Author Interview: Tunmise Usikalu

Hello everyone,

Welcome to our monthly feature for authors.

The author for the month of October is Tunmise Usikalu, author of ‘Memoirs of a Lazy Korfa’. I have read and reviewed her book on this blog and you can check out my review to see if it’s something you may be interested to read.

Today’s interview will give us a sneak-peek into Tunmise’s life as a published author. I hope you enjoy reading her answers to these ten questions but first let me introduce her to you all.

So here we go…..


The Author:

Photo of Tunmise Usikalu, author Lazy Korfa

Dr. Tunmise Usikalu, is a Dentist by training with a doctorate degree in Dental Public Health from King’s College London. Interestingly, her time in Kano was what really got her interested in Public Health. Therefore, after the fantastic year she had serving in Kano, she had the opportunity to pursue postgraduate training in Dental Public Health.

A few years ago, she received a scholarship to study Dental Public Health and was subsequently awarded a doctorate for her research into ways of increasing public awareness of mouth cancer. A piece of work that has now been incorporated into the curriculum for teaching dental students at a world leading university and informs training for Dentists already in practice.

​She has worked in Research and Teaching in two of the leading Universities in that field in the UK. She is no longer in academic practice but still works in research supporting some pretty important work while maintaining her links with academia.

She is married to Olumuyiwa, her amazing husband, and they have two beautiful daughters. She is passionate about the art forms and loves writing, dancing, acting and musical theater. She also loves to cook and bake with her daughter!

This book started out as a journal she kept during the three weeks in  the NYSC orientation camp.


The Interview:

What gave you the inspiration to write your book, Memoirs of a ‘Lazy Korfa’?

Tunmise: Interestingly, I never actually set out to write a book! My book is based on the journal I kept while at National Youth Service orientation camp in Kano, Nigeria back in September of 2004. I am from Lagos and had never been up north before. So going to camp in Kano was definitely going to be an adventure for me in and of itself! As the last minute just as I was heading out, my brother suggested that perhaps I should keep a journal “since I like writing so much” and it was simply going to be my way to document my experience of it. When I returned home, I gave the journal to my brother. He read through it and again suggested that it was so good I needed to seriously consider publishing it! He said it gave such invaluable insight into life on NYSC camp which would be great for anyone who wanted to know more about Camp or just reminisce! I wasn’t entirely convinced it was good enough and had a cousin read it and he said the same, so I was slowly convinced to give it a go and I set about trying to re-write some of it to protect people’s identities and confidentialities while staying true to the events and experiences as they happened. It’s been quite the journey since then. I have dropped the manuscript allowing it to “gather dust” and then picked it up again several times over the years until a final push early in 2020 when it was finally published! I tell more about this story on my YouTube channel here

Who is your ideal reader? Who do you write for?

Tunmise: My ideal reader is the person who when they pick up a book have the mindset of being in a conversation, you know like their friend is giving them some correct gist! I have an easy-to-read, relatable, conversational way of writing. I write for people who are after a great story and want to be taken along with me on a fascinating journey as I paint a vivid picture of whatever it is that I am writing about (without them needing a dictionary. Haha!). From my experience since publication, Memoirs of a ‘Lazy Korfa’ particularly appeals to three quite distinct groups of people. The first would be those who are yet to do NYSC and are interested to know what to expect from a fellow corps member’s perspective. Secondly, it greatly appeals to those who have done NYSC previously and are looking to reminisce on their own experience of Camp and indeed NYSC in general. And finally, I always say that NYSC is such a uniquely Nigerian experience that anyone at all who is interested in knowing a bit more about Nigeria or indeed other cultures and experiences will find it a truly fascinating read!

What is the biggest surprise you experienced after becoming a writer?

Tunmise: I don’t think I can answer this quite as robustly as someone for whom being a “writer” is their day job as that isn’t the case for, at this point in time (although who knows what the future holds!). If I answer this from the point of view of publishing, then the biggest surprise for me was this “thing” called “Bookstagram” which I had no idea existed prior to publishing Memoirs of a ‘Lazy Korfa’. It was so fascinating to find this corner of the internet where people’s love of books and reading was front and centre of all they did online. For me “Bookstagram”, “Booktube” and all these communities of readers and reviewers have just made my foray into self-publishing so much more fun!

What tactics do you have when writing? (For example: outline or just write)

Tunmise: I tend to just write as it comes to me. I am not much of an outline kind of person unless I am doing academic writing, in which case it’s far easier to have an outline! But whenever I do any sort of creative writing, I tend to just write. Not always terribly effective, but the best things I write are often free flowing and are done when I simply just write!

Have you written any other books that are not yet published?

