It’s Okay To Feel Vulnerable; A Chat with Emmanuel Odunfa.

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Hi, welcome to stacyspeaks.com, a home for creatives and a relaxation spot for those who can’t get enough of great content. I am StacySpeaks your host and a diehard fan of yours.

I will love you to introduce yourself to my friends reading this and help them get to know you as much as I think I do.

Hello everyone, I am Emmanuel Odunfa, I am a broadcaster by profession, a writer, columnist and storyteller by hobby and of course, a foodie by choice. I am the second child in a family of six, I am also a graduate of Mass Communication from Bowen University. Have I mentioned I love food? Oh, I did. It’s an honor to be given this opportunity.

At what point in your life did you start writing and what convinced you that writing was a path for you to thread?

I can’t really say when I started writing or when I was convinced it was the path for me. From a tender age, I’d always derived joy in scribbling things down even when they do not make any sense; that was my own way of having fun. Despite the fact that I loved writing, I hated being told to write or being told what exactly I was to write on, lol.

Well, that stubbornness earned me a lot of strokes on my little behind in secondary school, because my principal at the time had this compulsory weekly essay we were all required to write and submit EVERY week. I hated it with everything in me, but after I had collected the strokes of cane, I secretly always went back to write on those topics and just keep it. So yeah, my relationship with the craft I love the most is a complicated one.

Tell us about your previous creative projects and what you are currently working on.

Over the last 4 years, I have published 2 anthologies titled, “Beginning of an End” (2016) and “Spirals of Our Thought” (2017) which are all in e-book format. Asides these, I have also worked on other mini projects like poetries and articles for my column (Life of a Banter) and other websites and social spaces. Currently, I am working on my biggest project yet, which is my debut novel called “Masked”.

During a discussion I had with you some time ago, you mentioned that you have 3/4 characters within you; Nuel, Emman, Emmanuel and the Banter. Am I right? Can you tell us about your 4 creative personalities and how do you decide which to pick up for a certain project?

Lol, you had to just bring this one up for the whole world to see. To start with, the ‘personalities’ are just three (Nuel, Emman and Emmanuel). Emmanuel is the landlord, the most serious one, the owner of the body, the leader of the house, first of his name. Nuel is simply that tenant that whenever he is around, he is always unserious; a lot of people would think he is the landlord because that’s who they meet, he is also the Banter. Then Emman, I cannot really describe this guy. All I can say is the guy is a local man, because he only manifests or shows himself when he is around a village setting.

As far as deciding what personality works on a certain project, truth be told, I don’t decide, anyone could spring up depending on the topic or the message I am trying to pass across; I am sure in this short paragraph you could’ve already deciphered which of the characters is speaking with you.

What inspired you to write your first novel, ‘Masked’ and can you briefly tell us about the book?

The inspiration stemmed from series of events, with most of them being personal and others coming from stories told by my friends and the world as a whole. It is no longer hidden that the amount of suicide due to depression has increased rapidly over the last year. Having gone through such an experience and being among the lucky few to have found a way out, I felt it was right to write about it and at least show even if it’s just one person that there is actually a way out of depression. But this inspiration would never have been brought to life if not for a friend, Comfort Akanbi who kept encouraging me to share this gift with the world.

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What inspired the title of the book?

I chose ‘Masked’ because to me it summaries the whole issue behind depression and leaving in a make-believe world. Sadly, there is a growing number of people who walk around wearing a certain kind of mask for so many reasons. For some, it could be so they get accepted by their peers; for others, it’s to appear in a certain way to their parents. And a lot of people have gotten used to this façade that they themselves have begun to believe the fake world they created is real.

Can we call the book an autobiography or are the experiences in the book a work of fiction?

Calling the book an autobiography would be a stretch because like I said, not all events within it were personal, some were based on imagination and stories from others which I fused together to pass across the intended message; so I think calling it a work of fiction would be the right term.

When I read your book for the first time and saw the name ‘Gbekeleoluwa’ it sounded quite funny to me. What led to your name choice for your lead character?

Lol…to be honest, nothing deep. I was talking to a friend and casually she mentioned the name (I guess she was talking to someone, I can’t really remember), in my usual fashion I made fun of the name because I found it funny. And three months later, the name just happened to grow on me.

Is there a particular message your book intends to pass across to readers?

