Odafe Atogun- Storytelling beyond words
Storytelling is a skill, which sometimes cannot be taught. For Odafe Atogun, his journey to becoming a writer started from an early age. The writer describes being inspired by his deeply troubling childhood where he lived with strangers.
Atogun’s first book Taduno’s Song, presents an interesting story, which rotates around a guitarist who uses his music to challenge the government’s power, then flees to find refuge abroad. He later returns from exile and discovers, no one remembers him. He also finds out that his girlfriend, Lela has been kidnapped by the government because of her connection with him. His quest to find his lost life and love begins in a story of sacrifice, love and courage.
Guardian Life and a Atogun had a short chat on his background, challenges and the story behind his book
How did you initially become interested in writing?
As a child, living with strangers, I endured untold hardship. I would imagine a beautiful place far away from my difficult reality. I guess that was when my love for writing began. It was far back then that I began to put my imagination to use. Ultimately, I began to put some of my thoughts down on paper, in the form of letters that never reached my parents.
How did you start building your identity in the industry?
I kept writing and writing. A few editors I sent my work to in the UK showed interest. They gave me encouraging responses. Although their responses did not translate to a publishing deal, I felt inspired. Within a short time, my agent secured me a publishing deal that saw the rights for my first book sold in six countries. I was fortunate to get a two-book deal. I delivered my second book in record time, and it will be out in the UK in August 2017.
Give us a slight breakdown of your creative process? Are there any ups and downs for you?
First, I allow myself to slide into a state of idleness, a state where I’m completely unproductive. And then I spring out of that state by taking myself to the gym. Energised, I begin to write my story in my head under the shower. When I eventually hit my computer, the flow is magical. I don’t take down notes. I try to develop and store the plot in my head.
What inspired you to write Taduno’s Song and why was it important to you to tell this story?
I was inspired by the struggles of Fela Kuti – how he used his music as a weapon against tyranny, how he used his music to promote the cause of the downtrodden. I felt it important to tell this story to show that music, the arts in general, is an important tool in the transformation of societies.
What was your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge was my fear of failure. This put a lot of pressure on me, but in the end, it also turned out to be my driving force.
If you had the opportunity to speak to Fela before writing Taduno’s song, what question would you have asked him?
How do you manage to keep up a smile in the face of so much persecution at the hands of the regime and how did you manage to develop such an enduring sense of humour?
With Taduno’s Song already been published into different languages with more to come, how do you feel about that?
Like I said on a BBC radio interview, “I’m ready to die now”. I feel fulfilled.
Do you really believe that a love like Taduno’s and Lela’s really exists? If yes do you think their sacrifice is worth making in a country like Nigeria?
I would say that it is up to the individuals in a relationship to define the strength of their love and what love really means to them. With regards to whether their sacrifice is worth making in a country like Nigeria, I would say that the sacrifice they made is worth making in any society, even for the sake of just one soul.
What’s your main inspiration behind your writing in general?
It is the need to write timeless stories that can promote the development of society.
How long did it take you to write Taduno’s Song?
It took me three months and probably a total of another three months to edit when it got to my UK publisher.