Edify Yakusak is the author of ‘After They Left’. She is also a lawyer who hails from Kaduna state. In this interview with IBRAHIM RAMALAN, Yakusak talks on the emotional and psychological effects posed by the crises in the Northern Nigeria, as portrayed in her book.
Your book, ‘After They Left’, seems like a personal account of an ordeal. Could you tell us a little more about the book?
My book is a novel, a fictional novel that centres on the insurgency in the North, specifically the North Central. Contrary to what you may have heard or perceived, the book is not a personal account of an ordeal; that either me or anyone I’ve come in contact with experienced. It is pure fiction. But to my utmost dismay, after publishing the book, I received feedback from certain persons who had read the book, saying they knew people who had experienced similar afflictions in real life. The main focus of the novel is the incessant attacks meted out on innocent and unassuming victims resident in these areas. My book chronicles the pain and hardship the perpetrators of these heinous crimes left behind, after they left. I tried as much as possible to focus my story on the people, the emotional and psychological effects these killings leave on the survivors.
What inspired you to write the book?
My inspiration for ‘After They Left’ came from various sources ranging from; insufficient literature on the subject matter, to the government’s lackadaisical attitude towards taking reasonable and sustainable decisions that would curtail these killings once and for all. But I believe what nudged me towards writing this book was the fact that my people were being killed and nothing was done to stop it, nothing concrete at least. My mum’s village is one of the villages that have been attacked, and I was deeply hurt to discover that in this day and age, a group of people can be killed in the most barbaric way and for no apparent reason, nothing is being done to stop it or at least help the victims find justice.
The title is suspense-laden. What part of the story in the book is it telling?
The title of the story is rooted in the novel itself. I don’t know how to explain without giving any spoilers, because I really wanted people to read this book. And yes! The title was deliberately chosen to keep people in suspense. So if you come in contact with the book and find yourself asking questions like:
Who left? Why are they? Why did they leave? Or what did they leave behind? The best thing is to read the book to find out.
How real are your characters and to what extent did you rely on your imagination while writing the book?
I relied solely on my imagination during the course of writing this book. That is of course except the usual research based on plausibility and other material areas a writer usually undertakes. After the novel was published, a family friend who had read the book and runs an NGO catering to the needs of IDP’s in Maiduguri told me she came across a woman with a similar story with one of the presumably fictional experiences I wrote about in my book. I was terribly distraught. In as much as, it, to a certain extent confirmed the accuracy and credibility of my work, I was heartbroken that these was the reality of millions of people across the North, a life of living in perpetual fear and apprehension; sleeping with both eyes open, because you don’t know if strange people you have never wronged in your life would come in the night and kill you and your family. I strongly believe it should be cause for National concern – the state of the insecurity in our nation. This book is a plea to the government and all persons in power to do something about these killings now.
What is the role of research in your writing and how do you write?
As a writer, the importance of research cannot be overemphasized. Even if you are writing fiction there are some facts you need to get right. You can’t say because its fiction, you creative control and it’s your story, you would provide inconsistent facts. You need to read, talk to people, conduct experiments, basically whatever is out there that would help your story and add credibility to it, you should do. In this book, there is an instance where the main character came back to her house to meet a decomposing corpse. Now, I’m not a doctor and know very little about the human anatomy, so I took to research, reading articles and materials about cadavers and decomposition, just to add a certain amount of truth to my fiction. Needless to say my Google search history during the course of writing this book was absolutely scary. On how I write, I don’t have any particular method or time for writing, I just write. I really wish I could set out a specific time every day, like say between the hours of 6 and 8 am, I will write 2000 words. But I’m just not wired like that. So I just write.
Tell us your experience while publishing your debut.
I really wish I could say it was a happy experience but it wasn’t. It was emotionally and psychologically draining. The publishing industry in Nigeria is basically non-existent and the challenges are endless, from finding a publisher, to finding a good printer, to the cost of printing – which has skyrocketed as a result of the rise in foreign exchange currencies. But I self-published, so I got to learn a lot, what to do and what not to. So, I’m hoping I would have a better experience when publishing my next novel.
How long did it take you to write your debut and what was the challenge(s)?
I completed the 1st Draft in about 3 months. But the whole novel including editing, rewriting and publishing took about a year and a half. I think my challenges are the challenges an average, upcoming writer in Nigeria faces. There are no structures to support writers and book publishing in general. Considering the Publishing industry is a million dollar industry in most countries aboard, this is an area investors and industry stakeholders should look into. Nigeria is immensely blessed with amazing writers and our stories need to be heard. Structures and distribution patterns should be drawn up and put in place, if these are done; I think I can speak for most writers when I say one of the biggest challenges would be solved.
When did you start writing and what inspired you?
I started writing at age 16. I didn’t start with novels though. I was writing movie scripts, just for fun, never even submitted or tried to produce any. It started as a hobby, that’s why I can’t place a finger on one thing that inspired me, it was just one of those things I noticed I was good at.