My sour tale of war victims –Ada Agbasimalo
Thursday, January 26, 2012

•Ada Agbasimalo

War is never an antidote or the best way to resolve issues. This is because war usually has its negative consequences on society. In her new book, The Forest Dames, Ada Agbasimalo, educates readers on her war experiences that must be told to free the mind and prick the conscience of the agitators.

Agbasimalo has written two books entitled Bow You Must and Waves of Destiny which draws the attention of the reader to male/female relations aside exploring avenues to set it right by creating room and space. The books both paint the picture of the strength of womanhood, oftentimes undermined.

In a recent chat with Daily Sun, Agbasimalo spoke on why she went into self-publishing, how she copes with writer’s block and the kind of words she uses in her works.

My new book
The Forest Dames is a novel based on war experiences that must be told in order to free the mind, disseminate information and prick the conscience of war agitators. It is a true life story that was fictionalized.
The book tells the story of a young girl who lived with her parents in the relatively calm and peaceful British colony of Nigeria, where shortly after independence compatriots went for each other’s throats. This soon exploded into a full blown civil war and from that time onwards, nothing was ever the same again.

The war came with ugly incidences, one of which was the hunt for and abduction of girls and women to be forcibly converted to bed-mates. Families sought hiding places for their ‘eligible’ females but these hide-outs were soon discovered through the power of and intimidation from the gun. Two women however decided that their daughters would never be made victims. They found a ‘safe haven’ for their daughters – the evil forest where the roars of wild animals were continually heard. But this is nothing compared to the brutal termination of lives and wanton destruction of properties through air, land and marine attacks; including starvation that was the order of the day, and which placed the final death mark on the people.

The forest dames, four in number, survived the war and one of them decides to tell the unfortunate story of the elasticity of human suffering. All four dames are still alive and can be reached for further interactions. One of the brave mothers is also still living. The main character is Deze, a young girl with keen mind who lived with her parents in an African setting and observed the Biafran war between the late 60s and early 1970. Upon becoming an adult, the memories remain intact, haunting her.
The Forest Dames is astrident voice detailing and condemning potentially malignant actions that continue to impede the development of African nations and indeed parts of the Third World…

Why I went into self-publishing
My first two books were equally self-published. I think the question should be ‘why did you publish abroad? My first two books were ill-published and as a result received less attention than they deserved. Furthermore the publishing and marketing strategies were faulty.

This time the book is so finely published that it is delightful to hold and read. It is clean and properly aligned and bound; unlike my first book where sometimes page 40 comes before page 19 and some pages are upside down, while others are blank; and the printing blotted. It was very embarrassing. Anyway the book was published in 1999 and I think that by now things must have changed. Let no one get me wrong, I don’t mean that there are no great publishers in Nigeria; I was just not fortunate enough to get their attention. And you know what they say about being once beaten and doubly shy.

My previous books
My first two books are entitled Bow You Must (1999) and Waves of Destiny, (2006). They both draw attention to male/female relations and explore avenues of creating room and space for all because as it is said, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. The books paint the picture of the strengths of womanhood, oftentimes undermined. Since I have been told by many that they are very good books, I am republishing them. I have retouched them and will soon get them republished because people are actually calling for those books.

The same drive that inspired me to write my first two books – passion. But there are many interestingly incredible and intriguing things that happened in the past in Nigeria that must not be waved away with the hand. For knowledge sake, it is only fair to allow those who do not know to know. Several stories have been told about the strategies and logistics of the civil war fought in Nigeria before many were born. Several people have read them but not many stories exist in book form about what happened at home while the war raged at the battle grounds. A lot of the stories are based on hearsay but when one emerges from a situation and decides to narrate the experience, it is usually different, and if the narrator happens to be so strong-willed as to promise herself that she would not like to depart mother earth without letting the world have a different dimension of the story, then that becomes the big reason behind writing the book.

Why it took me some years before coming up with a new book
I wanted the book to be well cooked, well brewed, if you like. I really hope I achieved that. Also there was a lot of back and forth movements between me and the publishers. Some of my editors delayed the book and sometimes I needed to confirm some issues before going further while at other times the manuscript had to be retrieved for modification. All these contributed and besides, I was tied down somewhere and had little or no time to attend to my book matters. Thank Goodness I got free and focused on my book, and here it is. It is on, Barnes and Noble and several other online marketers.

My target audience in the Forest Dames
My work is classified under the adult category, as opposed to children’s books. But my work is so clean that young adults and teenagers can read and understand it. My target audience therefore is every literate adult. The Forest Dames is targeted at everybody who wants to know why war is not an option or alternative and why we must flee from the idea of war. Since everybody is expected to know, the book is targeted at everybody, virtually.

Choice of words in the new book
I said earlier that even young adults can read my books. This is because they are written in a fluid, simple and proper grammatical format. It is standard but if some however find the need to consult their dictionary to understand certain portions, it is all part of the merit of the book and that aids the learning process.

Advice to upcoming writers
Do not be in a hurry. Do not venture into areas you know nothing about. Do not steal other people’s ideas, be original and if you do borrow any one’s ideas, be humble enough to acknowledge them. Even after your book has been reviewed, read it again, in between lines because it is your book, you know what you mean in everything you write. Avoid ambiguity and repetitions. Keep it simple, It is not true that the bigger the grammar, the better for the book. Do not set out writing for money, write for satisfaction first then fame and money can come later. Identify with other writers and ask questions when you don’t understand. Do not procrastinate, start now.

How I cope with writer’s block
Writer’s bock is inevitable, even when you are writing about something you have on your finger tips. When it happens to me, I literarily close shop for a while. In the interim, I watch stupid films to unwind, I read other people’s books, I play and dance to my favorite music, crack jokes and just feel happy all the way. Sometimes I keep away from writing for months and that also causes delay in completing the work. Writer’s block is good because it forces the writer to slow down a bit.

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