#Spotlight: An Interview With Author and Human Rights Worker, Ayo Sogunro…
Welcome back to #Spotlight, where you get to meet and read about the most interesting and fascinating minds of the world. Okay, not the world(yet) but I’m getting there so I have to stay positive.
I have been a huge fan of today’s guest since I started to read his essays titled, THE PONTIFICAL PAPERS on his blog(read here). He has a unique and incredibly informed take on sociopolitical issues in Nigeria.
Today’s interview is not based on his human rights persona, I want to dig into the writer side of him. He is the author of three books and co-author of one. The Wonderful Life of Senator Boniface and other Sorry Tales and the popular, collection of critical essays: Everything in Nigeria is Going to Kill You. I hate that I haven’t read them yet but we all know how broke I am, so as soon as the gods bless me, it’s the first two books on my wishlist.
He is also very vocal on twitter, I think everyone should follow him, @ayosogunro
I’m too excited about this, so I’m going to stop rambling and let you read on. Enjoy…
Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing come from?
There are a lot of culprits for this one. There was my natural tendency to introversion and introspection, there was the opportunity of literacy at a very early age, and then there was the circumstances of growing up with a protestant Christian ethic that limited free expression which I was equally compelled to rebel against.
If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
It’s hard to imagine what I could do different other than, maybe, being part of a literary community. Growing up in Abeokuta meant that there was little opportunity to be part of the literary culture of the times. Even then, would such an opportunity have helped me become a better writer? I really don’t know.
What did you enjoy most about writing Everything In Nigeria Will Kill You?
I don’t think enjoyment was a factor in the essays and random flashes that constitute the book. There was a lot of anger, a lot of frustration, and certainly much satire. Rarely pleasure.
What do you think any of your characters would have to say about you if they ever met you?
My characters are often ordinary Nigerians who act extra in extraordinary circumstances. In a Nigeria where politicians and their religious and social agents keep encouraging people to accommodate unjust circumstances rather than complain or pushback, I think my characters would like me just fine.
What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?
Not a novel, but a play. The Anthill by Obi Egbuna.
As a writer, what/who would choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I prefer the symbolism of the Yoruba deities. Olodumare, Sango, and Ogun are favourites.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
High school. Age 14 or 15. I was flogged by the school principal for putting up an article on the notice board that had criticised the actions of one of the school clubs. The principal’s grievance was not whether my criticism was valid or not, but that my article was indirectly disrespectful her as the patroness of the club whose activities I had critcised. That experience still fills me with wonder.
What do you like to read in your free time?
These days, I read mostly non-fiction on the history and philosophy of science, and on behavioural and evolutionary psychology.
Any website or resources that have been helpful to you as a writer?
A lot of websites have been helpful, but none is of particular relevance. I use the Hemingway editing app to polish my prose.
Do you view writing as kind of a spiritual practice?
Writing as a mental activity? Yes.
As an emotional activity? Quite often.
Physical? Yes. When I want to get off the bed or the sofa and just do something energetic.
Spiritual? I don’t even know what that means.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
I tend to think of ‘writer’s block’ as a type of professional indolence. If, as I understand it, writer’s block is the lack of ideas, as opposed to a difficulty (whether arising from lack of time, resources or skill) in expression those ideas, then a writer who is always waiting to combine the two different acts of generating ideas and expressing ideas is being inefficient. One can contemplate and concretise an idea long before they need to be expressed. This is why note-keeping is important to a writer. As I have said elsewhere, writer’s block is for hobbyists, otherwise a writer cannot afford that luxury.
What does literary success look like to you?
Because I write both fiction and non-fiction to reflect socio-political circumstances and tensions, success for me would be social change derived from or influenced by the ideas in my writing.
On the other hand, a million naira book sale would also be fine.
What do you want your tombstone to say?
It is ironic that I’ve written a full eulogy on my death, but I still can’t think of a snappy line or couplet.
Million dollar question: Are you working on another book?
Yes. I’m writing a non-fiction book on the nature and causes of the dysfunctional Nigerian system.
Would rather sweat mayonnaise or have cheese for saliva?
I can live with cheesy statements.
What is your guilty pleasure Disney movie?
Hercules. I think. I know a lot of the songs.
Would you rather have free wifi wherever you go or be able to drink unlimited free coffee at any coffee shop?
Who coffee don epp?
Would you rather be compelled to high-five everyone you meet or be compelled to give wedgies to anyone in a green shirt?
It takes two to high-five, I’ll take the chance that no one else would respond.
What was your favourite subject in secondary school?
Government and English literature are tied
Is there anything you would like to add?
Haha. Not now.
Thank you so much!
Are you not entertained? Lol!
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