CAT EYES: FROM SHORT STORY TO NOVEL

By Nathaniel Bivan
Culled from the Weekly Trust
Pever X, real name, Pever Martins Paul Aondofa Marie, has his very first book, a novel titled Cat Eyes, published under the recently introduced Nigerian Writers Series. In this interview, he talks about how he clinched the book deal, his growth as a writer and the evolution of his debut.
Bookshelf: Cat Eyes is your first novel. How do you feel?
Pever: Like a bride on her wedding day. You know that feeling. I had always longed to see my thoughts in print since I was beaten by the writing bug. I am so happy and fulfilled now.
Bookshelf: How familiar are you with books written under the African Writers Series?
Pever: I have read a lot of books under the African Writers Series: Things Fall Apart, The Beautiful Ones are not yet born, Arrow Of God, The Concubine, Weep Not Child, Beware Soul Brothers, Anthills Of The Savannah, Zambia Shall Be Free, No Longer At Ease and several others.
Bookshelf: Now Nigeria has officially started the Nigerian Writers Series, an imprint of the Association of Nigerian Authors, with your work being among the first 10 to flag it off. How did you achieve this?
Pever: There was a call for submissions by the Nigerian Writers Series in 2013. My manuscript was ready so I sent it in. The series editors found it worth publishing under the Series and here we are… I began writing Cat Eyes in November 2011. It started as a short story then later blossomed into a novel.
Bookshelf: Your novel is in the first person narrative. What influenced this?
Pever: What influenced it? I honestly can’t say because prior to Cat Eyes, I preferred works rendered in the third person narrative and I can’t remember consciously deciding to use the first person narrative for Cat Eyes. I think I just knew instinctively that the book was meant to be rendered in first person narrative and wouldn’t have been better were it to be rendered in any other narrative.
Bookshelf: How challenging was it writing the novel?
Pever: It was fun instead. I love writing. I am in my element whenever I write. I loved the story I was writing too and didn’t want to stop writing it. Sometimes I stayed up all night. Maybe there were challenges but I was blind to them all.
Bookshelf: Your chapters flow nicely from one to the next, making the reader eager to know what would unfold. How did you develop such suspense?
Pever: It’s not a conscious effort. I don’t even know that’s what I’m doing. I have a funny way of writing. I don’t plot stories like most writers do. I write instinctively—that’s how I prefer to call it. Most times, I don’t know how a story I’m writing will end until I finish it. Most people will argue that’s not the best way to go about writing. Yes, but I have been doing it every day and getting away with it.
Bookshelf: Do you have any writing schedule?
Pever: I don’t have a writing schedule, I write anytime of the day, any day of the week, except Sundays. Sunday is a no work day. I only read and do pro bono stuff.
Bookshelf: What do you do apart from writing?
Pever: I live. I am a trained accountant. I will practice when I am offered a job. You know how it’s been with jobs lately.
Bookshelf: What was your childhood like?
Pever: I had a relatively quiet childhood. I was born in my home town, Boor. My aunt, Mrs. Veronica Ayongur, whisked me away from my parents, who are farmers, when I was barely four. Back then, my aunt was a state counsel with the Benue State government in Makurdi. I quickly adjusted to my new environment and it was lots of fun with my cousins, but only for a couple of years. My cousins soon got too old for toys, when I had just begun playing with toys. They moved to boarding schools and I was left with only cousin Tessy Boor-Tyosar. Tessy was a great influence during my formative years. She taught me how to read and write—she taught me all I knew as a kid. She cooked for the house, washed my clothes, bathed me, and made sure I was early in school. Tessy would discuss Amina, my childhood crush, and even play with me sometimes despite our age difference. She was just too kind. Because we lived in a fenced house and my aunt didn’t let us leave the house, I found myself playing alone in the big house most times. I sieved sand, made plates, cups and pots with clay and drove the old Renault without wheels in our fenced compound. Writing is a solitary activity, so is playing alone. I think that explains why I write today.
Bookshelf: You used Boor, a part of your cousin Tessy Boor-Tyosar. And again set your story in a farm house. It is said a wise writerwrites on what he or she is familiar with. To what extent has your background influenced your work?
Pever: My background has influenced my work a lot. You know a work of fiction can hardly be 100 percent fiction. There is always the element of reality and this is so true with Cat Eyes. Boor is our family name as well as the name of our home town. The main preoccupation of the people of Boor is plantation farming just like we have in the book. The streams, caves and hills you encounter in Cat Eyes are real in Boor.
Bookshelf: Tell us about your writing journey.
Pever: I began writing seriously after my youth service in 2010. I completed Cat Eyesin 2012 and entered it for the 2013 ANA Prize for Prose Fiction. The book got shortlisted and was the first runner-up that year. Between 2010 and 2014, I have written several short stories, some of which have been published in journals and on the internet. I can’t talk about my writing without mentioning names like MaikOrstega, Regina Achie-Nege, Su’eddieAgema, EdebiAdoga, Bennie Surma, Daniel Boor Jnr, Debbie Iorliam and SewueseAnyoh. Thanks so much for walking this path with me.
Bookshelf: What’s the story around your name, Pever X?
Pever:Pever X is just a pseudonym I have adopted. My real name is Pever Martins Paul Aondofa Marie. Yes I am a Catholic, that’s why I have two English names and the Marie appendage for those consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Why X? It’s not what you’re thinking. No I don’t want to talk about it.
Bookshelf: What are you presently working on?
Pever: I am working on two novels at the moment, Orteri and Tinderbox.
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