Author Questions & Answers Session With Maymunatu Bukar

Zakiyyah: Good evening, Maymunatu. You’re welcome to the Northern Writers Forum. Having you around to answer a few of our questions is an honour. We are delighted that you accepted this invitation.

Maymunatu: Good evening. Thank you, I am happy to be here.

Zakiyyah: Sounds good. Without wasting time, we will dive into the business of the day. 

I have ten exciting questions for you.

Maymunatu: Okay.

Zakiyyah: First, can you share your writing journey and what inspired you to become an author?

Maymunatu: I have always been an avid reader. My English textbooks were always worn out because I would read the composition there repeatedly. I had a notebook where I would scribble short stories. Around the age of twelve, if you asked me about my ambition, I would reply that I wanted to be a writer. But that dream of being a writer was set aside until I stumbled across Wattpad in 2017. It opened a new door for me. There, I read books from Arewa writers, where I could relate to the characters, setting, etc. So in 2018, I decided to give it a try. I started scribbling the idea at the back of my chemistry notebook. I wrote five chapters and sent it to my friends. Their responses were positive, and they were eager to read the rest. That gave me the push I needed, and here we are.

Zakiyyah: Interesting! I must say, you’ve come far. Congratulations on the nomination for the best Hausa book award in 2020! How did it feel to receive such recognition for Jewels, your book?

Maymunatu: Thank you. It was overwhelming. I was excited, grateful and a bit surprised.

Zakiyyah: Being fluent in both English and Hausa, how do you navigate between the two languages in your writing? Do you find that one language allows you to express specific themes or emotions better than the other?

Maymunatu: both languages allow me to express emotions and themes almost simultaneously. The only funny thing is that when I write in a specific language, the words flow better in another language.  For example, if I write in English, the words flow better in Hausa. Sometimes, I would have to say it out loud or write it down in Hausa and then translate it into English. And vice versa

Zakiyyah: Oh wow!

“Jewels” delves into love, family, and faith. How did you approach weaving these themes into the narrative, and what messages were you hoping to convey?

How important is it for you to integrate religious elements into your stories?

Maymunatu: With Jewels, it happened almost subconsciously. You know, with themes in a book, sometimes you don’t realise the theme you have until you’re done. After finishing the book, I realised I focused on believing in your Qadr and so on. Mental health was the theme I had in mind when I started. 

It is essential for me. I want my readers to have a lesson or two to take with them whenever they finish reading what I wrote. I want my stories to have an impact on their lives, not just to read and forget about them. As I am entering them, I want to educate them in a way. Hence, the religious elements you will always find in my stories

Zakiyyah: Your stories are impactful; we are grateful you let them out.

There has been an argument on how Arewa Wattpad writers set an unrealistic standard for girls in what to expect, especially in marriages. As a Wattpad writer, what is your take on this?

Maymunatu: It is not that we set unrealistic standards but that the readers focus on the ‘good parts’ of the stories. 

We make our characters as humanly as possible. They are not perfect; they are very flawed. And we make them that way to show that no matter how good people have it, they also have their shortcomings.  Like I said, readers look the other way on that part and focus on the lovey-dovey part of things. 

And I believe it’s on the readers to differentiate what is realistic and what is not. Because as much as we try to depict reality with our works, it’s still fiction at the end of the day. For most of us, fiction is a way to break from reality.

Zakiyyah: True. Other wannabe writers abuse this freedom of writing. Exploring the realm of art is all fun until it is not. I’ve read stories on Wattpad with nothing to offer except impractical expectations, not impactful messages or insightful information. I wish you had talked more about this, but that is beside the point. 

Your characters in “Jewels” feel authentic and relatable. How do you develop your characters, and do you draw inspiration from real-life experiences?

Maymunatu: Thank you. 

I focus on building my characters more than any other part of my work. I mainly go through the whole writing process but nail my characters down before writing the first word. 

