Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Interview with Ogo Ogbata - Author of "Egg-Larva-Pupa-Woman"

This week, enjoy my next interview with the one and only Ogo Akubue Ogbata. She's a writer, speaker and business consultant. She is also the author of the best-selling book "Egg-Larva-Pupa-Woman" published in 2009 by Priceless Books. Inspiring, hard-working and highly intelligent, Ogo is definitely making her mark on the world, so watch out for more from her in future! Enjoy our interesting conversation below:

Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a writer, speaker and consultant who’s passionate about empowering people to make the most of their creative talent and overall potential. When I’m not writing fiction or non-fiction, I run a company called ‘Creativity and Sense LLC’. We help professional individuals and organisations (for instance, businesses and communities) get to the next level by combining their creativity with business sense. Although I live in the UK, I am from Enugu State in Nigeria. Egg-Larva-Pupa-Woman is my first novel.

How long have you been writing?
Since the age of 4 or so. I still remember penning very sketchy stories whilst in nursery school.

Tell us a bit about the book; Egg-Larva-Pupa-Woman.
Egg-Larva-Pupa-Woman is an inspirational, albeit heart-wrenching tale, of a remarkable young woman who dares to defy the odds (economically, emotionally and socially) to become who she is destined to be. This woman’s incredible story is juxtaposed with the struggles of her motherland – Nigeria (a personality that is also striving to rise above her past and achieve greatness). Do they have what it takes to succeed? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out! I enjoy stories about people who refuse to be victims and Egg-Larva-Pupa-Woman has that in abundance. The ‘survival’ theme is topical because we live in challenging times and people want to be inspired and empowered to overcome their obstacles.

What inspired you to write this book?
I was inspired (by the ongoing debate over Nigeria’s validity and survival prospects) to create an intimate portrait of a woman who defies all odds economically, emotionally and socially - a woman who is sculpted by the unpleasant circumstances of life into a breathing work of art. Of recent, there have not been many dynamic, high achieving, female characters in African fiction and we need those iconic, fully fleshed out characters to inspire us as a people. The protagonist, Nkiru, meets the need for such a character. She is kind, witty, enterprising and beautiful but most of all she is a survivor. This determined disposition is what Africa and the world needs now.

Who are your favourite characters in the book?
I have so many favourite characters in this novel, especially the protagonist, Nkiru, who displays such strength, mystery and complexity. Other favourite characters are: Ejimonye (who shows ‘the African husband’ in a refreshingly different light), Dubem (for being hilariously vile), Nonso (for her childlike vulnerability), Eze Nwodo (for his larger than life persona) and Naomi (because she became the mirror image the protagonist had to confront in the end...).

What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Killing off one of the characters left me feeling gutted for days. It was also difficult to move on after I’d finished writing the story because I’d had such a delightful experience. I kept thinking about the characters and wishing I could re-enter their world. I don’t think I will be writing a sequel though.

How did you come up with the title?
I’ve wanted to write a novel titled Egg-Larva-Pupa-Woman for ages! I was intrigued by the metamorphosis that butterflies undergo, so my curious observations inspired the title which then birthed the story - perhaps subconsciously over a number of years.

Did you have to do a lot of research to fill in the background details?
I certainly carried out a lot of research for Egg-Larva-Pupa-Woman and drew from the well of personal and collective experience too. I researched the book intensely by raiding historical archives, talking to helpful people and examining photographs. Reading works set in the colonial era helped me capture the tempo of the times. The Nigerian High Commission in London was helpful. Imagination filled in the gaps.

What response have you received from readers of the book so far?
The response has been heart-warming, to say the least. I’ve had people writing to tell me that they stayed up until four ‘o’ clock in the morning (during a working week!) just because they simply couldn’t put the book down. A deaconess told me that she skipped church once because she was so engrossed in the story. Now, I don’t want people skipping church but there you go... Egg-Larva-Pupa-Woman is getting people to think and rethink Nigeria as well as confront the challenges in their own lives.

What are the challenges you encountered in writing and publishing the book?
The biggest challenge was probably getting out of my own way. Indeed, some of the challenges we face whilst pursuing our goals are self sponsored. When we’re really ready to make something happen, we buckle down and ‘make it happen’ against all odds.

What lesson(s) would you want readers to take away from the book?
I hope my readers will be inspired to defy the odds in their own lives - economically, emotionally and socially. Although the essential theme that cuts through the story is 'defiance' several topical issues are explored in Egg-Larva-Pupa-Woman, for instance, love and loss, mother-daughter relationships, domestic violence, child labour, political corruption and entrepreneurship. So I believe that people from all strata of society will find a topic or two that will resonate with them and be inspired to facilitate change.

Who are your writing heroes?
I don’t have any writing heroes in particular. I admire a huge host of writers for all different reasons. As a child I read a great deal of the African Writers Series - works by Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, Chinua Achebe, Peter Abrahams and many more.

What inspires you as a writer?

What book(s) are you reading now?
The Songs of Solomon.

