Prominent British actor Michael Obiora has turned his hand to writing novels. He spoke to me this week about his writing process.
Born in north-west London to Nigerian parents, Obiora is a sports and fitness enthusiast, as well as a keen Arsenal fan. He spent a lot of his childhood in drama groups, before landing roles in hit many TV series. He first starred in Grange Hill, playing Maz Abassi for five years, before moving on to other popular programmes, including Doctors, The Bill, Holby City, Casualty, Doctor Who and Hotel Babylon.
Obiora has also spent time on stage, starring in the play Fallout at the Royal Court Theatre, and Badnuff at The Soho Theatre. When he was 18, he started a seven-month run in the award-winning play Elmina’s Kitchen at the Garrick Theatre. Obiora was shortlisted as Best Newcomer for his performance.
Photo credit: Nedim Nazerali
Obiora has now turned his hand to writing. His debut novel, Black Shoes, was published in 2009, and his second, Vivian’s Couch, was released last December. Vivian’s Couch serves as the prequel to Black Shoes, and both novels have been very well-received.
Kieran Ledley is the world’s most expensive football player, he is also one half of glamour couple “Kier-rissa,” and his step-brother is about to be released from prison.
Freddie Abani is the MP for Woundham, who was touted as London’s potential first black Mayor – until the summer riots.
Rupal Advani is a former policewoman and is now a marijuana addict.
Gemma and her struggling filmmaker husband Pete Newman, are trying to save their marriage.
Vivian Moses is a therapist, and they all have her in common.
I wanted to know what inspired Obiora to become an author.
I’ve always loved reading and writing, and I’ve written short stories since I was in primary school. But growing up, I wasn’t exposed to stories featuring diverse characters. This is something that has always been at the back of my mind, and I’m very happy that there are writers from all over the world and different backgrounds that are being recognized more and more. The ultimate push for me was when I was nineteen years old and was a year into the four series I did of BBC1’s Hotel Babylon. I got to play a character completely out of my comfort zone. And I was especially proud because, as a black actor in the UK, it’s rare that one gets to play non-stereotypical roles. So I used the platform that show gave me to start writing my first screenplay. I struggled to get it made so eventually adapted it into a novel – Black Shoes: Reality Check. I found the process difficult but very enjoyable, so I knew from then on I’d always write books alongside being an actor.
His first book was largely inspired by his own experiences, but Vivian’s Couch allowed Obiora to explore and experiment more.
[It] features some cross-over characters that I wanted to experiment with in scenarios that hopefully quite a few people can relate to.
Obiora doesn’t feel that he’s in a position to give advice to other writers, but would recommend being open-minded.
As somebody who has always been interested in telling stories – both as a performer and writer – I always make an effort to read and watch stories from as many different genres as possible.
He’s also positive about his journey as a writer:
I do everything I can to not have regrets, so whatever I know about publishing books now that I didn’t know before I just embrace and hope to implement it, and improve as writer.
His next idea is one he’s been sitting on since 2010.
I’ve got an idea for a story that takes place in London and Nollywood (Nigeria’s Hollywood). I’ve also got a children’s book and a spoken-word-esque book that I’m putting together this year. And as an actor, I’ve got an 11-part original crime thriller called Fortitude coming out this month. We spent six months shooting in Iceland and it’s amongst the most fun jobs I’ve ever had. The production is epic, the cast is incredible, and I really enjoyed working with the hard-working crew. The show definitely has potential for more series’ in the future.
Obiora just finished reading Thriller, edited by James Patterson:
It was 734 pages of short stories by some of the worlds’ most famous thriller writers. I’m also currently reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Next I’m going to read Thomas Hauser’s autobiography of Muhammad Ali – it’s been on my book shelf for ages!