Check out my Radio Interview with B. Swangin Webster, the lovely hostess of the BSW Show, which took place on New Year’s Eve, 2014.
Also check out a review for my recent novel ‘Lemmon’s Journey‘. Also find below an excerpt of a Q & A session I underwent.
Q & A with Philip Oyok, author of – Lemmon’s Journey
Kevin Peter of Moterwriter.com caught up with author Philip Oyok and got him to talk a little about his latest novel Lemmon’s Journey. This is what transpired in the tête-à-tête with the author.
Kevin Peter: Let’s begin with something simple. Tell me, are you a disciplined writer or do you often get distracted while writing?
Philip Oyok: I do believe I am, yes. There once was a time when I thought I could fight back the tide of waking up every morning and deciding that for the day I wasn’t going to write anything at all. That I was going to give myself a break from the drudgery of writing. However if there ever was such a time when I could do that, I believe I’ve broken down that wall. Don’t get me wrong, there still are days when I really would pray for some form of distraction. Anything to just keep me away from writing or the mere thought of writing. Except each waking morning, it’s usually the first thing that comes to mind even before I take a shower. I once read a quote somewhere that says: ‘If you can quit, then quit. But if you can’t, then you’re a writer.’ I can say right now that I seem to be a true embodiment of that quote. It’s my gift as well my curse.
KP: Is there a core theme or philosophy around which you base your writing?
PO: My theme is pretty much about me trying to wrestle with my understanding of Human Nature. I’m pretty much a scientist and my characters are my lab rats. I sit back and study them through their interactions with each other, as well their interactions with their internal and external environments to see how well it sharpens their destiny. There is much sadness in Human Nature. However in the midst of that sadness comes a plethora of dynamic emotions that I feel are entirely responsible for the outlook of the world as it is. My desire is to explore this plethora of emotions, and I can only do that through the workings of my characters who at first start out as mere subjects, but gradually begin to ascertain their existence.
KP: You have written a lot of books under the alias Damien Dsoul. What made you switch back to writing under your own name?
PO: I wasn’t prepared for the enormous drain that happened to me when I finished writing my novel ‘The Rabbit’s Man’ in late 2007. I slipped into a depressive state immediately, and just about everything else I wrote after that all seemed like throwbacks that made no sense. I sort of lost my mojo, and was looking for an exit to get out of it. The only option was when I decided to indulge in erotic fiction, but I realized I couldn’t write them with my then depressive state of mind. Hence I needed to create a separate persona to take my place. That persona happened to be Damien Dsoul. It wasn’t until after I was done with editing ‘The Rabbit’s Man’ that I began reclaiming my strength of writing in my own name again. I was starting to feel more comfortable about it. However, it doesn’t mean I’m getting rid of Damien Dsoul. He’s more or less the dark side of me, and people find him a better representative of who I am.
KP: What’s ‘Lemmon’s Journey’ all about?
PO: It’s the story of a man who’s apparently lost so much in his life: his job, his wife, his sense of wanting to be alive, but suddenly realizes not everything is lost at all. His runaway daughter from years before had actually been maintaining secret correspondence with his late wife without him ever being aware. The realization leads him to a sort of rediscovery of new-found strength in his life. Of him wanting to reclaim that part of his world which he’d long thought had been lost to him. He then packs up a bag and goes on a journey in search of his daughter and her son, to see about reconnecting with them. It’s basically an inspirational story of never giving up on hope, on love, and finding the strength to move on, regardless of whatever the odds. It’s a story that I, too, hope to imbibe lessons from as I journey onward into my life as a writer/story-teller.
KP: How easy or hard was it to set your story in America and then get the geography, culture and slangs right?
PO: I spent much of 2012 and well into the summer of 2013 in America editing ‘The Rabbit’s Man’, as well hoping to snag a literary agent who’d have a good look at it to discover its potential. I was basically a drifter during that period. I spent months moving around the East coast and adapting to the change in weather. I tried to acclimatize myself with whichever terrain I was in, and spent as much time soaking up the sense of life in the neighbourhoods I travelled. That all helped me with bringing forth the story to life, because for me, I enjoy letting my settings have as much sense of character as my human characters to. Their interaction with their immediate environment is a linchpin toward their existential progression.
KP: What can you tell us about your lead character Lemmon Grandee?
PO: Lemmon Grandee is a meek and mild-mannered type of fellow. If you so happen to live in a big city, he’s the sort of man that passes you on your way to work every morning as well every evening when returning home. However, there’s nothing obvious or special about him, so he never sticks out in the crowd for you to ever notice. He’s phlegmatic almost to a fault, mostly concerned with what’s happening inside him than anything else. Even his name can give you that much of a hint that he’s never the sort of man who’ll ever be recognized as a super-hero. And really he doesn’t need to be.
Characters like him are often hard to find in Literature. For such people, there needs to be something outstanding about them to make them actually stand out for readers. What does make a character like Lemmon Grandee stand out is his simplistic sense of humanity. That he’s as vulnerable as any person out there could be. And that’s what makes his story more unique. The fact that his is a personal journey that anyone learning about him would find equally interesting as a sharp mirror to theirs.
KP: Do you personally believe in second chances? And more importantly do you think people deserve them?
PO: I do believe that every person deserves not just a second chance in life, but a third and fourth. However we’re too caught up in our pride we fail to understand the significance of this. We fail to take the initiative when it calls for us to do such. With Lemmon Grandee, he realized this initiative beckoning toward him and he strove to take it. Not just him, but almost every other character in ‘Lemmon’s Journey’ has suffered through some form of loss in their lives, and though some are still attempting to make sense of it, others like Lemmon’s friend, Marley Simmons, have already settled fine with the reality of their loss.
KP: Lat time we talked, I complimented you on the neutrality of your voice while narrating stories set in distant places about people who are so varied from each other. How do you achieve this?
PO: I try to avoid personalizing my stories, or of infusing myself into the plot. I regard that more as an inclination towards me seeing myself more as a story-teller than a writer. I’ve always believed that there’s a difference. Writers often tend to infuse their persona and ideals into their fictional works, making whatever story that they’re telling seem sort of stiff and heavy-handed. They move their characters to the machinations of whatever plot is in their story. Whereas story-tellers tend to take a step back and let their characters tell their own story. The characters compel the plot and not the other way around. Hence my work is to let their characters tell their story through me, in whatever voice they want their story told, rather than mine.
KP: What are you hoping readers will take away from this book?
PO: A lot of things: Hope, the undying means to love, especially after Life has stripped you of everything else, and the desire to keep on loving even when all hope seems lost. But most importantly, to let readers know that everyone deserves a second chance to make their lives right once more.
KP: Are you working on anything new right now?
PO: I’m expecting to have published another Philip Oyok novel in Spain called ‘Father’s Land’. A Nigeria thriller that’s a somewhat retelling of the Cain and Abel Biblical story, except set amid the backdrop of the militant crises still ravaging the northern states of Nigeria. I’m right now editing another erotic Damien Dsoul novel that should be out before summer called ‘The Merry Wives of Master Shango Pt. 2’.
KP: Reading anything at the moment?
PO: ‘9 Dragons’, by Michael Connelly. A very taut thriller.
KP: And lastly, thank you for parting with your valuable time Philip Oyok and all the very best for your book.
PO: Thank you very much as well for your kindness and patience.