Oyindamola Affinnih - Two gone, Still Counting (Guest Author)

Tell us about yourself, a brief autobiography.

Oyindamola Halima Affinnih is a Lagosian. Born in 1982, Jan. 11. I started my schooling in Lagos State at Pampers Private School, then I went off to FGGC New-Bussa, Niger State, and got a degree in Mass communication at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye.

When and why did you begin writing?

I never thought I could be a writer. Yes I liked to read. I loved the feel of some great words strung together but for some reasons I was too lazy to be one. I saw writing notes as a complete bore and always had issues with my teachers cos I never kept notes. While doing a holiday job before getting into the college, sometime around 1999, I out of boredom put a short story together. I took it to True Tales Plaza {HINTS} and they felt it was good enough to publish. Somehow, I still felt it was a stroke of luck until I published another. And so I gave myself a chance. I did some other scripts for TV afterwards but never tried poetry {don’t think I’ll ever}. But I still love the power of prose more than any other aspect of literature.

What inspires you to write?

Deadlines! (Just joking). But I write very well when I’m under some kind of pressure. It flows faster when I’m pretty angry. But basically, the feedback I get from my previous works helps me to write better.

Tell us about two gone... still counting

I started writing it in 2008. Sometimes I have a theme and I build my story around it. Sometimes the theme unravels itself while writing the story. It’s amazing how different writers create their stories. Some do a chapter by chapter breakdown, some go with the flow. Of course, more often than not, I go with the flow. While writing two gone... still counting, the theme sprang up and I worked with it. I was so excited to see everything fall in place that I wrote half of the book in the space of two months and so I began submitting a query letter and the first three chapters to several agents. The rejection was huge, some polite, others, the standard rejection format. I guess that was what slowed the other half from coming. I left it for over a year before a friend inspired me to give self-publishing a shot. So there.

Do you have a major theme that runs through the book?

The theme of two gone... still counting centres on the veracity of our beliefs, how quick we are to condemn them as ‘superstitions’ when somehow we believe strongly in them. A lot of people in Nigeria believe when you trip on your left foot while going somewhere, it becomes some sort of ill luck as the whole day would be full of misfortune. I found it funny seeing religious people who clearly disregard such beliefs, flinch when such incidents occur. Some offer a sign of the cross while others whisper audhubillahi minashayta ni rajeem. To help them avert such evil. If you don’t believe tripping on your left foot means anything, why not let it just go?

What was your publishing journey like, from thinking of the book idea to holding it in your hands?

With a tricky theme like that, I believed- like every writer dreams- that publishing would be immediate, but dear me! It was either the theme wasn’t arresting enough, or there weren’t reading my queries because my spellings and my tenses were great. I didn’t think I would opt for self-publishing but I wanted more than anything to see my book in print and so I took a risk. I risk I believe will be worth it.

Before publishing, I put out snippets of the story on my secondary school website for two years, registering with a fake ID and email addy. I wanted an honest response on the story without anyone being biased. All of the comments I received gave me that push to publish. Even self-publishing was tougher, besides being the major investor. I enjoyed it because it felt good being my own boss. Getting everything right and to my approval before the next step. But trust me, it was tough! From begging and encouraging people to read my piece to getting a very careful editor, a fantastic graphic artiste and the general team I didn’t stop troubling until the final book came out. It was worth every effort. But tough! lol

What do you do to relax and when you're not writing?

Not quite sure if it can be called relaxing. I play. Not soccer, or other games. I love to run around. Sometimes just being troublesome other times just letting off steam. I can say I like to cook, depending on my mood. I also love to lounge when I can.

What books have most influenced your life? And if you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

I don’t want to believe I have read any book that hasn’t influenced me. I cannot particularly choose at the moment but every book I’ve read has laid an impact on my life. But I always see myself returning to books written by John Updike, Salman Rushdie, Sandra Brown and Andrea Kane.

What books are you reading now and are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

I’m reading a crime story by Andrea Kane, ‘I’ll be watching you’. On new authors? Oh sure. I joined a ‘class of 22’ in Sept 2009. New writers, smart people, brilliant ideas. We kind of bonded past the classroom and still exchange write-ups. Everything they have written has grasped my interest. You don’t want the names of all 22 of them, do you? ’Cos I have them. lol

What do you think of the Nigerian publishing industry?

I think it’s growing too slowly but sincerely, not one of us who complains about it is ready to invest in it. It’s pretty sad that books are the least things anyone wants to help make available. Perhaps when the reading culture gets better- which I’m certain it will- we’ll have more publishing outfits ready to pick up young writers that have something good to say. Until then, it remains a risk, investing in a book you are not sure would make good sales.

What comments do you have about the reading culture in the country?

Gradually it has become better than what it used to be. But there’s still a lot to be learnt. Sometimes when I tell people I’m going to shop for some books, they stare incredulously at me for the first few minutes and spend the remaining minutes discouraging me. Some even say... “You’ve not stopped this book thing.” As if it’s an unusual thing. Books are fun. They have contributed to everything I am today.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Every book, no matter how dry, will teach you at least one thing you didn’t know before. So why not read more?

Do you have an online presence, Facebook, Blog, Twitter or a website?

Sure. The book has a Facebook page. I’m on twitter and yes, I like to think I’ve got a blog too. Sisi Eko even though I’m a not very regular on it. My web site address is www.oyindamolaaffinnih.webs.com for now. I have a book documentary video for Two Gone on YOUTUBE

Where can we buy the book, both in stores and online?

Since it’s still new, we are just introducing it into the market. But in a few weeks, it would be safe to pick a copy everywhere books are sold.

So what next?

I’m working on a Creative writing course. I won’t pass an opportunity of being a better writer or miss attending workshops, seminars and other gatherings where writers meet to discuss. It’s always fun.