Saturday, November 2, 2013

Beyond The Distant Clouds By Ngozi Omolaiye [Guest Author]

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I have previously interviewed Ngozi Omolaiye about her personal life and marriage, here. Today, she talks to us about her writing, and her new book, Beyond The Distant Clouds. Ngozi has over ten years’ experience in corporate communications in the local authority, insurance, telecom, and aviation sectors. She has edited company magazines and newsletters for the greater part of her career so writing a book came naturally to her. Enjoy the rest of her interview...

Tell us about yourself.
My writing dates back to my secondary school days where I was the Editor-in-Chief of the Press Club and also won the best Literary Student award in my graduating year. Just before I went to University and during the first couple of years in University, I wrote short stories for a local newspaper in Benue State, Nigeria.

For some strange reason, I did not pursue a writing/literary related career after my secondary school education. For the next four years, I worked in, sales and human resources consulting. Then, bang! It hit me that I was veering too far off from my passion and the conversation I had with her mum years back came back to me. My mum had told me that my grand-father was called 'ono okpokoro eme nka' - the one who sits at the table to perform wonders. The wonders here meant writing. So that put me back on the right track way back in 1999.

Apart from writing Beyond The Distant Clouds my other major achievement was pioneering and creating the first company magazine for a multinational telecom company in Nigeria. I was the Editor of the magazine for two years.

Beyond the Distant Clouds is my first novel – the first book in the series, In Your Sokoto.

In Your Sokoto is a series of books about relationships with the same theme but different stories and characters. At the end of each book, you will discover that answers that seemed so far away lie within your heart or just within reach, and things you thought were really complex are not half as complicated as they seemed.

- What inspires you to write?
People, relationships, experiences and places. I love people and deeply interested in people’s lives and experiences – in a positive way that is. I always try to work out or find out what causes people to behave the way they do or why a relationship is going downhill or having challenges. I love to travel and learn about diverse cultures so that inspires me too. Ultimately my inspiration comes from God because writing is a gift he has given me.

- Do you have a specific writing style?
Not really. I just try to write in plain and simple English that almost anyone can understand.

- What are your current projects?
I have just written my first book – Beyond The Distant Clouds. It is the first of a series of five books. So I have four more books to write in the series – hopefully one each year. I also have a book targeted at teenagers in the pipeline.

- Do you see writing as an alternate career or will it remain part-time?
For now I see it as an alternate career but it’s something I’d love to do full time in the near future. But knowing me, it’s near impossible because I love to do a lot of things. So I think it might remain a part time venture but a large chunk of that part time.

- Can you share a little about your writing routine? How does your career impact in your writing?
I have to be inspired to write. When I write out of necessity and not inspiration, I tend to write rubbish. When I was writing Beyond The Distant Clouds, I set targets and tried to keep to it but if the creative juices were not flowing, I abandoned it. So I have my note pad and ipad with me always so whenever creativity comes, I write.

My career has impacted my writing a great deal. As I said before, my work experience has mainly centred on writing. I am happy I got back on the right path when I wanted to deviate. My career is a constant reminder of what’s very dear to my heart – writing. It has kept me focused.

- This is your first novel. Tell us what inspired it, and details about how you got published.
Yes it is my first novel. Relationships inspired it.

I decided to take the self-publishing route or as it’s referred to now, independent publishing. It costs a lot but God made a way and sent help through a sponsor who paid for my publishing package. It’s quite a robust one which included professional editorial and marketing services and much more.

It was quite scary to go with that option. I wasn’t sure people would like my book but I felt better when the professional editors the publishing house (Author House) sent back my manuscript and gave me good feedback.

- Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Settling down to write and overcoming writers’ block. There are also many activities like work, family commitments, etc. So I try my best to write any and everywhere inspiration comes and time available. It could be on the train, while cooking or before I drift off to sleep – so I get up and write.

- When and why did you begin writing? When did you first consider yourself a writer?
As far back as my primary school days – I think it just came to me naturally. In secondary school I was in the press club and editor-in-chief of the club. I’d write the news and my class mates would read during assembly in the morning.
I think it was when I came first in a writing competition in the state where I schooled that I first considered myself a writer. The principal asked to see me in her office and I wondered what I’d done wrong. I was pleased to hear I’d won a writing competition and would represent the entire state at a national event.
I became more aware of my writing abilities when I wrote for a local newspaper in Benue State, Nigeria after my secondary school. I wrote short stories and features for over two years.

- What books have most influenced your life most?
Lots of books. I’ve read quite a few over the years but most recently, Unchartered by Angela Hunt has influenced me

- Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Can I choose more than one? Well, Angela Hunt is top on the list – her theme is ‘expect the unexpected’. I like the suspense and surprise her books have.
Danielle Steele inspired me when I was growing up. I discovered Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie five years ago and I absolutely love her books. I like Sidney Sheldon a lot too…enough now Ngozi.

If you had to choose, which writer would you say writes in about the same line or genre as your book? You know, like if you like this book, then you'll also like mine?
Hmmm, that’s a tough one. I can’t say, because it’s my first book. It’s a combination of lots of influences.

- Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? What books are you reading now?
Yes, Ngozi Achebe (Onaedo The Blacksmith’s daughter) and Deborah Rodriguez (The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul).
I am currently reading The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling.

- You are having a book launch, what other ways is the book being promoted?
Beyond The Distant Clouds was published in June 2013 and I had the UK book launch in September. I am planning to have two more launches, one in Nigeria and one in the Americas early next year by God’s grace.
I am also leveraging on lots of book signing opportunities. I have written a robust marketing plan which includes attending major book fairs, as well as events that can promote my book. A press release and email campaign, website, Kirkus review and book trailer were all part of my publishing package and …..
The book is also currently being sold by major online retailers worldwide, like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Waterstones,, etc.

- What comments do you have about the reading culture in Nigeria?
I may not be in the best position to give a fair comment because growing up and in secondary school, 90 per cent of the people around me read loads of books. But from what I’ve been made to understand, the reading culture is improving. Book clubs are springing up around the country as well as book shops with modern books. I think those of us that are passionate about reading and writing should be at the forefront of creating awareness and encouraging people to read.

- Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
This is my first book and I will love to get to know my readers better. My aim is to inspire people through my books.
I crave your feedback and support so I can improve on the books to come. Without you all, I can’t advance in my writing career. So please, visit my websites and , follow me on twitter and like my Facebook fan page. Thank you!

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