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|Only Few Can Write Good Stories But Not Many Can Write Great Stories – Ogunlana by synw: 12:00pm On Apr 21, 2021|
ONLY FEW CAN WRITE GOOD STORIES BUT NOT MANY CAN WRITE GREAT STORIES – JIDE OGUNLANA
Jide Ogunlana is a Novelist, Editor, Playwright and Professional Publisher. Two of Ogunlana’s plays, Verbal Violence and Clash of the Gods have been successfully staged in the Arts Theatre of the University of Ibadan and they are currently being read at The Polytechnic, Ibadan and some higher institutions in the country. In this interview with Wole Adedoyin, the former Senior Editor with the Evans Brothers (Nig. Publishers) Ltd talks about his writing and publishing career.
WA: WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START WRITING?
JO: Immediately I left secondary school, I started contributing to a radio programme on our local radio station, Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State, Ibadan for a prize. The programme was called WRITE IT WITH MUSIC, being anchored by Bola Alo, and each of all the letters I sent in that time won a prize of ten naira. There was another programme on Premier FM, Ibadan, where one would send in a poem written to a lover and which would be read on air. I believe it was Wale Don, the King of Lovers as he was called who anchored this. My poems were also aired many times. I guess these two things inspired me to start writing.
WA: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WRITING?
JO: I guess I’ve been writing one thing or the other for about 40 years now.
WA: WHEN DID YOU START WRITING?
JO: I started writing when I left the secondary school but I was not a published writer of creative stories until 2008 when I published my first book, a play.
WA: HAVE YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A WRITER?
JO: I read English in the university and I love the use of English as a teacher, an editor or a writer. The three professions are however closely related, I’m sure. As a school teacher for instance, I had written plays for my students which they had staged at various times. My love for writing however heightened when I got my first book published.
WA: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE A NEW WRITER, SOMEONE JUST STARTING OUT?
JO: Passion for writing should come first. There will be plenty of opportunities to get frustrated along the way and to want to give up but it is the passion that will keep you going.It is not language proficiency; if Amos Tutuola could get published, you can. And anyway, as long as you don’t want to cut corners by bypassing the input of a good editor, there is a rescue. And again, everybody can write stories, few can write good stories but not many can write great stories. A great story demands investment of time, energy and money for the necessary research and materials.
WA: HOW DO YOU HANDLE WRITER’S BLOCK?
JO: My belief is that there is always a reason for writer’s block as long as the interest to write is there. I don’t usually have writer’s block but when I do, I will first find out what caused it. It may, for instance, be that I have pushed myself too much. In this case, all I do is to relax my mind by reading, watching comedies or wrestling. The writer’s block may however be psychological. You will struggle to come up with a great plot structure when your child has just been sent home from school for non-payment of school fees. When your mind is too crowded, just deal with the situations first before you come back to what you are writing. You will only be wasting time and you won’t be able to come up with a great creative work if you try to force yourself to continue.
WA: HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU WRITTEN?
JO: I have written two plays, one of which is in the Yoruba language, a collection of short stories, about eight children’s stories and of course these are besides English language textbooks.
WA: WHAT IS THE MOST SURPRISING THING YOU DISCOVERED WHILE WRITING YOUR BOOK(S)?
JO: One I guess is that I will just discover that I understand some piquant expressions that I’ve never used before, and I won’t even remember where or when I’ve heard them before. I guess this is why reading is quite important to writers.
WA: WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE CHARACTER?
JO: I have some favourite characters and one is Sherlock Holmes in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories and Scot Harvath in Tom Clancy’s THE PATH OF THE ASSASSINS
WA: DO YOU HAVE FAVOURITE CHARACTERS THAT YOU HAVE WRITTEN? IF SO, WHO? AND WHAT MAKES THEM SO SPECIAL?
JO: Professor, Policeman and Preacher in my play, VERBAL VIOLENCE. I enjoy their exchange of verbal abuse and civilized insults. I’ve always enjoyed good use of words in stories.
WA: WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION?
JO: From practically everywhere; music, past experiences, market place,reading, etc. A writer may not need to go far for an idea. Some things in life are evenstranger than fiction. A writer who can capture the extremism of the Boko Haram activities in Nigeria might even be accused of stretching credulity to the limit.
WA: WHERE CAN READERS PURCHASE YOUR BOOKS?
JO: My books may be purchased in two bookshops in Ibadan, Oyo State; Booksellers Bookshop, Magazine Road, Jericho and the University of Ibadan Bookshop. Direct order can also be made through email, firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com, or through any of these phone numbers; 07032573576; 08129476883; 08059350497.
WA: WHERE CAN READERS FIND OUT MORE ABOUT YOU AND YOUR BOOKS?
JO: I am active on Facebook and I have a page on Facebook: EDITING, WRITING AND REWRITING CONSULTANTS or through email or phone contacts.
WA: HAVE ANY OF YOUR BOOKS BEEN MADE INTO AUDIOBOOKS?
WA: IF SO, WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES IN PRODUCING AN AUDIO BOOK?
JO: I have not attempted it and so I may not be able to talk about the challenges in producing it. But I can mention the problem of illegal copying, which may deny the writer a great source of income for his effort. Duplicating storage devices is much easier and cheaper than duplicating books unless the writer finds a way of preventing the piracy.It can of course also be made impossible to copy online but all these will invariably push up the cost of production.
WA: WHICH OF YOUR BOOKS WERE THE MOST ENJOYABLE TO WRITE?
JO: I enjoy writing all my books. As Achebe once said, choosing one of your books as your favourite is like choosing one of your children as your favourite. It sounds unfair.