Most definitely and it’s quite a clear one too. It’s okay to feel sad, it’s okay to feel vulnerable and sometimes you have to give yourself the room to fail. It could be anyone, we are all human, we have the right to feel down too, what really matters is how you pick yourself from that down point.

During the writing and production of ‘Masked’, is there any notable lesson learnt which you wish to share with us?

I think the most notable lesson I learnt is currently the slogan of Nike, ‘Just do it’. I’ve always loved the idea of taking the next step by publishing my works in hard copy but fear and procrastination were in love with me. Yes, even when I was writing this project and up to this point, I still felt and feel scared at some point but what kept and still keeps me going is just that phrase, “how bad could it be? I could as well JUST DO IT”. Also, I always reminded myself that I have a gift and gifts aren’t kept, they are shared. So, if there is something you want to do but because you fear it might not come out well, just do it. Allow ‘later’ worry about itself.

Working on a book project could really be challenging especially when you want it to be perfect and in your case, this is your debut, meaning the challenges were probably more. How did you cope with this? Did you have a team or how did you manage to get things together so perfectly?

You know when you just click ‘accept’ at the Terms and Conditions page without reading through then when you get in and it starts hitting you, you wish you had read the terms and conditions, right? This was me. I’ll be truthful and say if it was left to me, I would have given up on this project since the second day after I made the decision to start it. I am grateful to God for the people he brought into my life through this project, lol we might not even call ourselves a team but they were always there to do one thing or the other.

I had a string of close friends who literally became my worst critic during the writing of the book. Without considering the friendship between us, whenever they felt something sounded like rubbish to them, they will give it to me as ‘e dey hot’. I also had a great number of friends who were always there to either give an advice, their opinion and some even suggested the book title. I’m lucky to have gotten a whole village to work on this project.

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What was the level of support you got after announcing your debut novel? Was it convincing enough to keep you motivated to conclude the project?

Most definitely!!! The support kept me going. I cannot even find the right word to use in describing the level of support I got from close friends before I even made the announcement to the whole world. And when I announced publicly? That is another story entirely. The feeling is surreal. I kept getting words of encouragements from strangers I have never and might probably never meet on social media, people helped spread the message even farther than I would have expected. It’s amazing.

When is your novel set to debut and how can my friends get a copy of ‘Masked’?

Masked would debut on the 1st of October, 2019, but everyone will be able to start making pre-orders from the 16th of September, 2019 up until 25th September, 2019. And you’ll be able to get it from www.emmanuelodunfa.com (as from 16th September, 2019) and @BookPeddlersNG on Twitter and Instagram. There are several options so no one has an excuse for not getting a copy.

Let us into your private life. What’s your favorite meal, book, TV show, music and color? When you aren’t writing or working, what are you doing?

I think this is the only place my south-south origin kicks in. My Favorite food is pounded yam and vegetable soup, however, Edikainko soup has a special place in my tummy. I hardly watch tv shows and series because I really do not have the patience to wait for another week just to see whether Jack Bauer saved his wife and daughter or not. However! Recently, I have a soft spot for “La Casa De Papel” (professor!!). Black is my favorite color; just black. I do not have a preference for music, I listen to anything good.

Now, when I am not writing or working, I am either keeping the blood of a friend pumping by disturbing their peace. Other times, I am just in my own corner, thinking over something or trying to make happiness and light surround my area. I do not really have like routines of things I do when I am not working but one thing is constant, I try to be better for myself or my society and it could be by pleasure reading, helping others or just being a straight-up nuisance.

Can you share links to your previous works so that my friends can go through them and know what to expect from your desk by October 1, 2019?

Imagine yourself as the President of Nigeria for a day, what impacts would you make in 24 hours?

Hmm…this is hard, but on one side (the serious guy) I think within such a short time frame, I could focus on something realistic like passing a law to improve the daily living of an average Nigerian and probably look for a way around providing constant supply of electricity that will be implemented when my hours are up.

Now on the other side! (The unserious guy you probably know), I’ll just sell the country and give everybody their cut or put the proceeds in Cowrywise or PiggyVest and when it matures, everyone gets their share. (Genius I know).

It’s been all shades of fun interacting with you. Thanks for honoring the invitation to my platform; this was so exciting and will love to have another chat with you soon. Like you always say, Peace and Light!

Lol… Thanks for having me.

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