Quick Chat With The Author… is a weekly OkadaBooks series that spotlights indigenous authors, amplifies their voices, and gives character and depth to the brains behind the amazing stories our readers have come to love on the OkadaBooks mobile app. Check back for new episodes Wednesdays at 12 noon.
It’s difficult to not notice Larry Sun has an easy way with words – it’s probably one of the first things you’d notice about him. But apart from that fancy part of this writer who, over the years, has had the court of public opinion on his side is a man who is learned and passionate about his growth. It’s another great episode; let’s dive in!
Hi, Larry. Briefly introduce yourself
My full name is Olanrewaju Oluwadamilola Sunmola. I coined the pseudonym ‘Larry Sun’ from the first and last names. I was born on July 1, 1986. I have been writing seriously for the past fifteen years. My first book The Brand of Cain was what made me believe that I could actually write professionally. Many people who know me associate the name ‘Larry Sun’ with The Brand of Cain. Since I wrote and published my first book in 2010, I have also published eight novels and over fifty short stories. Currently, I am writing the final book in the Black Maria series, which has remained one of my most challenging projects.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? Tell me a little about it.
Actually, I started considering writing when I was 17-years-old, and I wrote a couple of stories then, but the plotting and every other aspect of those stories were juvenile. Having said this, I consider The Brand of Cain my first story. I wrote the story as a challenge to myself. While growing up, I read a lot of novels. I plowed through different genres but discovered that I enjoyed detective novels more than any other – perhaps because they always challenged my astuteness. I read as many detective novels as I could lay my hands on. It got to a stage where I started believing that I could actually write a better story than many of the ones I read, hence my decision to write The Brand of Cain.
After writing the book, I kept it hidden for two years. I was scared that it might not be good enough. In fact, no one was interested in reading it. So I assumed that I had only wasted my time writing it. Then I discovered an online forum in 2012. I found a community of writers where people like me were posting their stories. I started posting excerpts from my book and found a few readers who commented that they enjoyed them. Their comments encouraged me to post the full story. I didn’t expect the explosiveness that came with it. Almost all the readers commented that The Brand of Cain was the best story they had ever read.
The positive reviews further encouraged me to write a sequel, which I initially had no intention of doing, even though I ended the prequel on a cliffhanger. It was shocking to read that the sequel (The Paradox of Abel) was even a lot better than the prequel. Those two books cemented the belief that I could actually write professionally.
Would you say there’s a connecting line between the version of you that penned down ‘The Brand of Cain’ all those years ago and the storyteller you are now? If yes, what are some of the things you’ve learned and had to unlearn during this growth process?
Haha! I believe that I have come a long way from the 21-year-old young man that wrote The Brand of Cain to the person I am right now. Even though The Brand of Cain was considered a great story, people who have been following my journey would have discovered a slight difference in my writing style.
I infused a lot of vocabulary and fancy words into The Brand of Cain with the intention of impressing my readers and sounding cool. That was actually masking my insecurities at the time. I have come to realise that you do not have to use big words to write a book.
One interesting thing is that there is always a part of me in each of my books. I tend to create a character that grows with me in each of my stories. For instance, in The Brand of Cain, Hakeem Musa was a character I created after myself – a jovial, innocent-looking, carefree boy. I did the same in my subsequent novels. The characters could either be major or minor, but I ensured that I infused a part of myself in the books. That often makes me feel closer to my own stories.
As a writer who delves into the freelancing world, what lessons have you taken from that part of your career into your own personal writing? (Side note: Fee free to list out the services you offer as a freelancer).
Freelancing is a whole different ball game to me. In a way, I am not Larry Sun whenever I am freelancing. I am always a totally different writer. This may sound like I’m only filling the blanks, but it’s the truth. I always feel it whenever I freelance. I am always a different writer. The Larry Sun in me is often recessive. Maybe this happens because most of the works I freelance are usually a form of following guides and directions. I don’t have the liberty to plot and write as I wish. Clients usually want a certain genre, writing style, plotting, or setting. To Larry Sun, it’s like working with one hand tied, so he leaves it to another writer in him to tackle that.
Freelancing has also made me delve into unfamiliar waters like writing ebooks of self-help, motivation, and religion – including blog writing, content writing, the knowledge of SEO, and so on. I find them pretty exciting. It is nice to learn new things, but I am most comfortable writing fiction; that is my first love, and it will always be.
If you could write in any other genre of fiction apart from crime thrillers, what would it be?
Definitely Sci-Fi. I have always been fascinated with the time paradox and other science-related plotting. Also, recently, I have developed a fascination for Horror, but I don’t think I will ever write a complete horror novel. My fascination for this genre, I’m afraid, will be confined to short stories alone, just like Ghost – one of my short stories. Personally, I consider Ghost more than mere horror; it also leans on the side of a psychological thriller.
Awesome! Sci-Fi is one of my favourite genres. I’d really like to see you tackle it someday.
Have you ever received any feedback that’s stuck with you to this day?
What was it about?
I was being compared to legendary writers like Wole Soyinka, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Sidney Sheldon… heck, someone has even once compared me to James Hardley Chase.
