‘Finding hubby is one of the most important stories in my writing career’
Though a partner and director at Africa-focused research firm, SBM Intelligence and also co-founder of Fintech firm, Credequity, Tunde Leye is a writer, stage play producer and entrepreneur. A filmmaker and author of three novels, Afonja The Rise, Golden Sands and Guardians of the Seal, he also has a children’s book The Rat Race to his credit. The publisher of Tlsplace media blogged at www.tlsplace.wordpress.com for three years during which he wrote seven series, including Finding Hubby and two novellas, Yobachi, based on the early life of Nigerian novelist Buchi Emecheta, and The Ahosi, which is based on the lives of Dahomey Ahosi. In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, he shares his passion for the arts as well as his debut movie.
With a background in financial technology, how did you delve into arts and writing?
I have always loved storytelling; I love to read and that naturally evolved into writing. Growing up, while doing a chorus, there is always a book beside me; my mum will tell you that I put monies together just to buy books. I studied computer science and in 2006, I served at a polytechnic in Yobe and I had a lot of time in my hands. With my faint Internet connection and laptop, I did a lot of writing. Afterwards, I went into music. Not until 2010, I decided to write my first book- a children’s book. So, I usually advise writers to ensure their first book is short so they can achieve completion.
Since my first didn’t go as well as I thought, I started blogging, where I built a strong followership. I was able to leverage that to write my second book, which did fantastically well. That, period I did my third, Guardian of The Seal and my latest book Afonja The Rise has done so well.
Which of your books would you say has the most impact in your career?
When I wrote my first book, a children’s book, it didn’t get the much impact as I wanted, so I started blogging to prove to people that people do read stories. Fortunately, the first story I posted on my blog was Finding Hubby and that just blew up; it had over two million reads on the blog over six months. It became a sensation and was read on radio stations across the country and that put me on the radar as a writer.
I have built other writing successes from that; I have experimented different other things from thriller in Golden Sands to fantasies in Guardians of The Seal. With my most recent book, Afonja The Rise, which is a historical fiction, it has been critically and commercially successful. It was the festival book at the Lagos Arts and Festival on 2019 and other festivals.
Why did you choose to tell stories for both stage and film?
If you think about it, it is storytelling; the form may be different, but the substance is the same. You need to be able to tell a gripping story, express the characters in the story. So, for me, I usually focus on telling the central story and then we can move through different forms of the story; be it theater or film.
So, the stage play we have done is an adaptation of one of my books, Afonja The Rise. The film we are doing is an adaptation of my most popular story, Finding Hubby. And that is how I view storytelling; if I sit down and tell you a story now that is oral storytelling, there is also poetry, which are different forms of the same storytelling. So, if you see it in that way, it becomes easier to move through the different aspects of storytelling.
Tell us about your debut movie, Finding Hubby?
It will be in the cinemas from November this year and afterwards in other online and streaming platforms. Finding Hubby is one of the most important stories in my writing career because it is the jump off point for the rest of my career. It was my experiment to show that people will read if you told the kind of stories they want to listen to and if you delivered it in a way that didn’t stress them. It was published on my blog every Monday back in 2012 and from April to November, we had about 24 episodes.
It is a story of three girls who were finding husbands and metamorphosed into finding happiness. As they went through the experience of finding a husband, they realised there was something deeper which was happiness. We have a lovely powerful cast, which include Adeola Oye, Kehinde Bankole, Tope Tedela and Tina Mba, with Femi Ogunsanwo as director. We started work on it late last year, and we finished shoot in January. We are currently in postproduction; it took us a year to get this done.
What really shape your thoughts when you write?
It is a combination of things. First is experience; things that I have watched, read and seen. To be a good storyteller, you have to be someone that listens and read books, so I have read a lot of stories. Most importantly are events that occur in our history; conversations that we have, storing beliefs that are hoped and my imaginations. Mine is very wide and fertile, so I usually allow my imagination to run, and when I want to finish the story, I bring it back in.
What in your opinion is our level of appreciation of arts, especially with preserving our heritage?
This house (Onikan House Loving Lagos) is a very old house; it is Brazilian architecture and was going to be knocked down. We know a lot of historical monuments in Lagos that have been either knocked down or neglected and people are not even aware of those places; we do not appreciate the arts in our history. There is a lot that has been lost, which is quite unfortunately; there is a lot that is in the process of being lost and a lot more not appreciated and underappreciated. Not just the arts, but also the general beauty of this country. We don’t do enough to preserve our history or support the arts both from the public and private sectors.
A lot of people expect the government to do most of these, but in developed worlds, most of the support is from the private sector. The most popular novel prize, The Nobel Prize, is privately run. We need more wealthy people to look at the arts as a way to preserve legacy, to enhance culture. Culture does not necessarily have to be what we look back at. As we go on, we are creating culture and many times, we lose sight of the culture we are creating today because we are thinking of the culture we had; we need to expand how we create culture.
Your children series, is it your way of instilling culture in young people?
Absolutely, I believe that telling stories in the way that I am telling them will absolutely introduce the new generation to aspects of our history and culture that they should get more comfortable. I remember when we published Afonja The Rise, for a lot of young people, it was their first introduction to a pivotal important character in our history that should not be the case.
For a lot of people, the only thing they know about Titilayo Ransome-Kuti is that she was the first woman to ride a car, which is such a reduction to someone that has a massive significance to our history. Those things have to change and we hope that with the films that we are putting up, things will improve.
As a writer, what kind of stories would you say readers are interested in?
It will be a diverse kind of stories. I think in writing, we make that mistake more than filmmakers. In Nollywood, they make everything; different people like different things. You see films around ritual, marriage among others, and that is how it should be. You tell the stories that resonate with you and the people that are targeted will also enjoy. So, my book cuts across genres and different cultures.
What’s your next project in terms of writing?
My book Afonja The Rise, is one of three books; the next in that series will be Afonja The Fall, which catalogues Afonja’s fall. The third is Bashoruga, which catalogues the prequel to Afonja’s time; that is a part of my track of plans.
My next track of plan is doing more films. I have got four books, three novellas, seven series that I published in my blog when I used to blog. So, I think there are plenty of stories that we can tell from our literary space, while developing a film fund to adapt as we do more. Some of them are historical, series or film, and that is another track of plan for me. There will be quite a number of films for me to work on.