Tunmise: I do not currently have complete works awaiting publication, but I do have years and years’ worth of poems, proses and journal writings covering a vast range of real-life experiences such as faith, loss, grief, marriage and motherhood that I may someday share with the world. However, and perhaps more importantly, is that I am working on the follow-up to Memoirs of a ‘Lazy Korfa’ which will cover the rest of my NYSC year because the book just covers the 3 weeks of camp and a few days afterwards when I was trying to sort myself out at my place of primary assignment before heading back to Lagos. I love that people finish reading my book and they send me messages or DMs asking about the different people that they have read about in the book. I always get questions asking if Akan and I ended up together in the end and what became of Chizzy and Ebere. I love how invested people are in the stories! I would love to complete that cycle for everyone as best I can by doing a follow up to the book.

What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?


Tunmise: This story of how Osa and Charles met during NYSC was pretty cool to find out about in the course of interacting with Osa on Instagram. It was even more special that they would agree for it to go on the Lazy Korfa blog. Always happy to receive NYSC stories and to share on the blog so if you’re reading this and would like to share your NYSC experiences then do add yours!).

Secondly, someone who read my book sent me a DM on Instagram to say she is related to the then-DG of NYSC whom I had written about in my book! She said he was just as hilarious as I had written about and he always made them all belly-laugh whenever they were around him. I just thought it was so nice that someone that I didn’t know read about their relative in my book and “recognised” that version of the person I had written about. It may only seem a small thing, but it went a long way to validate the choice I made early on to be as true to my stories and experiences as possible and not try to embellish stories and characters beyond recognition! It was a really sweet moment!

What is your favorite part of the writing/publishing process?

 Tunmise: This has got to be right at the end of the process, the butterflies in the pit of your stomach just wondering how your “baby” will be received by readers upon publication. Those first few days after it has been published when one is unsure of how all that hard work will pan out in the end; followed by such an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the book. Memoirs of a ‘Lazy Korfa’ has received such fantastic reviews and it pleases me no end to see how much joy and laughter that people find within its pages alongside some serious food for thought. I love how people have really connected with the stories and the people and I have gained so much pleasure from some hilarious DM conversations about Akan and I, in particular!

What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life would probably surprise your readers the most?

Tunmise: Perhaps that although I am a qualified Dentist, my current day job is so far removed from the Dental world it would probably surprise very many people. I love what I do though and wouldn’t change it for the world! If the last 18 months through the pandemic has taught us anything about who we should be working for (if at all!), then it is that we need employers that value what we value. Being able to juggle life as a wife and mum to two little ones is so much more doable with God on side and with an employer that truly understands the value of family. I am grateful to have both.

Can you give any advice to someone wanting to write and publish books?

Tunmise: For me, the best “advice” I received in relation to finally getting my book published, after over 15 years of just “being unsure”, came in the form of three words – “Done over perfect”. That is the one advice I like to pass on to others and I say this as someone who is a bit of a perfectionist! What perfectionism does to you is it makes you want everything to be absolutely perfect before you launch out. However, we all know that perfection really is an illusion, so what ends up happening is that we get held back from doing things we really should be getting on with because everything isn’t yet perfect or it’s not the perfect time for it and we have not yet got all our “ducks in a row”. We make endless excuses and end up getting in our own way. My one advice is to get out of your own head, get out of your own way and get it done. Done Over Perfect. Progress Over Perfection. This is not to say there aren’t things that we must do before we launch out or that we shouldn’t strive for excellence. Far from it! But we can do those without being paralysed by an unhealthy obsession with perfection.

Finally, I came across this quote in a book I was reading in January of 2020 and what had taken me 15 years to get sorted (for a variety of reasons!) was finally done within weeks of reading that book because it ignited something in me and kicked off a chain reaction:

If writers were too wise, perhaps no books would get written at all. It might be better to ask yourself ‘Why?’ afterward than before … There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you.” ― Zora Neale Hurston

Where can we find you online?

Tunmise: Memoirs of a ‘Lazy Korfa’ is available for purchase on Okadabooks, Amazon and at bookshops, please see www.lazykorfa.com/bookshops for details of where to buy it.

You can find me on Instagram and also on Twitter as @lazykorfa. I am also on Facebook. On my YouTube channel, you will find videos of me talking about my journey, a review of 2020 and some of the lessons I learnt in relation to publishing the book and more! Finally, on my website www.lazykorfa.com I also have some “behind the book” blog posts with stories about how the book came to be as well as information on a special project we are working on called The Lazy Korfa Audio experience. 

Like I noted earlier, I also accept NYSC stories from other people who want to share their own experiences of NYSC including camp and beyond, so I look forward to reading yours soon!

Thank you!


That’s it from our author of the month and I hope you enjoyed reading her response to the questions as much as I did.

If you have any more questions, follow the links she has provided to reach out to her and she will respond to you soonest.

Cheers!


Copyright © Biyai Garricks
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Biyai Garricks, rovingbookwormng.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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