The plots of my books are character-driven, so it’s a must for me to have my characters as relatable as possible. 

With inspiration you can find it everywhere. So, you can say that I draw inspiration from real-life experiences.

Zakiyyah: “Jewels” is filled with emotionally charged scenes. Can you share a scene from the book that was particularly challenging or rewarding to write?

Maymunatu: One particularly challenging scene was where Jawahir told Aayan her story. It was emotional. I shed a few tears while writing. 

There are so many rewarding ones, but I can think of the epilogue and bonus chapter right now. Those were particularly rewarding. After the emotional rollercoaster, they were all grown up and settled. I felt like a proud mom. It was satisfying.

Zakiyyah: You had a profoundly emotional and rewarding experience writing those scenes. Creating a connection with your characters and feeling the impact of their stories is a powerful aspect of storytelling.

What kind of responses or reactions from readers have left a lasting impact on you, and how do you engage with your readership?

Maymunatu: Oh, Subhanallah, there are so many, I have lost count. I have the best readers! There is one that I received recently. She said that my books helped her during the most challenging times in her life, that she was grateful, and that I would always remain on her favourite writers list no matter how many books she reads in the future. And honestly, it was emotional and satisfying. It made me so happy. I screenshot them and have them stored. And I tend to go back to them whenever I am feeling down.

I try to reply to the comments of DMs and engage with them in any way I can. I tend to write long author’s notes at the end of a chapter, mostly just rambling, which helps create a bond between us.

Zakiyyah: Reader’s feedback is another form of motivation for every writer. As you said, it gives writers a better understanding of their audience and creates a bond between the two.

You enjoy baking and experimenting with recipes. Did your culinary interests play a role in shaping the narrative or characters in “Jewels”?

Maymunatu: Yes, it did. I had fun searching the net for recipes that Jawahir would prepare. I tried most of them myself.

Zakiyyah: That’s great. To my final question, what advice would you give aspiring writers, especially those who want to incorporate cultural and religious elements into their work?

Maymunatu: Be authentic and stay true to yourself. Find your voice and stick with it. Don’t hesitate to incorporate cultural elements into your work; remember, through books, people experience other aspects of life that differ from theirs. And writing, like any other kind of art, takes practice. So write, write and write. Practice makes progress.

Zakiyyah: Thank you so much for this beautiful advice and your time.

It was an honour chatting with you.

Questions can start rolling in from the members’ corner.

Maymunatu: You’re welcome. Thank you for having me.

Ibraheem: First, your work often falls within the romance genre. Are there other genres you aspire to explore in your writing, and why?

Maymunatu: Right now, no. Never say never, though, so we’ll see in the future.

Ibraheem: We will look forward to your future work.

Onto the next question. As you reflect on your literary journey, what legacy or impact do you hope to leave through your writing?

Maymunatu: I want my words to stay with anyone who comes across my books forever, if possible. A deep and meaningful impact that a reader will have an experience in this life and think, ‘Oh, Maymunatu wrote something similar to this.’

Ibraheem: Certainly, creating a lasting impact through your words requires authenticity, emotional resonance, and a unique perspective. By connecting deeply with readers, your words may indeed leave a lasting impression, making them associate profound thoughts with your name, as you did with Jewels and Lokaci Ne.

Thank you very much for your time, Maymunatu. It’s indeed a pleasure having you here.

Maymunatu: Indeed. 

It was a pleasure being here.

Zakiyyah: Thank you once again Maymunatu.

Maymunatu Bukar is a talented Muslim romance author and bilingual writer, fluent in English and Hausa. She is an avid reader and finds herself living between book pages. In addition to her love of literature, Maymunatu enjoys baking and experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen. Her passion for writing has led her to create stories that reflect her love for books and her Muslim faith. Maymunatu is dedicated to bringing a fresh perspective to romance literature, and her writing reflects her unique voice and experiences. She is currently a student at the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, where she is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Biological Sciences.