Because you’re never going to get it.
I’m not going to say ‘God bless you’
Because you already are blessed:
You’re alive and in good health;
Cast worries and sadness off you mind
Laugh more, live more
And find out who you are.
Walking the beach alone by myself
Listening to the cursing wind
The sea beyond crashing like tea leaves
Wondering what all of it means
Is there a riddle to where the sea and sky meet?
I don’t know but would someone tell me, please.
Strolling, skipping over these wet sands
Huddled, the wind attempts ripping me off my jacket
Alone. There’s no one to see for miles, no rocks no sand castle
Lay in sight. Nothing but distant memories
Of what could be, once was, or never will
There’s just me throwing stones out to sea.
I hear you speak: your voice so faint in the wind
You pleaded with me to stay
Stay, don’t walk away
Here on this white landscape there is no hiding place
No past, no future, or forever more
Just you talking in my ear, walking alone on this strip of beach.
A road cuts through the mountains
Like knife through butter
Not too long ago the road was never there
The mountains used to cuddle in harmony and love
The river watered their sons
The sun blessed their union.
But then discord happened
And the road came to be
Distant lovers the mountains are forever to remain
Till, who knows, the river returns to consume the road.
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.
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.
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.
Great things, horrid things – magical –
You haven’t seen, can’t ever believe.
Eye see things
Tiny, some here and many not there
I forget sometimes and wonder where they went.
Dreams, nightmares and curses
What sits above the clouds
Plenty of what lies underneath
Oh yes, I feel
Your need, heartbeat, your smile
Your hand in mine