Jacket Notes: Abubakar Adam Ibrahim discusses the characters in his award-winning novel Season of Crimson Blossoms
Published in the Sunday Times
Season of Crimson Blossoms
Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (Cassava Press)
Sometimes characters walk into your mind like visitors that come with their mats, spread them out and settle down to enjoy the shade. Some stay for a short while, others stay for years. Some come in through the front door, but others, like Hassan Reza, scale the fence.
When I had persistent visions of Reza scaling a woman’s fence to rob her, but then accidentally bumping into her, I knew I had to write about these two people and the convergence of their very diverse lives. Him, 25, rascal, weed dealer, political thug and head honcho of a band of miscreants; and her, Hajiya Binta Zubairu, 55, mother, grandmother, devout Muslim and all-round good person.
What was supposed to be a simple tale evolved into something far more complex, surprising me with its range and scope.
How does one write about a chaste grandmother having a sexual relationship with a thug in a conservative Muslim community in northern Nigeria? How does one use a story like this, completely out of character with the literature that has depicted the people of this part of the world, to say important things and explore our shared humanity?
In writing I essentially relied on my characters. I followed them and recorded their stories. When I wanted to lead them, usher them down a path, they resisted. And so we had tug-of-wars that lasted days, weeks and sometimes months – we fought and gave each other the silent treatment. Some people call this writer’s block. Eventually we made concessions and moved on, reaching the finish line after four years.
And I fell in love with them, these characters. I worried about how it would be possible not to view Hajiya Binta as a cougar for taking up with a disreputable thug. And, not being overtly fond of writing sex scenes (those things are hard), I fretted about how much detail I should include.
What I completely underestimated though was how much people ended up liking Reza, the thug. Many people, mostly women, old and young, have accosted me over this character, demanding more details beyond what is conveyed in the book.