We caught up with Micah Yongo and found out what he's been up to.
Tell me about you, as a writer
Oh man, where to begin… Although my love for writing came late I think I’d always had a special regard for the power of the written word; the way life – with all its colours and vicissitudes – could be funnelled into the cool clinical science of grammar and syntax, sentences and spellings; a domain of rules and laws. I remember coming across the words of American memoirist, Dani Shapiro, a few years ago – who said writing allowed her to ‘create order out of chaos,’ – and thinking that there was something so recognisable about that explanation. I think writing, for me, gives things shape. It maps reality. And so I probably find a little bit more satisfaction than is healthy in the apt use of a well-placed word, or the cadence of a nicely shaped sentence. I just dig good prose. But when it comes to writing fiction the thing I enjoy most is the stuff that deals with personhood, human nature – intentions, motivations etc., and the ways we often hide these things, even from ourselves. As a writer, I find I’m always trying to peek into those foggy sliding gaps between the outer-self and it’s inner, older brother. On the occasions I’m able to do that, with a pretty sentence or two thrown in, I find I’m a happy chappy.
You’re a journalist for the Nubian Times and Media Diversified, what originally sparked your interest in journalism?
I think it was the late great theorist and thinker, Stuart Hall, who once said journalism and the media are ‘central to the way power and ideology are mediated in societies like ours,’ which is a statement I’ve always felt to be both true and slightly scary. It may have been this fear, combined with my appetite for stories, that first drew me to journalism. At the risk of being a little preachy, we’re living at a time in which 5 or 6 corporations own 90% of the world’s media – an industry which, in this country, is 94% white, with the overwhelming majority of that 94% being middle-class and male. It doesn’t take much to see how an industry with such a narrow demographic make-up may be prone to providing a less than balanced view on things every now and then. So I guess my hope, along with many others, is to be a part of adding a little diversity of perspective to the way our cultural and societal narratives are presented. Like Kanye West almost said, no one group should have all that power.
You’re very active on your blog, The Mancophile. Why did you decide to start blogging?
Good question! To be honest I’m really not sure. I think initially I just wanted to have a little online space to call my own. A place where I could write to be read, but not edited, if that makes sense. Since then the blog has morphed into a sort of extended homage to the city of Manchester, my hometown. I suppose I get a little kick out of sharing my take and experiences of it, along with some random thoughts on boxsets, books, and comics sprinkled in. Outside of journalism, you enjoy writing fiction. How would you describe your fiction? Have you ever dabbled in script writing or poetry? I haven’t really dabbled, no, but I’m starting to think I should. Especially the script writing. I’m a big film buff. As for the fiction writing, I’m all about the fantastical – alternative worlds, universes, ages; futuristic or ancient. I love inhabiting realties that differ from the one we’re living in. Whether I should put this down to a crush on all things Octavia Butler, my latent geeky affection for sci-fi and superheroes, or some kind of God-complex I’m failing to admit to myself, I’m still not sure. I like to think it’s down to the vaguely remembered fables my mother would tell us as kids, these sort of half made up Nigerian folktales-come-bedtime stories. There was always a little something mythical about them. I think I try to reach for that same feeling in my fiction.
Your short story, Between the Lines, is featured in Commonword’s newest anthology, Elevator Fiction. What inspired your story?
A bit too much people watching maybe, along with that fascination with human nature I was mentioning earlier. You know those weird moments you sometimes get? Half way between sleep and wakefulness? Sleepy enough to remember your dream, but awake enough to recognise how weird its logic was? I guess I was having a waking version of that when I sat down to write Between the Lines. I was thinking, and still think, there’s something mildly absurd and comical about the way we can avoid saying what we actually mean sometimes. I wanted to play with that absurdity, with the unsaid, and ask – in a hopefully light-hearted way - why it’s there, why we value it, and whether we always ought to. The challenge of trying to do this in less than five hundred words was definitely something I enjoyed.
Where can we find your work?
Ah, well funny you should ask. All of my work, or links to it, can be found on my website – micahyongo.com
What does the future hold for you in your writing career?
Well now, I’m in the process of trying to get a novel I’m working on published – it’s kind of a Game of Thrones meets Jason Bourne type affair, but set in a mystical Middle-Eastern/North African context. There’s been some positive feedback from publishers and I’m working on re-writes now, so fingers crossed.
Sum up your experience in one word
Oh man! Erm… chimerical!