Q & A with Damien Dsoul,
author of the fictional book, ‘The Rabbit’s Man’
Kevin Peter of Moterwriter.com caught up with author Damien Dsoul and got him to talk a little about his book ‘The Rabbit’s Man’. This is what transpired in the tête-à-tête with the author.
Kevin Peter: For all the curious readers, explain to us in brief, what does your writing process look like?
Damien Dsoul: Every day is a workout for me. I start writing in the morning and might take a couple of breaks, but usually I write much of the day. There once was a time when my daily output would be 2,000 words. But there’re days when I’d see about topping it to 4,000. That usually happens when the story has me on lock down mode and I can’t break off.
KP: Any vices or habits that you can’t seem to do without while writing?
DD: Listening to classic rock music. I’m a great Rolling Stones fan. Their music help let the words soak into me. Another is sitting beside a window. I might lock myself in a room when writing, but I always love being beside a window. The window allows the words to come to me easily.
KP: Just as your books inspire others, what authors have inspired you to write?
DD: My list of inspirational authors are divided into three groups: Nigerian, American, and British. With Nigerian authors, I have Wole Soyinka and Cyprian Ekwensi. With American, I can list Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy, John Steinbeck and Philip Roth. With British, I’d say Ian McEwan, John LeCarre, Graham Green, and Robert Harris.
KP: What do you think is the best way to influence others, through your actions and your deeds, or through your words?
DD: There’s a universal theme I’ve always had faith in, and that’s ‘Whatever you do definitely comes back at you, good or bad.’ It is somewhat self-explanatory, fascinating, and yet downright scary when you think about it. But it’s a fact that works. We can only assume responsibility for whatever actions we commit and let everything else plays itself out. I did communicate this theme in my novel, and just as its something I hold to myself, its one theme I’d certainly love to share with others who come in contact with me or read my work.
KP: Kingsley and Hillary’s romance is definitely a highlight of the book. Tell me what were you hoping to capture with their life journey?
DD: I wanted them to embody traits I feel any typical non-celebrity married couple might have and share. Besides their love for each other, and the secrets, there’s still that infectious, deep-seethed glue that they have. And they’re both willing to fight to maintain that bond, even though at the detriment of tearing themselves apart. That was what I greatly admired of the couple. That even when faced with so much problems, problems that reveal the existent cracks in their marriage, they still are willing to stubbornly look beyond that to salvage whatever it is they have left. I do feel any wife or husband reading about them would get to see similarities in their lives and realize that their journey certainly speaks true of any couple out there faced with problems.
KP: What inspired you to create a lead character with elements of both good and bad in him?
DD: Most readers would expect such type of character to be of the James Bond-variety: suave, brain-smart, unattached, and with no depth of character at all. For me, I wanted a man who lived in the present and yet a dark path of him yet hadn’t let go of the past. A man who’s sort of sitting on the fence, and is being pulled either side by the past and present. In a way, I would go so far as declaring Kingsley as a humble metaphor of my country, Nigeria. He wanted to let go of his past and walk into the future. Unfortunately he and his past still have unfinished business. To display such a character that’s caught in a moment in time and is striving to do what’s right, yet knowing that for that to happen, he needs to do what’s wrong, makes him not only heroic but tragic also. I really wanted to explore that paradox of a character’s life and see how well it plays out.
KP: Apart from the obvious, was there a specific reason to setting Nigeria as the cultural background to your story?
DD: I can give plenty of reasons why, but I’d like to put down two. The first being my approach to the story is relationship with its setting. Beside it being a thriller, it is as well a spy story, and Nigeria is an exotic location that can work better with one. Numerous writers have previously based some of their works in foreign locations, for instance Graham Green’s ‘Our Man in Havana’, and John LeCarre’s ‘The Tailor of Panama’. Besides basing my story in Nigeria, I wanted to be humble about the approach by not making it sound too indigenous. I wanted it so that anyone reading the book could as well imagine such a story happening in his own environment rather than someplace that’s fixed in his mind. A second reason is I wanted to write more about what’s been on-going in Nigeria without wanting it seem too literary, because I feel there’s plenty a lot of foreign readers can or would want to know more Nigeria that they aren’t getting. I wanted my story to serve as a sort of friendly opener to what they ought to know.
KP: Once you are done with a novel, are you able to completely detach yourself from it or do you find yourself thinking about a former character in an old book and if you should have done anything differently about it?
DD: I wrote ‘The Rabbit’s Man’ within thirteen months and after I was done, I fell into a serious depressive state. That’s usually my way of withdrawing from a story once I’m done writing it. I get wholesomely invested as a Method actor would in an acting role. Withdrawing takes time, and my quickest means of getting over such is by distracting myself with other activities, stuff that would prevent me from genuflecting about the work.
KP: How do you manage to maintain the fast paced speed such a thriller deserves versus the need to fill in all the details to your scenes?
DD: Everything comes down to what I envision the characters doing, or rather what they would envision me to see them do. When writing ‘The Rabbit’s Man’, I pictured the characters playing game of chess with each other. I’d see Kingsley playing against the British spy, Lionel; I’d see Lionel playing against the detective Toji; Hillary playing against Evelyn; and so on, and from there it helped give me an insight to what moves they were making with and against each other and how I wanted their antagonistic ballet-style working to propel the story forward, as well giving them the right type of environment for their story arc to play out. But even that can be tricky. What gave me the firm balance was no to lose focus whose story it was in the first place.
KP: Anything that you would like to share with your readers about your latest book ‘Mary’s Addiction’?
DD: ‘Mary’s Addiction’ concerns a white mature couple that supposedly have everything – wealth, kids in college, and a lovely home in a suburban white neighborhood whose lives gets interrupted when one night they return from a company party and find their home had been broken into by three hoodlums. The wife gets raped and the husband is made to watch. Except afterwards the wife, Mary, experiences a sort of Helsinki Syndrome and intimacy with her rapists which perplexes her husband, Donald, and thus reveals cracks in their marriage that until then they had both left ignored.
KP: Which character’s worldview do you think mirrors your own or is at least close to your own?
DD: I would say Lionel Parrish. He is a man who’s neither evil nor good. Reading about his character, it’s not hard for anyone to want to hate him. However as he goes through his arc, you get to realize he’s a man who operates by his own intrinsic code of survival and he takes nothing personal in whatever he does. He’s a loner, just as I am, and I could say he’s been out in the cold too long and is seeking something elusive to call his own. I would very much love to write a sequel to ‘The Rabbit’s Man’, which would focus mainly on him.
KP: Are you reading any books now?
DD: Presently reading Tony Morrison’s ‘Song of Solomon’.
KP: What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing/publishing process?
DD: I’ll be the first to admit that I’m never a fan of editing. Not that I hate it, but it takes plenty of patience, perseverance and time to go through various drafts just to get a story sharpened. And even then, it’s never enough.
KP: What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
DD: I would advise any aspiring author(s) out there to read plenty, write plenty, and think plenty. Don’t worry about the rules of writing. Learn the rules and then choose to break them, or at least mend them to your understanding. Be your writing and let your writing be you. But most importantly, never tell the story. Instead let the story tell itself through you.
KP: And lastly, thank you for parting with your valuable time Damien Dsoul and all the very best for your book.