books as: down to earth, easy to read, fun, with a wholesome message to pass on. There are a couple of big words that I throw in here and there that children may need to ask a parent or grab a dictionary for (but I guess that’s the purpose – to keep their literary curiosity going!).
CF: Is there a favorite place you have to write?
LU: I found out recently that sitting on a particular couch in my living room gives me a lot of inspiration – don’t ask me why! However, it’s incredibly hard for me to write anything serious during the day as my two young daughters are constantly trying to get me to play with them whenever they see me on that couch. So, I’ve resolved to scribbling and making as many short notes as I can during the day and once the girls are asleep, I settle down to serious writing at night time.
CF: What is your cure for writer’s block?
LU: I haven’t found a successful cure yet! I usually find myself leaving a hard story and starting a different shorter one, simply to get my creative juices flowing. Then, I get back to the meat of the former story and try to fight my way through! Other times, I jumble together different pieces of writing (different sections of different chapters, sometimes different stories altogether) until I am able to get clarity and make some sort of breakthrough in my main story plot to keep me focused and get me engaged again in completing the story.
CF: What is your cure for procrastination?
LU: A to-do list – with time scheduling. I’ve found nothing more effective to make me feel guilty about poor time management!
CF: Describe in your own words what the “Catholic imagination” is – or alternatively, what it means to be a “Catholic writer.”
LU: I think being a Catholic ‘fiction’ writer is not necessarily about a conscious attitude someone takes up when writing a story. In my opinion, being a Catholic writer is simply writing a story from your heart and as you do so, you discover that besides yourself, you’ve woven treasures of your Catholic faith within your story. In other words, you cannot help but write…who you truly are! As The Lord said…”out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”
CF: What three writers – alive or dead – would you like to invite to dinner?
LU: J.R.R. Tolkien – to have him explain to me first-hand how he got inspired and received grace to write The Lord of the Rings.
C.S. Lewis – the first book of his that I read, The Screwtape Letters, completely transformed my mind about spiritual truths and I found it so humorous too! Also, I wish that I had the incredible imagination to write The Chronicles of Narnia.
Enid Blyton – she was my favourite childhood author. When I was a child, her stories always took me to dreamland…and really inspired my love of writing for children.
CF: What would you serve them – appetizer, main course, dessert and drink?
LU: Main course is a no-no because I’m known to fuss about cooking for guests and trying to make everything perfect – much like Martha! So. I’ll likely miss out a lot of the company. I’ll serve them dessert and drink! – simply because it’ll be the easiest and fastest to prepare…allowing me maximise my time with them and glean as much as I can in the short time that we have together. Also because, it’ll leave a sweet taste in our mouths and hopefully will keep the conversation flowing all evening.
CF: What is the “best thing” about being a writer? And what do you enjoy most?
LU: Having an incredible imagination and being able to speak from my heart to the hearts of others through various writing platforms is such a great privilege.
CF: What is your latest book about?
LU: Tomy Learns to Celebrate is about an ordinary boy on an extraordinary dream / reality journey that leads him to discover who he really is and has been created to be.
CF: What inspired you to write this story in the first place?
LU: This book is the second in the Tomy the Dreamer series. I started writing the series, because I wanted to get children excited about the incredible life that’s been made available to them as children of God. In recent times, children have taken into magic and sorcery fascination – thanks to books like Harry Potter. My intention in writing Tomy Learns to Celebrate and subsequent series is to include twist and turns in the story plot that show Tomy (a regular Christian boy) is empowered to do the incredible because he receives the true power from on high. So in a nutshell, my storyline came from the desire to reintroduce the excitement and empowerment that Christianity brings into the lives of children who have become bored about the faith.
CF: Did you hold onto the idea for a long time before giving it shape, or did it come together in a flash?
LU: The title of the book came to me in a flash – and I stuck to it. But after that, I mulled on the idea for of a storyline to fit the title – and it was a while before I started writing. Gradually scenes started to play in my head and I wrote them down as they came along. So it was a gradual process of putting together pieces of the various parts of the story that helped the entire book come together.
CF: All fiction comes from a mix of past influences and impressions – things we’ve lived, seen, imagined, or read. Can you talk about some of the elements that came together to shape this particular fiction?
LU: For me it’s a mix of my childhood experiences, personal dreams and definitely lots of imagination – that I drew from and put together to shape both the characters and the storyline.
CF: What did you learn about yourself in writing this book?
LU: That I have quite an imagination! Just kidding! What I really learnt is that I have to stay true to writing my own story – and not try to be influenced by what I think people might say or how people might see it – as this can be a big distraction to me as a writer and could quite easily derail me from the main plot and point of writing the story in the first place. First, I check with God, my conscience and a few honest critics and try to get credible feedback to spur on the work.
CF: Which characters in this book did you find most challenging to work with, and what was it like to write with them? Conversely, do you have any characters that came particularly easily to you?
LU: I found the main character Tomy very easy to write about, mainly because he kind of reminds me of my son and I try to model him with qualities I would like my son to have… The new character in the story series is a boy named Greg, who is somewhat grumpy and quite a handful. He gets on Tomy’s nerve and is quite brash in his behavior. I wasn’t quite sure how to tailor his attitude in this book so I tried to keep his disruptive tendencies to a minimum. Maybe in subsequent series, I’ll get a grip on him and understand how he contributes positively to the story plot – that should be fun!
CF: Creating a work of fiction is a spiritual journey in itself. Can you talk about your own spiritual life – realizations, doubts, crises, etc. – that came during the writing of this work?
LU: Most of the experience of writing this book was really calm with very little issues. The most challenging aspect was knowing how to stay true to my own life experience and relating this in a non-patronizing way in the story. I also had to struggle with a particular decision on how to reveal a Catholic truth about the Eucharist. Once I had made up my mind, the rest was okay. However, the real trials came after I had published the book and sold a number of copies. Then an onslaught of spiritual trials flooded in that tried to rob me of the very truth that was expressed in this book. But thanks be to God who is faithful; and will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear and who will also provide a way out so that we can endure it.
CF: Name one good habit you would like to have as a writer and do not have at the moment.
LU: Sticking to my manuscript completion and revision deadlines!
CF: What is the most discouraging aspect of being a writer?
LU: Writing books that go against the tide of the modern secular modern world and having your work snubbed by even Christians.
CF: If given the chance, what fictional world would you like to inhabit?
LU: Sesame Street.
CF: What one project do you daydream about accomplishing as a writer – your magnum opus?
LU: Write a book with a core Christian message that trumps Harry Potter – and makes children believe!
CF: If you could no longer work with words, what medium would you work in to create art?
LU: Music for sure.