Franklyn Usouwa: The story of a storyteller engineering his way forward

Franklyn Usouwa is a Nigerian writer and the author of “A for Abortion” which was shortlisted for Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2021.

He was born and raised in Lagos and currently studies Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Lagos. But Franklyn loves to tell stories.

In and out of the laboratory, he finds time to pen down a few words, short stories. His works have been published in Writer’s Space Africa, Kalahari Review, and others.

Interview with Franklyn:

When did you discover your passion for writing, and what was your motivation?

I don’t think I can point to any particular moment and say “That’s when I discovered my passion for writing.”

I used to read a lot as a child and I really enjoyed stories. My earliest memory of writing, however, was in class three in elementary school and my motivation was spite. After exams, teachers would be busy grading the examination papers, so they’d leave us to our own devices. The girls in my class had this little drama they liked to act out about a woman rushing her sick daughter to the hospital. The cast would consist of only girls. The mother, the daughter, the mother’s sister, the doctor and nurses, they would all be girls.

So, one day, some boys, feeling left out, asked to be included. Perhaps, we could play the father, maybe the gateman or driver. We got turned down. So, I took the boys to the other end of the class and told them I’d make up something for us to act out. A few minutes later, I’d written a one act play and handed everyone their scripts. While the girls’ performance was entirely improvised, we had something they did not— structure. I was very proud.

Truthfully, I’ve always just liked creating narratives, telling stories.

Which one of your role models influenced you the most and why?

As I said earlier, I read a lot as a child. I consumed a lot of fiction and very quickly too. When I’d gone through what was available for me, I turned to whatever my older siblings were reading. That’s how I found myself reading Buchi Emecheta’s “The Joys of Motherhood” at quite a young age. While some of it went over my head, I could tell that it transcended everything else I had read at the time. It was in a world of its own. It completely redefined what good storytelling was for me and I wanted to be a part of that. It made me want to write.

I also admire Stephen King because of just how prolific he is. He doesn’t just have a lot of stories, they’re all very good too. It’s inspiring.

How did you feel when your short story got shortlisted for Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2021?

Initially, I was shocked. When I got the email. I was sure it was a rejection but as I kept reading, I realized it was actually saying I’d been shortlisted and I was just shocked.

It was amazing. I’m still amazed. Every writer will tell you that writing is lonely. It truly is. So, being shortlisted was incredibly validating and it made me feel less alone.

Tell us more about the short story “A for Abortion” and what was the inspiration behind it?

“A for Abortion” is about a girl who’s pregnant for her aunt’s husband who she believes she’s in love with and is convinced is also in love with her. It’s about his attempt to get her to abort the pregnancy.

In terms of inspiration, I had read a number of articles about the debates over abortion laws around the world and had conversations with friends about it. I noticed the conversation was almost always about those who want to have abortions and whether they should be allowed to or not. But I found myself thinking about those who did not want to have abortions but may be pressured or forced to do so by those who have power over them.

I wanted to tell a story about it, but as is typical of my writing style, “A for Abortion” is more than that. A lot of other themes feature in the story— statutory rape, unrequited love, the power dynamics between adults and minors in domestic situations amongst others.

As a young writer honing your skills, what challenges did you face? What steps do you take to overcome them?

I think the only way to get better at writing is to write. However, I am presently working on a degree in engineering so, I don’t have the time to write as I would like to. Therefore, my development as a writer is slower than I’d like. I think my biggest challenge right now is finding the time to write so I can improve.

Do you currently have plans for another work of fiction?

Yes, I do have plans. At any given time, there are several story ideas marinating in my mind. I just haven’t had the time to put pen to paper, so to speak. But when I do, I will write them. There’s more to come from me.

Thank you for speaking with us, Franklyn 🙂

By Elijah Christopher

Elijah Christopher

Elijah Christopher is a journalist at A New Touch Of Africa, is also a creative writer, a poet, and an IT enthusiast. He contributed to the collaborative poem written in celebration of Edwin Morgan Centenary, the first Glasgow poet laureate and Scottish national poet from the University of Glasgow. He loves meeting people and learning about new places, cultures, events, and lifestyles.

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