WA: TELL US ABOUT YOUR FIRST PUBLISHED BOOK.
JO: My first published creative book is TWO PLAYS OF VERBAL ATTACK. It was published in 1998. It is being read in some higher institutions in the country and the two plays have been staged in the Arts Theatre of the University of Ibadan.
WA: WHAT WAS THE JOURNEY LIKE?
JO: I guess okay; just the usual promotion,marketing and marketers’ problems.
WA: WHAT, IN YOUR OPINION,ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENTS OF GOOD WRITING?
JO: I read THE ADVENTURERS by Harold Robbins many years ago. I got to a place where Dax, the protagonist, is dying with his guardian. The author then takes the reader back to some good times the two had shared. It was so emotional and I just couldn’t continue the reading again that night. This is a powerful use of imagery, which I appreciate in a story. Especially with a full-length story, characters must have distinguishable traits. It makescharacters and thereby the story unforgettable. The detective, Sherlock Holmes, seems so real and credible that readers were sending letters to his fictional 221B, Baker Street address in London. But then each genre of literature will determine the elements to be emphasised.I enjoy poems with rhythm.
WA: WHO’S YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR OF ALL TIME?
JO: This is difficult for me to answer. It used to be Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,then it changed to Ian Fleming.I’ve read nearly all of Shaw’s work and it was G.B. Shaw at a time.Now that I’ve fallen in love with espionage, I’m tempted to say it is now Tom Clancy!
WA: YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK BY HIM?
JO: All the works of these writers are my favourites but THE PATH OF THE ASSASSIN by Brad Thor (Tom Clancy generation) is one story I simply cannot forget.
WA: ON YOUR LATEST BOOK TITLED A GIRL CALLED CORONA SOFIA CAN YOU SHARE WITH US SOMETHING ABOUT THE BOOK?
JO: It’s a children’s book. As you have rightly guessed, it is about the Covid-19 epidemic. As an editor, I’ve had the privilege of editing many stories on the epidemic. What I’ve discovered is that many authors just write books on causes and precautions of Covid-19 and not what you may call a creative or an exciting story. And believe me; it is easy to fall into such an error unawares writing on a specific topic such as this.
WA: ARE THERE ANY SECRETS FROM THE BOOK YOU CAN SHARE WITH YOUR READERS?
JO: There is none really.
WA: WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION FOR THE STORY?
JO: This is not far-fetched. Many people, especially when the disease first surfaced, did not know a lot about it and many still don’t.As a topical issue, the adults as well as the children need to know about it to be able to protect themselves and avoid contracting the corona virus.One great way of passing the message across to the kids is of course through story telling.
WA: WHAT IS THE KEY THEME AND/OR MESSAGE IN THE BOOK?
JO: Essentially, the message is that corona virus is not a death sentence and we should avoid stigmatization. Also, if given the opportunity, children can play a considerable role that can change the negative orientation of even the adults.
WA: WHAT DO YOU HOPE YOUR READERS TAKE AWAY FROM THIS BOOK?
JO: Just as I have said, if properly guided and with love, children can make significant impacts in society.
WA: WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE TITLE?
JO: The title emphasizes the extent of the heart rending stigmatization experienced by the girl called Sofia in her school after returning to Nigeria from the USA.
WA: HAS A BOOK EVER CHANGED YOUR LIFE?
JO: On the negative side, I remember I read THE LOVE MACHINE by Jacqueline Susan when I was in Form 5 in the secondary school. I loved the character so much and I tried to behave like him. As his name, Robin Stone, implies, he has the heart of stone, especially in his relationship with women. Thank God it was not a permanent change! On the positive side, I have been greatly influenced by TRIUMPHANT CHURCH by Kenneth E. Hagin.
WA: WHAT GENRES DO YOU LOVE?
JO: I love all the genres of literature.
WA: ARE THERE ANY GENRES YOU DISLIKE?
WA: WHAT AUTHOR (WHO IS STILL LIVING) WOULD YOU DEARLY LOVE TO MEET?
JO: Wole Soyinka. I want, especially, to be able to ask him some questions in MADMEN AND SPECIALIST. I think there is still a lot more to that play than I have grasped so far. It’s a great play.
WA: DO YOU LIKE TO DISPLAY YOUR BOOKS ON A BOOKSHELF OR KEEP THEM IN A VIRTUAL LIBRARY?
JO: Both. Although virtual library is more permanent, it is not as easily accessible as books on a shelf.
WA: DO YOU PREFER FLASH FICTION, SHORT STORIES, NOVELLAS OR NOVELS?
JO: I really don’t have a preference here. Sometimes you suddenly get an idea for a particular type and sometimes it is for another type. And I read anyone that gets my fancy at a particular point in time.
WA: WHAT BOOK CAN YOU RECOMMEND TO ME?
JO: As I’ve said before, I’ve fallen in love with espionage. I will seriously recommend the Campus Novel, THE PATH OF THE ASSASSIN by Brad Thor (Tom Clancy generation). But you may start from the first of the Campus series written by Tom Clancy himself, THE TEETH OF THE TIGER although it may not be necessary.
WA: WHEN DID YOU LAST VISIT A LIBRARY?
JO: I go to the Oyo State Library in Ibadan regularly.
WA: HAVE YOU EVER HAD A CRUSH ON A BOOK CHARACTER?
JO: I can’t recollect any right now but I remember that of Kate in THE TITANIC film.
WA: HAS A BOOK EVER MADE YOU LAUGH OUT LOUD?
JO: Yes, one is Oliver Goldsmith’s SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER and others are G.B. Shaw’s plays, especially PYGMALION.
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