What skills have been particularly helpful in your writing?
I enjoyed doing the research for Egg-Larva-Pupa-Woman, working closely with the art professor who designed the stunning book cover and even playing my part to get the word out about the debut novel. Creativity and business sense should of necessity go hand in hand so I want to take hold of my destiny by being proactive about the business side of writing.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learnt how pleasurable writing can be! I’ve been writing my whole life and never had so much fun as I did with this novel. It was an absolute joy and the story literarily flowed out of my fingertips. I would encourage everyone who has a creative talent not to bury it but rather to hone and share it with others.

What are your views about the current changes in the publishing industry?
Change is a good thing - it’s not always easy to face but there are lessons to learn when change comes knocking. I think that the writers who will thrive henceforth are those who know how to put their business hat on when necessary - writers who are not too ‘artistic’ to get involved with marketing or too busy to get out there and build relationships with others in the industry.

Apart from writing, what else do you do?
Asides the writing, I deliver training, coaching and consulting services to individuals and organisations that want to maximise their creative talents and overall potential. I do public speaking both on writing specific topics as well as empowering topics suited to women, ethnic/community, corporate and business audiences. My core specialty is helping professional individuals and organisations to identify their creative talents and fulfil their unique purpose.

What are your current projects? Are you working on your next book?
On the 22nd of July, I am hosting ‘Inspiration for Change’ in the City of London! ‘Inspiration for Change’ is basically a series of empowering events inspired by the novel Egg-Larva-Pupa-Woman. I plan to take this event to Nigeria and other parts of the world in due course. To find out more, please visit: http://www.elpwoman.com/change   - I am also plotting away at the next novel!

What advice can you give to other aspiring authors?
Life is short and talent is a precious thing to waste.

Where can we get a copy of the book?
Go get unautographed copies of the book from top online bookstores like Amazon, WHSmith, Barnes and Noble etc. ‘Autographed’ copies can be purchased from the book’s website: www.elpwoman.com

Where can find out more about you and your work?
Thank you so much for your interest. Please go to my website: www.ogoogbata.com

Thanks for doing this interview Ogo, and I wish you all the very best in future.

Friday, June 04, 2010


In other news:

I've started working on a new novel. My previous WIP manuscript has gone up in smoke. While it was a painful decision to throw it away, I have had time to reflect on it and I reckon, no knowledge is wasted. I've learnt a lot while writing it and I dare say, that my writing has improved. I may return to it much later in the future, but I would have to do so much work to edit it, that I fear it may not be worth the trouble.

Myself and some of my fellow writers (of the In My Dreams It was Simpler series) were interviewed for The Mantle. It was a fun experience, and we were thrilled to be approached by Shaun Randol, the Senior Editor to do a joint interview. You can read the two parts of the interview by clicking the links below:

The Mantle Interview (Part 1)
The Mantle Interview (Part 2)

I've got a feature in this month's edition of Reconnect Africa Magazine, also based on the series book. It turned out really interesting, so do check it out here:

Feature on ReConnect Africa

And finally, our group blog In My Dreams It Was Simpler has been nominated in three categories for the 2010 Nigerian Blog Awards! If you haven't already, head over to the Nigerian Blog Awards link right now to vote for us! We are in the Best Group or Collaborative Blog, Best Writing or Book Blog, and the Nigerian Blog of the Year categories. We are up against some tough competition, but it's great that we got recognised for our work! Do pop over there now to cast your vote. For us, of course. LOL

Have a lovely weekend and a blessed month!


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Short Story - Regrets

I was sitting at the table closest to the door of the busy café with John. He was talking enthusiastically about the concert and how wonderful it had been. I tried to pay attention to him, following his excited hand gestures with my eyes, but not registering what his moving lips were saying.

A group of young ladies walked into the café and I recognised them immediately. Just about an hour ago, I had been sitting with John in the impressive Royal Albert Hall, watching and listening to them play. John had bought us tickets to see the famous orchestra to celebrate our twenty-sixth wedding anniversary.

“What did you think about the show, Margaret?” I finally heard him ask. He was looking at me with questioning eyes. I looked at him, taking in his blue eyes, chiselled face and greying beard.

“I enjoyed every minute of it dear” I replied, pasting a smile on my face, but once again I was drawn to the group of young ladies ordering their coffees at the counter. I watched them talking and smiling amongst each other. One of them was holding a violin case that caught my attention. She looked like she was twenty years old – her face glowed with youth and pride. I remembered she had caught my eye during the concert as she played her violin. I stared at her with a feeling of awe and envy, for she reminded me of myself when I was her age.

I could have been playing the violin at impressive concert venues too, I thought to myself, if I had made the right choices thirty years ago. Instead I had wasted my musical talents pursuing frivolous goals. Now I’m condemned to sit in the audience and applaud. I would never take to the stage myself and receive applause.

I heard John saying something about another cup of coffee.

“Sorry?” I asked.

“Do you want another cup of tea, Margaret?”

I shook my head. “No I’m okay, thank you”

I watched John as he walked to the counter. Then I looked at the young girl again and I wanted to relive my life.