I find all these comparisons strange. As flattering as they are, I don’t think I like being compared to other people.
First and foremost, these legends are not in my league (at least for now) – they are very, very successful writers I look up to. Secondly, I want to believe that I am unique in my own way. I don’t consider myself to be like any writer. When I write my books, I don’t have any writer in mind; I just write – first for myself, and for my readers. It is safe to say that I am incomparable.
I’ll keep that in mind – Larry Sun: The Incomparable.
How do you take general criticism channeled towards your writing? And, what advice do you have for any writer finding it hard to deal with hostile critics of their own?
Yeah, criticisms are in two ways:
- Constructive criticisms, and
- Destructive criticisms.
Writers who aspire to improve should embrace criticisms (constructive). In my early days as a writer, I didn’t take criticism so well, but I realised in time that I would not grow if I didn’t accept them. Besides, I’d be criticised anyway, whether I liked it or not. I had put my work in a public forum, surely, it would be exposed to criticism. While some criticisms are ridiculous, others are there to make one improve. There were times when I bitterly rejected criticisms so much that some of my readers told me that they liked me as a writer but not as a person. That was a wake-up call to me. It made me realise that they were only trying to help me. And today, I am immensely grateful for that. However, there are criticisms that can kill a person’s dream. So, I believe writers who want to improve should be ready to accept criticisms, and readers should criticise with love.
What are you currently reading? Tell me a little about it.
Hehehe! I am currently reading A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. Of course, I have watched the TV show and listened to its audiobook. I tried to read the softcopy version, but I couldn’t go far because, in a way, I am still old-fashioned. So I bought the hard copy to read. I think this is a book every writer should read.
Who has had the biggest influence on your writing style?
Four writers influenced my writing style. Three of them are long dead. They are:
- The first is Charles Dicken,
- The second Edgar Allan Poe,
- The third P.G. Wodehouse, and
- The last is Dean Koontz.
In my opinion, these four people are the best writers that ever walked the face of the earth. Their stories might not be that incredible, but their writing styles are out of this world. They are incredible writers.
What tips do you have for a young writer who looks up to you and hopes to, someday, make his own writing feats in the literary world?
I have always told people this – Just write. It does not matter if it comes out as poor. Just write that story in your head. The world deserves to know that plot, the world deserves to read that story. You don’t have to be the best in English to be able to write. Heck, when I initially considered writing, I did not believe that I could write good English. I even considered writing in Yoruba Language, but I wasn’t good in Yoruba either. But the story in my head kept struggling to come out, so I wrote it in English. I continued polishing and polishing until it was barely readable. The more I wrote, the better I became. My writing grew with me because I was able to face my fears and believed in myself. So, all you need to do is believe in yourself and just write, you can only get better.
In addition to that, you have to read a lot if you consider becoming a writer. Reading is one of the best tools for upcoming writers. Read a lot and write a lot and you will see the improvement.
These are wise words, Larry. Thank you for sharing them.
All work and no play, they say, makes Larry a boring man. Can you tell us some exciting activities you engage in during your spare time?
I am addicted to playing chess. Even though I am only an average player, I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t play at least one game of chess. I am an indoor person; I don’t go out partying or visiting friends. I detest the spotlight and physical attention. With good internet, food and water, I can remain in my apartment for a year without stepping out.
Movies or TV shows, which do you prefer?
I prefer TV shows because they show more details. As a writer, the details matter to me. There are some things that should not be left to the imagination, for sometimes even the imagination might wander further away from the path. I appreciate the detailing in TV shows and the broadness of the plotting.
What are some of your current favourite TV shows?
Breaking Bad is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Although it’s not current, I just can’t help mentioning it. I’d also put Penny Dreadful there because I recently started appreciating the Horror genre. This show put the fear of the Lord in me, LOL!
There is no show I currently consider really great, but I recently watched The Mayor of Kingstown and I loved what I saw.
Let’s play a quick game: Take any of your books and simplify the plot so much that it seems out of context but still makes sense.
Peter Black should be the villain, but he’s the hero. John Balewa should be the hero, but he’s the villain. However, fate is both the hero and the villain.
Side note to the reader: Click HERE to know the book whose plot Larry has simplified above.
What’s an interesting fact about you people will be surprised to know?
I can’t stand friction. And I hate and fear earthworms as much as I do snakes. Hahaha!
Earthworms and snakes? Wawu!
What are your thoughts on the impacts OkadaBooks has on the Nigerian literary space?
I believe OkadaBooks is arguably the only platform that is still keeping the Nigerian literary community alive, especially in this age of social media where it is hard to find people to pick up a book and read. But OkadaBooks has managed to push through and brought literary awareness to citizens. I’m also sure that many writers are making good money because OkadaBooks has created that opportunity.
What advice do you have for the Nigerian Literary scene?
I think there should be more awareness on the importance of reading books; not just novels but other books that can develop a person. More people should read for entertainment and knowledge. This generation hardly reads anymore.
Check out all books by Larry Sun on the OkadaBooks mobile app HERE.
Read previous QCWTA episodes HERE.