Dr Kayode Olamide S. Valentine is an intrepid and award-winning child’s specialist and medical educator. He is the author of Pearls and Pebbles, and The Void, books that echo the realities of today’s world. His third book, Ejire Aladuke brings out the excitingly creative fictional parts of the author’s world, with so many twists and turns. In this chat with Damiete Braide in his consulting room, he speaks on his writings.
What motivated you to go into creative writing and what has been the journey?
Overtime, the experiences that I have gathered, including social interactions, actually made me go into creative writing. When I was a junior doctor in Osun State and we were being owed salary areas, I started writing by pouring out my heart, which brought the creative part of me. I won a competition as an undergraduate medical student when I was in Year Four in the university, in 2004. I came third in the competition, Federation of Medical and Dental Students Writing Competition, while my friend from the same school emerged as the winner, which made my school win two prizes. It was something that I believed I could do, and, with further experiences after school and struggles, I had to start writing creatively. My friends also encouraged me that they believed that I could do more in creative writing, and that spurred my interest in writing.
I started by writing poems when I was in 100 level, but due to the busy schedule of the medical school, I had to stop writing at some point. After graduating from the university, the stories that I had in mind became glaring that I had to put them into writing. I wrote the three books last year, during the lockdown. Over time, my friends kept telling me that I should compile my writeups on Facebook into a book for more people to read, which I did.
What made you write Pearls and Pebbles?
Pearls and Pebbles is a socio-medical-political memoir because it is about things that happen in the country. Basically, it is a collection of stories and what mothers do to their babies when they are sick, and why they should desist from such behaviours, because they are detrimental to the child’s health.
What’s your marketing strategies for your books?
The first two books can be bought on Amazon, but, right now, I am looking for how they can be purchased in the country. I visited some bookshops in Lagos, but their requirements are cumbersome, and they kept telling me to come back every time, and, when I go back, they will still tell me to come back later. If I wasn’t a doctor, then that means I won’t be able to survive, because my books will still be with me, unsold.
How did you come about Aduke Elejuire?
It is a book that combines both culture and science. As a science student, I grew up in Ondo and (Ibadan) Oyo states as a child, and I followed my father to attend Ogun festivals in the village, which had a lot of cultural influence on me. Due to my passion for writing, I realised that I could pass a message in written form and people would read and learn from. The book is a story of endometriosis, which is a thinking problem in women, especially during their menstral cycle or their painful experiences during sex which may make some of them to have infertility. How do you now tell that story without making them bored? That led me to write the book, from a scientific and cultural perspective.
I was inspired by the culture of my people. In Ondo, there is a priestess called Olobun, who is close to the king, and other parts of the story were totally accents of Yoruba culture. I made use of folk songs that I learnt as a child, which was worth telling: what I saw and my desire for our culture not to go into extinction. These days, there are some children that cannot speak their mother tongue and they don’t know anything about their culture, but when they read the book, they can learn some things about their culture. The book centres more on our culture and the scientific improvement that we are seeing. We have something in common with our culture before science came, which we cannot throw away, and that becomes the meeting point.
What is your take on self publishing and why did you self publish your works?
I did self publishing for my works, because, if I wasn’t working as a medical doctor, I wouldn’t put food on my table and, probably, I would have stopped writing. Though self publishing is challenging and financially tasking, I had to use my salary to pay for the printing. For up-and-coming authors, they must have another job to do so that they can pay their bills. I didn’t approach publishing houses because of the bureaucracies involved and, also, sometimes, the publisher would want to change the storyline that suits them, which does not suit me, and, with that, it distorts the story.
What’s your writing regimen?
I usually write after the day’s work. The first part of writing starts in my head like the title. Sometimes, when I am on my annual vacation, I use that period to write. Also, I wake up in the middle of the night to write.
Why is The Void part of your experiences in life?
The book is about my experiences as a young doctor. When I graduated from medical school, most of the medical doctors that graduated with me had travelled out of the country for greener pastures. Young doctors that I had trained as house officers also travelled out of the country. They didn’t stay back to continue to become senior doctors. The brain drain was so much that The Void was written as a result of these issues, and, if care is not taken, there would be fewer doctors that would practice medicine in future. It is my personal experience but written in a creative way that it would not bore readers.
How do you source for materials for your writings?
Sometimes ideas would come to me spontaneously, and I would just be thinking, especially when I surf the net. I see things that I would need and also more information comes from my interactions with people. Sometimes during my consultations with patients, I get inspiration and later put them into my writing. Most of the things that we teach people are from interaction with patients, so, if I want to give a medical fact, I keep it confidential without mentioning the name of the patient. Sometimes I write them on Facebook or for keeps, which I work on later.
How COVID-19 impacted you as a doctor and writer?
The lockdown was tough, and it was shocking with all the infections all over the world. I am a frontline worker, and, as I was treating people, I tried not to be affected. At the same time, there were fewer people who visited the hospital. Pearls and Pebbles had been written overtime, and it was easy to put them into a book form. While the second and third books were written during the lockdown, because I had more time to write. I didn’t want to get bored at home, and I felt that was time for me to write and get people out of depression. When people read my books, they get enlightened emotionally. Currently, I am working on my fourth book, which is in the pipeline and it will be published before the end of the year.