Monday, August 23, 2010

Interview with Osundolire Ifelanwa, author of On a Lot of Things

This is the third interview in a series of six (perhaps) interviews I have scheduled with different authors. Osundolire is an Architect by training, and finds time to write short stories and poems. I met him through Myne Whitman (author of A Heart to Mend, whom I would also be interviewing on this blog). Whilst reading this, please let ImageNations know what you want to know about your authors.

Can you tell us something about yourself?
Apart from my name? I am a man who seeks to find answers in the everyday things I observe around me. I am also a child at heart who plays with everything and finds joy in most things. An architect by profession, I love the creative arts and music, and also love intellectual discourses, particularly about issues that are dear to my heart and which I have a strong passion for.

What motivates you to write in general?
Everyday people and everyday events are my greatest motivators. Watching a father beat a child on my way to work while the latter is running 'for his dear life' could generate questions in me that will compel me to sit, watch the scenario and go back home to recreate it in the form of a story. I cherish everyday sights and sounds...nothing compares.

On a Lot of Things is an anthology of poems and short stories. How easy was it putting them together? Is there a common theme threading through it?

It was quite easy putting the stories together because I had written a whole pile of it simply out of habit until it occurred to me that I could make a book out of the collection. So I would not say it was difficult putting the stories together. The aptly coined title "On a Lot of Things" was chosen because of how divergent the themes of the stories are.

Which books did you find yourself reading whilst growing up and which are you currently reading?
I read a lot of Enid Blyton, Tinitin, Asterisks and Obeleix and at a later age I started to read James Hadley Chase novels, Sydney Sheldon and many of the African Writers' series mainly pacesetters. The book on my table now is title 'Before the Knife' by Carolyn Slaughter and one by Ngugi wa Thiong'o 'Wizard of the Crow'. I am an excruciatingly slow reader and thus find myself reading many half and half.

Which writers have influenced your writing?
All the writers whose work I have read till date will be a more appropriate answer albeit vague. But in giving a more definitive answer, I will say Sydney Sheldon had a huge impact on my thought process because of his simple delivery and unpredictable twists. Chimamanda Adichie is also a writer whom I respect given her age and the depth of her work.

Since when have you been writing? Which literary genre did you begin with?
I started writing five years ago and began with poetry--poems patterned after the European classics that I read about that time.

The literary landscape in Nigeria is tough, what makes your voice and work unique?
My stories go beyond the dimensions of fictional entertainment. They have an underlying current of the moral, social and cultural challenges that presents themselves to us as African and address the unique ways we deal with them daily.

How do you combine writing with your other work schedules?
I honestly don't. I am someone who can't chew gum and walk at the same time. For me to write effectively, I need to write 'exclusively'. Anytime I try to combine my business or something else with writing, I get half and half on both sides and for me, that is not good enough.

What do you intend to achieve with your writing?
A change in orientation. For Africans, I wish above all things that we connect with our individuality and our uniqueness as Africans and make the best out of it. For non-Africans, I desire that they better appreciate our uniqueness and give us respect for who we are.

Poetry or Short Stories, which one comes easier to you?
Short stories come to me easily. I 'think' in short stories.

Was it difficult finding a publisher for your work?
Yes it was. I ended up having to self-publish--not because I set out to initially but because at the time there are only a few publishing houses Nigeria that are constantly being inundated with thousands of manuscripts. A frontline publisher in Nigeria that responded to my submissions even though not promising much, requested I wait till the middle of next year before my submission will be received but I considered 'now' the time so I chose the less trodden path.

Tell us something about your book, On a Lot of Things?
On a Lot of Things is a magpie collection of 27 easy to read stories and 3 poems with a distinctly cultural flavor. There is no specific plot, theme or message that runs through it, hence the title. Majority of the stories allude to deeper meanings than the face value and is intended to give readers something new to find out each time they read them. The stories started as Facebook posts eliciting comments from online friends and later metamorphosed into the book.

How did you feel when you saw your name on the cover of the book?
I did not feel any different because as I mentioned it was self published and as such, I co-designed the covers with my editor. Consequently, there was no element of surprise for me at all. I was there at every point of its conception.

How is promotion of your book going?
With the help of friends and Facebook (where it all started from), the book is getting an unexpected level of publicity. The book is available for sale at 3 major book hub stores in Lagos; it is backed by a clockwork online delivery service at that delivers to anywhere in Nigeria; has over 400 people already on the Facebook group network; and both print and electronic media covered the book launch in Lagos and published reviews for On a Lot of Things. Considering that everything was publicized and funded by my friends, I will say the promotion is going well and I'd use this opportunity to say thank you to them all.

How has being published influenced your writing and/or your life?
Being published influenced my writing in that more than ever I appreciate the need to have an eye for detail and not neglect anything. My editor's influence in all of these cannot be overstated. She taught me not only to write but to stand outside myself and take the readers seat without taking them for granted. As regards how publishing OALOT affected my life, I will say it did in three ways. First, it taught me the power of a great team in achieving anything against all odds. Second, it taught me to learn to treat ANY product (work of art or otherwise) as a business once it has been created. On a Lot of Things certainly made me a more knowledgeable entrepreneur working in the entire gamut from publishing to image branding, marketing, selling, publicity and event planning.Third, it taught me that whatever it is one strongly desires will come to pass only if he tries.

Any work in progress?
If you'd call it work in progress, I have gone back to where I started from. Writing stories on Facebook for the enjoyment of family and friends.

Thank you for your time
Thank you too Nana.


  1. I suppose the fact that the book is self-published is why it isn't available on Amazon or Indigo (yet!). Too bad. It sounds like a remarkable path though, to decide to self-publish and then to have such success. Congratulations!

  2. Yes... I wish he is able to get it on Amazon or one of these internet book sellers....


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