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What surprises me about ‘Dear Alaere’ – Eriye

Eriye Onagoruwa is an energy executive with extensive experience in the oil and gas sector. She is a creative writer, author and financial literacy expert.…

Eriye Onagoruwa is an energy executive with extensive experience in the oil and gas sector. She is a creative writer, author and financial literacy expert. ‘Dear Alaere’ is her first fictional book and is well received. She is based in Lagos but spoke to Daily Trust Saturday on the fringe of Beeta Art Festival in Abuja. She speaks on her next move as an author and the dangers of women thinking they can be superwomen. 

Where does writing ‘Dear Alaere’ leave you?

I am looking to doing more. To write more books but more importantly, it is not just writing because I want to write books, I want to write books that pass thematic messages. Messages that are relevant to society and the things that are happening in society. Writing ‘Dear Alaere’ has left me with a desire to contribute to the solutions that are so badly needed in society. Looking at it and doing it from the creative point of view.  

Do you think the book has helped in tackling the identified social vices identified in it?  

I must say it has brought a renewed level of awareness and consciousness. People are more open to talking about issues in the workplace. A lot of people go through different things in their workplaces and it is interesting to find a book that actually dissects and looks critically at work, office politics. The book looks at the office even as a metaphor for Nigeria.

Are you concerned with the perceived poor reading culture of Nigerians especially when some people believe the best place to hide things from Nigerians, Africans is in a book?

Nigerians have moved from that to a large extent. There are people that are not given to reading, some people do not even read manuals when they buy some things and there is a manual there. Nobody takes time to read it. But by and large, we are not at that stage where you want to hide something and you just put it in a book and nobody is going to read it. That is why we have more literary societies, more reading clubs, more art festivals a lot of people are becoming more book conscious.

There are concerns about how people receive or relate to female authors, are you bothered in any way with this?

I do not have an honest answer to that because I have not experienced that. But I cannot use my answer as a yardstick because some people may have experienced it. So, it will be unfair to rubbish their experience, but I personally haven’t experienced.

And the reception, reviews of the book?

I will start more from the reception; I am very worried about reviews. Reviews are fickle and when you put creative work out there it is subject to all kinds of interpretations. What is more important is the acceptance, and I would say people have been very accepting of ‘Dear Alaere.’ I have enjoyed the discourse; I think that is more important. I am happy with the acceptance. I am happy that people see a bit of themselves in ‘Dear Alaere.’ I am happy that people can relate to the issues because when I set out to write it, for me the office and the entire daily life commute, back and forth, was just a microcosm for Nigeria and what it really means to live in Lagos. It took me from the first draft about six months and you know the real work starts when you are doing the editing and that takes about 18 months but the first draft was done in six months.

Does that mean your fans should be expecting something very soon?

Yes. I am hopeful that I can bring out one soon.

Another thrilling fiction?

I really don’t know. I started out doing a collection of short stories and I found again that I was drawn to women and the reality that we face, and face so much time masking, I was drawn to stories like that and so we would see what it holds.

How do you cope with all your responsibilities as a wife, mother, and author?

I am very intentional about whatever role I am playing and whatever time I am playing it. I am here today as an author; I have left my kids in Lagos. I want to be intentional about the role I am supposed to play today and when I am back at home, I am back at home as a wife, mother, and being intentional as well. I tried to compartmentalize all these roles and just be intentional about giving every one of them my best. Without a doubt, we women give ourselves enough credits for the things we can do, things we do and the things we achieve. I also think society places an unfair burden on women by not appreciating them well enough by thinking that the things they do come seamlessly, naturally. I think that society can do more in appreciating women.  

How should women handle this?

They should speak more and have more support circles where they can speak up more. We should understand our strengths and play more to our strengths. We should also understand our weaknesses and do not try to be a superwoman. At the end of the day, there is really no medal for being a superwoman. The best you get is a medal for being the best version of yourself. She does not necessarily have to be a superwoman but somebody that plays to her strength.

What can women take away from the character of ‘Dear Alaere’

I see a character that is very resilient, goes to work with her whole self, is vulnerable and wants to give her best. She is very intellectual; I see a lady who wants to live her best life and wants to put her best foot forward irrespective of what life throws at her.  Women should be intentional about their lives. Live life on your terms. When life brings its challenges and there would be challenges, cry, talk, but live your best life. Be the best version of yourself, there will always be challenges. We should learn to be intentional about taking each day and living our best lives.

What surprises about the book?

I have never thought about that. I think it is just the different interpretations that people brought to ‘Dear Alaere’ that I never thought about when I was writing. As a creative, when you create something, it is totally out of your hand how people interpret it. I have been shocked at some of the interpretations. It has been surprising.

Are you expecting Dear Alaere to end up like Swallow that was adapted in a movie?

I do not know when but I am confident that ‘Dear Alaere’ will be a movie and it will be a movie worth watching.

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