It’s Thursday and it’s time for another #WriterSpotlight feature! Today we have Akinola Ajani who is the author of the first Nigerian counter-terrorism novel. How cool is that? What’s more amazing is the fact that his books are sold in popular bookstores across the UK like Waterstones and WH Smith. We don’t know about you but we were definitely eager to find out how he was able to achieve this. He bares it all in his interview with us!
Hello Akinola, please introduce yourself.
I’m Akinola Ajani, a Nigerian author, freelance writer, and poet, the author of Nigeria’s first counter-terrorism novel Operation Game Change published in March 2014.
When did you start writing and how has your writing evolved over the years?
I started writing when I was eleven years old. Most of the stories were fables told to me by my grandfather who was a master storyteller. I honed my craft over the years, improving my creative imagination and my understanding of the language through constant practice. I started out writing about past events and personal experiences but I’m more of a fiction writer now as I find more fulfillment in exploring the boundless limits of my imagination
How rewarding has writing been for you?
Writing has been quite rewarding, there are lots of opportunities to work as a freelance writer and earn a substantial income. There are domestic and international contests with attractive prizes and strategic publishing with the right marketing angle can yield amazing rewards financially. Being a writer means that you must continue to reinvent yourself, what it means to be a writer today is a lot different from what it meant a decade ago.
Do you think you were born to be a writer?
I would say I was born to be a writer but it’s not that straightforward. Writing is not just a profession, it is a calling. There is a strong bond between myself and my pen, so profound that nothing can get in the way.
Your book ‘Operation Game Change’ is a counter-terrorism novel. Why did you choose to write on this subject?
Operation Game Change is Nigeria’s first counter-terrorism novel and I wrote it at a time when Nigeria was struggling to cope with the scourge of terrorism in the north-east. As a country, we had little experience in dealing with terrorists and we found ourselves in an embarrassing situation with terrorists able to hit targets that were hitherto thought to be secure. We didn’t respond well because we didn’t know how to. Our armed forces are better suited to open warfare against known enemies and terrorism is the direct opposite. Terrorists fare better in urban warfare, small unit tactics and covert operations. I looked at the situation and saw the need to take a page out of the sustained counter-terrorism campaigns carried out by the countries like the United States in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, disaster. The role of technology in fighting corruption cannot be overemphasized as it helps to gather intel and stay one step ahead of the enemy. In Operation Game Change, I proffered solutions to the menace of terrorism and pointed out some of the angles that require more attention as far as Nigeria’s counter-terrorism strategy is concerned
How has the reception for your book been?
The book has been well received in some quarters but domestically, the reception leaves quite a lot to be desired. Operation Game Change was well received in France and the United Kingdom and I have positive feedback from fans in those regions.
How much did reading help shape your love for writing?
Reading has played perhaps the biggest role in my writing career to date. There is a lesson in every story, every writer shares a piece of their soul in their stories and that can open your eyes to better create your own. A book allows you to go into the writer’s mind and marvel at their creativity while picking up bits that can help you write in a different way or improve your understanding of grammar, expand your vocabulary or give you a better picture of certain things that you can call on from your subconscious when you’re writing. I feel compelled to try to write stories as compelling and engaging as some of the books I have read and I’m still trying to outdo some of my role models.
Tell us three ways social media has helped your writing career?
Social media has helped my writing career in a number of ways. It gives me access to platforms where I can meet other writers and form short-term and long-term professional relationships. It also provides avenues to learn more about writing on relevant blogs and websites. It serves as an information hub where I learn about current writing contests, freelance writing opportunities, and publishing packages.
What do you love most about being an author?
Being an author gives me the opportunity to talk about my book and its subject matter on many online and offline platforms. It is a privilege to be regarded as an expert on a particular issue and a lot of people are willing to listen to what I have to say about terrorism in Nigeria and writing in general. It also opens doors to connect with other authors.
How easy was it for you to find a publisher and what was your experience like?
It was quite easy to find a publisher as I belong to an international writing platform that makes it easy to reach publishers. The experience was quite interesting as it opened my eyes to the inner workings of professional publishing. I had a consultant for every aspect of the book from interior design to marketing, cover creation, and final printing.
Who are your favourite authors and why?
My favourite authors are Mario Puzo, Nora Roberts, and Chimamanda Adichie. Mario Puzo’s books depict an intriguing yet undeniably dangerous time in history and his masterful storytelling transforms the Italian mafia from a criminal cartel to a folklore reference point. Nora Roberts writes with the ease of a graceful Olympic swimmer, she maintains the flow from beginning to the end. Chimamanda Adichie’s wit is as impressive as her courage and undeniable fondness for her roots and the stories that make Africa what it truly is.
What has writing taught you?
Writing shows me that I can live twice; in the moment and in retrospect. I can live three, four lives in the same story and end up dead in all of them. It taught me that I can’t control a story entirely without the characters getting in the way. Writing also showed me that words can make you feel things you didn’t even know existed. You can close your eyes to the things you don’t want to see but you can’t close your heart, your feelings know you better than anything else.
If you could change three things about Nigeria through your pen what would they be?
If I could change three things with my pen in Nigeria, I would say Domestic Violence, Child Abuse, and Corruption.
What do you love about The Sparkle Writers Hub?
The Sparkle Writers Hub is a platform that constantly seeks to improve writers by exposing them to the various aspects of the profession. It brings writers closer to their writing goals and encourages them to keep going despite the odds against them. Its mission is to equip writers as much as possible to enable them to maximise the rewards and opportunities available in the writing profession.
What’s your advice to somebody who loves to write but doesn’t know how to start?
It is important to remember that there will always be better writers out there but nobody else has lived your life and the world deserves to hear your story. Writing requires courage and sometimes, self-doubt is a difficult obstacle to surmount but we’re all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master and that includes you.
Akinola’s book, Operation Game Change, can be purchased from Barnes and Noble, Waterstones, Ebay, Indigo, WH Smith, and Amazon.
If you know any writer who you feel should be featured on our #WriterSpotlight segment or you are that writer, please send an email to [email protected].