When I first saw JeriWB’s interview on Munir Bello a while ago, I was struck by his sense of humor, positive energy, and love of life. So when he told me he’d like to do an interview with me I was thrilled.
1. I love the fact you use humor to talk about difficult subjects. Tell us a little bit about your novel and why you chose to write this particular book?
The Break Up Recipe is about a sarcastic, sweet young man named Mark Mutton who gets jilted by his fiancé very close to the day of their planned wedding. This results in him having flashbacks on his various, past dating experiences (some of which are very funny) before coming back into the present scenario. The end of the book takes us to his romantic future. I chose to write this particular type of book as I had noticed there was a market for it. Majority of the novels in this genre are written by women and the few written by men tend to tell women how to act. I wanted to present a romantic novel from a male perspective to allow women to see what men are like in relationships as well as break ups and let them draw their own conclusions as well as present something to men that was an inside joke containing different situations that were immediately relatable.
2. Life changing episodes often bring unexpected outcomes. You moved to England from Nigeria when you were ten years old. How did that change affect your life?
It was a massive eye opener for lots of reasons. I experienced a full winter for the first time. I saw snow for the first time, in fact the very first time I saw I trapped some in a Jar to take back home to my parents but it sadly melted. I was a very independent child so the experience of being away from my parents was a very liberating one, which helped me grow up. McDonalds back home at the time was a novelty and to be able to have it everyday if I chose to was very empowering for a 10-year-old boy. I’m very glad that it took place because I met some amazing people who are friends of mine to this day. It was also the beginning of being encouraged to consider literature as a career thanks to my teachers.
3. How has being born in one country and growing up in another affected your identity? Which of the countries would you identify with the most and why?
I consider myself a Nigerian because I was born there, my early childhood development took place there and when I am thinking or brainstorming, I do so in Hausa, which is my first language. The other reason I would say I am a Nigerian is because if you put the vote to people in Nigeria asking them where I was from they would claim me outright as a Nigerian, Whereas in Britain there would be a split vote (some saying I’m British and some saying I’m British and some saying I’m Nigerian). In terms of my identity it’s fair to say that there is a more British outlook to my way of doing things because two thirds of my life has been spent here. I would identify more with Nigeria in terms of my origin and with Britain as my adopted home. I’d like my children to experience both countries so that they develop a sense of the world having seen it from the points of view of western world as well as Africa. The experience makes me feel more balanced as a human being.
4. The bookshelves in the UK and US are very dominated by white authors. What challenges as a black man do you find you face in the literary world?
Whoooooo!!!!!!! The marketing Image which is of me naked was once remarked upon to me by somebody using these very words; “If it was a white guy it would sell better”. That in itself suggests to me that I have a challenge ahead of me. I must point out that I don’t believe this represents the views of the majority. I think being a black author means that I am harder to place in a box because the entertainment field is generally where we are seen to succeed in the mainstream press. I’d be lying if I said that I faced outright racism in the literary world but I am definitely aware that I have to work harder. There is a small minority who have treated me differently either by pandering to me in an exaggerated manner or by watching my every move to look for mistakes. In a way I guess it’s similar to when women occupy a position of power in a male dominant environment.
5. You chose to go the route of self-publishing. If the success of The Break-Up Recipe causes a traditional publisher to approach you, how would it change the direction you are going?
It wouldn’t alter the direction one bit because I have a very clear view of where I’d like to go with my career and I intend to stick to it. The financial terms would be very important because I’d want to make sure that I wasn’t taken advantage of.
6. I’ve read that your favorite novel is The Autobiography of Malcolm X, but which novel do you wish you had written, and why?
I wish that I had written Roots because it deals with a brutal subject and although it wasn’t the first book of it’s type, It was the first book to bring slavery to a mass audience. The impact of that book was that it opened people’s eyes to the horrors of what took place without preaching to them. I think it takes a special kind of talent to produce a book on a serious matter whilst keeping it balanced and allowing the reader to form their own opinion and to top that off to educate them.
7. Your marketing has been spreading all over the world in UK and Asia, and now the USA. The British are renowned for their quirky sense of humor, so what differences do you see in your readers’ response in the UK and US?
The UK readers have been very receptive and have done a decent job of helping me to spread the word. The US readers are an awesome audience. They are certainly not afraid of interacting with me, which I find to be fun. On both sides of the Atlantic, the humor has translated. Where the US market has the upper hand is that the members of their press are far more receptive to me and I think in the long term as an audience, The US audience will become my core audience.
8. It is rare to see such a tasteful photograph of a naked man in book posters outside of gay male fiction. What kind of appeal do you see your novel having for a gay audience?
Good question!!! I think that a gay audience will like the book for its humor. In fact when I first thought of the naked picture, although the target audience was females who were far more receptive of the book during test reads, I had a gay audience in mind. I did ask gay friends of mine to spread the word regarding the image because I thought they would do a good job in helping me reach a big audience. I also did go to gay pride in London to hand out flyers last year because I love a gay audience. I find it very easy to talk to people from the LGBT community because we have that thing in common of being treated as minorities so I find that I get acceptance very easily when I start a conversation with gay guys regarding the book or just anything in general.
9. Tell us a little about the television project you have in the wings.
It’s a dating show, which is matching up singletons of any age over 18 and will start filming from spring through to the summer. I am excited as fuck about it because I’m working with an amazing team. There’s been a lot of enthusiasm behind it and I so can’t wait!!!!!
10. Does The Break-Up Recipe have the potential for a movie, and if so who would be the leading actors?
I think it definitely does! As for who the leading actors would be I’d like to leave that question to an audience. I’ve never had anyone in particular in mind but there are so many that could play Mark Mutton in particular from different backgrounds. If it got to that stage one person that I would definitely love to work with on it would be Aaron Sorkin. The guy is something special and has an amazing gift with words. His writing is breathtaking.
11. What city in the world would you most like to live and why?
New York without question. The energy in that city is out of this world. It doesn’t frown on hard work and it really does embody the slogan, Work hard, Play hard, which I’m very good at. I’ve been a few times and every time I’ve been there it just felt like a good fit for me.
12. Where can readers find you?
In London having a laugh or alternatively :
My twitter handle is @munirbello1983
And last but not least on Amazon.
Book Now ON SALE!!
For Munir’s take on relationships, check out this post on Susan Cooper’s Blog
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