If you haven’t heard of Okada Books yet, you’re missing out on a wealth of stories written by young Nigerian authors and hosted on the Okada Books app. A platform that allows writers to self-publish their works and directly engage with readers. Despite such an open market approach (reminiscent of Figment and Amazon’s self publishing arm), some authors stand out from the crowd and Tunde Leye is one of them. Deemed one of the more popular Okada Books authors, he shared some of his insights about his writing process and his short story, The Burden of Proof with The African Book Review.
ABR: In your bio you suggest that stories form the basis of society and the arts. Can you expand on that notion and discuss how that inspires your writing?
LEYE: Writing records our thoughts and transmits them with precision we could never manage by any other means. Singers, artists, politicians, explorers and all sorts of people have been inspired by the things they read. Almost everyone can point to that book they read that was the fulcrum around which their lives turned. That is why when dictators and tyrants take over rulership…they go after writers and their books. They know how important these are. It is what has inspired writers to put their words down in spite of danger and the amount of work they have to do to complete the works.
ABR: The Burden of Proof incorporates some aspects of the Nigerian-Biafran war. What fueled your interest in this period of Nigerian history and did you have to conduct any research to incorporate those aspects of the war into your story?
LEYE: As with any writing, research is one of the most important parts. Thankfully the internet has made researching easier. Of course it helped to talk to people who actually lived and fought on both sides [of the war] to get a grasp of how it affected people beneath the normalcy that their lives now have. Nigerian history in general interests me and a lot of my writing takes different aspects of the history as elements that influence the plots and characters.
ABR: An intriguing part of the tale is how efficient the police force is. Is this representative of modern Nigerian society or a reflection of how you’d like the police force to operate?
LEYE: [The story] was actually close to reality…after speaking with and observing our police. Those pieces are there, it merely takes driving and coordinating them better together. However, I do take some artistic liberty as most fiction does when referring to law enforcement. I mean, we watch police investigation stories from Hollywood where they get DNA results in hours whereas it takes much longer and requires the DNA samples to be of a certain quality in reality.
ABR: What inspires your writing? And are there any habits that help you keep writing/ maintain a certain standard of storytelling?
LEYE: My writing flows out of two things – I read a lot, I listen and observe things and events very keenly and ponder them. I tend to pace myself when I write and I firmly believe the maxim “the only way to improve on writing is to write” so I write a lot. I write three blog posts weekly, two of them fiction and an opinion piece for a newspaper, as well as working on a novel alongside. It helps to have a sort of schedule I write on and keep to it. I also write in iterations. First, I put down a skeleton of the piece and then I flesh it out in several iterations, adding the details and giving the characters life as I go. I also try to make sure my characters are real people in their reactions and actions. This doesn’t downplay the fact that writing is difficult, but it is a skill and needs to be/practiced regularly to sharpen.
ABR: Can you tell us a bit more about your upcoming projects?
LEYE: I started Write Right this year, a writing prize to discover new writers, reward them and support them to write books and start blogs beyond the prize. I am also working on my third book, an epic fantasy novel called Guardians of the Seals which is due out next year. Of course, I’ll keep writing fiction on my blog TLSPLACE for some time to come.
Tunde Leye was born in Lagos, Nigeria. The author of multiple online series as well as an illustrated children’s book, he runs one of the most well-read fiction blogs in Nigeria, www.tlsplace.wordpress.com.
The Burden of Proof is a well written short story that blends elements of the Biafran war, the Nigerian police force and her legal system to form a dark mystery, after a Biafran war veteran is murdered. Set in what might pass for a Nigerian-utopia bridling with efficiency and layman justice, the story is optimistic with an incisive focus that doesn’t waver and leaves the reader expecting more at the end. Read here.