This week, I caught up with the remarkable and fascinating Seyi Sandra David. Seyi is the best-selling author of ‘The Impossible President’, ‘The Feet of Darkness’ and ‘Tales of Five Lies’, and is also a regular columnist for the London based publication ‘Black Heritage Today’. She is one of the few popular authors who have made the transition from mainstream to independent publishing, making her outlook invaluable to the independent publishing community.
In addition to all of this, I personally am a big fan of her blog and her prose, and couldn’t be happier about an opportunity to get to know her better. So, without further ado, here’s my interview with Seyi Sandra David.
What first made you want to become a writer/author?
“I love that very straightforward question. I (have) loved to string words together (for) as long as I could remember. I realized from a very young age that I have a hyperactive imagination. I wrote my first work of fiction at the age of thirteen though it was not published. My dad gave the manuscript to a publishing company and the company thought it was a plagiarized copy, their refusal dented my enthusiasm a bit but I continued regardless and went on to college, then (to) university to get a degree in English language. There was never any doubt in my mind that I wanted to be a published author because the stories just kept coming.”
What is your single most pleasant memory as a professional writer?
“I have a huge grin on my face now with the memory. My single (most) pleasant memory as a professional writer was the day I held my first novel in my hand. I was ecstatic with joy when my publisher sent the ‘The Impossible President‘ to me at home. It was no longer in scribbles on my notepad, and then it hit me with a bang; I am now a professional writer, it was also a sobering moment, I knew there was no going back, I’ve entered the cult of the novelist, it is a lifelong calling.”
As an experienced writer who has published within a variety of fiction genres, as well as working as a columnist and a dedicated blogger, how difficult have you found transitions between writing styles in your work?
“I am like an actor; I know how to switch roles easily, though I have to confess that my editor, Barbara Campbell (Black Heritage Today) used to joke that I should not write a report with the intro of a thriller. My style of writing conformed totally to the in-house style of the magazine, at the back of my mind I know I am now a columnist, not blogging and neither writing a scene in a novel. It just flows easily and when I am blogging, I switch on to what I call ‘friendship mode‘, since I am practically aiming my content at friends. I also write many short stories to illustrate my points so the writing styles are easy to navigate though somewhat interwoven together.
“On my works of fiction, the story flowed with the plot, just like Jeffrey Archer, my prose is easy flowing with no complications. Sometimes, I do have a plot line for a story but once I start typing, the characters usually have a life of their own and events are played out smoothly. I write supernatural and psychological thrillers (The Feet Of Darkness and Tales Of Five Lies). I have also dabbled into what I call ‘political fiction’ with the publication of ‘The Impossible President‘. I have to confess that I do not find it difficult and I am going off track (at all), my editor is like a mother hen who can quickly put me back.”
How important a role do you feel your life experiences have played in developing your literary voice, in the fields of both fiction and non-fiction? What life events have been most defining?
“While growing up in Nigeria, I hated the way men treat women as second fiddle or as childbearing machines. I had always believed women have the innate ability to do anything they set their minds to do. My first novel, ‘The Impossible President’ was born out of the desire to see a woman installed as the president of Nigeria. It was my vision and it played out in the story as the major character, Sharon Nwosu, scaled through life threatening hurdles to emerge as a force to be reckoned with in Nigerian political landscape.
“I have seen women beaten by their husbands and the society accepted it as normal but I hated it and I was not afraid to voice my opinions. I was also a reporter with ‘People’s Advocate’ then, a local newspaper and that gave me a platform to develop my literary voice. When I moved over to the UK, I wrote ‘The Feet Of Darkness‘. I was appalled by the religious trap people find themselves, the trap of killing innocent people to gain acceptance in paradise (suicide bombers). I tried to find the balance between proper religion and the supernatural and I found out that the greatest belief on earth is love, hence the subtitle of ‘The Feet Of Darkness’ is ‘Can Love Overcome Darkness?’ The London underground bombing of 2005 was a defining moment in my career, I am a Christian and the deaths of so many commuters were unjustified and immoral. In ‘The Feet Of Darkness‘, I tried to reason with a suicide bomber, what prompted such a drastic life decision where he believes killing innocent people was the right decision towards martyrdom or glory.”
As someone who has recently re-edited and re-published ‘The Feet of Darkness’, how important do you think efficient editing is within both the independent and mainstream publishing industries?
“It cannot be overemphasized, efficient editing is the backbone of a book and no matter the message inherent in the book, if it was riddled with mistakes the message could be lost. Both the independent and mainstream publishing industries are aware of the importance of proper editing hence you can see a published work with three or four editions. Once they noticed a mistake, the proper thing to do would be to withdraw such books from circulation and rectify such mistakes. Although, you will rarely see a publishing company admit to a mistake in their books, they can colourfully describe it as an abridged version (another word for edited).
“‘The Feet Of Darkness’ was re-edited and republished by Arrow Gate a London based publishing company. My first publisher, Author House UK did not live up to its promises; they did not market the book to its full potential.”
If you were stranded on a desert island and you could only take any one board game with you, what would it be (bearing in mind that there’s no one else to play with on the island)?
“I would take Chess with me, it is a game of thinkers and it would help me think of another compelling story.”
Seyi’s blog can be found here – SeyiSandraDavid.org
Seyi’s book, ‘The Feet of Darkness’, which has recently been re-released, can be found on Amazon.com here – The Feet of Darkness – Amazon.com
And Seyi’s collection of short stories, ‘Tales of Five Lies’ can be found here – Tales of Five Lies – Amazon.com