Ola Laniyan Shares her Passions, Beginnings and Ambitions.
Ola Laniyan like most writers, have probably not got to the level of hysterical fame, but every good film needs a good story, and every good story needs a wonderful and excellent writer. That is who Ola Laniyan is. An outstanding writer. The UK based writer and founder of the publishing house Urbantopia, recently forayed into writing for the screen and other forms of productions, and it seems she is having a good time with it. Ola, a mother and educationist was one of the co-writers of Unspoken (a short film), and she also has another project in production called Tearful Dancer. Ola shares with us, on her passions, how she started and here ambitions.
How is life as a mother, writer and educationist?
Life is hectic but thoroughly enjoyable. I love being busy and having so many activities keeps me happy. As a working mother, you have to learn to juggle so many things but it is something I enjoy doing and I feel blessed to be healthy enough to do these things.
Urbantopia, how did you come about the concept and the name? I have always loved writing and my mission was to get my work published. However, upon completing my first adult novel, I found it impossible to even get any publisher to look at my work. I searched for publishers who were publishing books written by and for ethnic minorities and there appeared to be none. Most of the big houses only wanted to publish books where ethnic minorities were in some kind of suffering (war, poverty). They had no interest in publishing books with real life characters that working British people of African descent like myself could identify with. As a result of my frustration I started Urbantopia – to publish myself and other writers. Urbantopia came about because I publish ‘urban’ books and utopia’ is a paradise, so I combined the two concepts.
What keeps you going? What makes you push on despite the strain of the job? My frustration keeps me going as well as my passion for writing. I am frustrated by the fact that many writers’ work go unpublished because they have no platform. In addition, I enjoy writing and my passion keeps me going.
The transition from producing books for the bookshelf to producing stories for the screen, how did you come about it?
After writing four books, I wanted to write for a different purpose. I was eager to develop my skills as a writer and so turned to writing for screen.
Unspoken. What was the experience like?
Absolutely amazing! Thinking of a concept and watching it play out in front of you is a brilliant accomplishment. When you are writing, you see images in your head and you wonder how people will view your work. The actors translated the script beautifully and the public response has been a validation that Unspoken is a great concept.
You have a new work in production Tearful Dancer, tell us about it.
I have a passion for dance. Tearful Dancer is a film about domestic violence and how a young girl uses dance as her escape from a terrible home life. Tearful Dancer originally started out as a book.
So now that you have got a good taste of film production, will you continue? I have got a delicious taste for it and with God’s grace I shall definitely continue.
Ever thought of featuring in one of your productions? No I haven’t. I am a writer, a behind the scene kind of lady and I think I will stay that way.
You have spent only 7 years of your life in Africa (Nigeria), you went back to the UK at the tender age of 8. How do you find a way to connect with your African readers and audience? The world is such a small place now. Reconnecting with Africa is so easy due to the birth of the internet. It is not a place of wonder and people here and in Africa are not very different from one another.I do visit Nigeria at times so physically, I am there reconnecting all the time.
Do you see yourself packing up and deciding to relocate to Nigeria?
I do. One day, I will. Nigeria is home and one day I will return home.
Back to Unspoken. Unspoken has a certain psychological twist in it. Is this due to you background in psychology? Do all your work explore psychological themes?
Unspoken has got a psychological twist but this was not due to my background. More a result of our interest in discussing social issues that are seen as taboo in African counties. I love interesting, unpredictable dramas and I always try to write along those lines.
Four published books so far. How many more should we expect?
To be honest, I don’t know. I pray to write many more.
In how many years’ time do you see yourself winning the Nobel Laureate for literature?
Any unaccomplished dreams?
1. To fall in love.
2. To write an international television series.
Any guilty pleasures?
How do you relax after months of working around the clock?
I go on holiday with my family.
What do you regret the most?
I am too young for regret. Everything that has happened in my life has been a learning curb and a growing experience. I have no regrets.
Greatest accomplishment yet?
International TV series.
Who do you wish to work with?
Idris Alba, Tyler Perry, Genevieve Nnaji and Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde.
Your role models?
My mum. My sister. They are strong women who work hard and fight for what they believe. They are my rock and stone and they hold me up when I am weak.
If you were to bring back a great person to life who would you choose?
Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.
Haven’t found it yet.
Favourite music genre and artists?
I love music full stop. I don’t have any favourite as I am a mood person. What I listen to is all mood dependent.
My white dress.
Red and blue.
Sum up Nigeria and the Nigerian movie industry in one sentence.
In one word describe yourself?
Okay, choose another word that describes you?
Encouraging words for aspiring writers?
Write! Don’t let anyone put you off. Remember one man’s meat is another man’s poison. One person may hate your work while one person loves it. Believe in your work and do what comes from your heart.
Ola Quick Facts
– Though she spent the first 7 years of her life in Nigeria, she was actually born in England.
– She is an educationist; a teacher in a primary school.
– She has not only a first degree in Psychology, but also a Masters’ degree in Occupational Psychology.
– She completed her first novel at the age of 17.
– She is an owl (works all night).
Interviewed by Innocent Ekejiuba.
Pictures courtesy of Ola Laniyan.