Charles Umerie is known for iconic characters. From King Hasha to Mansa Ibrahim and Salif, his characters quickly come to life on the page in a way that draws interest and empathy from readers.
“They’re all there to inspire or expose something,” says Charles, referring to his characters. “You don’t just create characters because you love them. There’s always a reason behind a character’s personality.”
That nuance may seem subtle, but it’s illustrative of how deeply Charles inhabits the minds of his characters. In a conversation with DEPLX, he talks about writing Across the Desert and working on a new project.
DEPLX: Across the Desert was released a few months ago. Do you think your writing style changed in it?
CHARLES: It did change. My first book, Kingdom Tales, is an allegory. Fantasy fiction. And Across the Desert is historical fiction, so that’s why I changed my writing style in Across the Desert. I believe every genre should have specific writing style. You can’t write a romance or fantasy fiction novel the same way you write a history book. In history book, you pay more attention to facts and details. When you have that in mind, it’s definitely going to change your writing style.
DEPLX: So how hard was it for you to write Across the Desert?
CHARLES: It wasn’t hard at all. I took my time to decide which way is good for my career. I had two options. To write a book like romance and have 10,000 readers that will forget my name and what they read the next day, or write a book like historical fiction tackling social issues and have 1,000 readers that would be inspired by it. I chose the latter.
DEPLX: Yes, I wanted to ask you question about the social issues you highlighted in Across the Desert. How did your readers feel about what you said about religion?
CHARLES: (Laughs) I didn’t say anything. My characters did. And just because they said it doesn’t mean I believe it. I’m a Christian. When some Christians read my book, they asked why I questioned Christianity. I told them just because I am a Christian and expected not to question it doesn’t mean other people won’t. Some Muslim friends felt the same way too. They felt betrayed. Honestly, I could have been a Muslim, but leaving Christianity to practice Islam is like leaving 1a to join 1b. It’s same thing. But whatever appeared in that book isn’t what I believe in. I just did my job and spoke for the people that questioned religion.
DEPLX: And what type of message are you planning to pass through your next book? I heard it’s a memoir. Is there a name for it yet?
CHARLES: Yes, it’s a memoir. My story. I don’t have a name for it yet. I’m from Nigeria. There’s a stigma there. My upbringing wasn’t bad, but my environment is. There are so many misguided youths, and I feel like they would understand me better if I could tell my story and let them know I’ve been through it too and made the mistakes they are making now. A lot of kids are so insecure today that they pick up any filthy habit just to be accepted by their peers. This book will expose all that. Teach them how to use their minds better.
DEPLX: I’m very happy to hear that. And when is it coming out?
CHARLES: 2019. That’s all I can say for now (laughs). It could turn out to be a short film.
DEPLX: Short film? Why?
CHARLES: Yes. It has to be a short film. I’ve been on earth for only 27 years. What could possible happen in a person’s life in that short while? I know it’s a memoir, but talking about how I was born and other stuffs like that isn’t significant. I will just capture the areas of my life that I know will connect with someone out there. Probably prevent my younger selves still out there from making certain mistakes. And it’s not definite we are making a film, but I’m always open to better ideas.
Charles went on to share his plans for 2019. If you haven’t read Across the Desert, I think now is the time to get it. It’s very educative and entertaining. Writing is good, but being able to inspire through it like Charles is doing is always better. for more info visit www.charlesumerie.com