Vaults of Secrets for Independence Day

Olukorede Yishau

Olukorede Yishau, award-winning journalist, novelist and short-story writer, is releasing his collection of short stories, Vaults of Secrets, on October 1st. Yishau, who is also the author of the critically-acclaimed novel, ‘In The Name of Our Father’, shares with Chiemelie Ezeobi about his love for writing and the journey of publishing two books

When Olukorede Yishau, an award-winning journalist, novelist and short-story writer, released his first novel ‘In The Name Of Our Father’, it was a subject of critical reviews, including graduate and undergraduate theses. Not done with the literary world, he soon put together a collection of short stories titled ‘Vaults of Secrets’ which is set to be released on October 1, 2020.

Given the attention the first novel generated, Yishau is confident this collection of short stories will receive the same adulation. “If the feedbacks from the people who have read the advance copies of ‘Vaults of Secrets’ are anything to go by, then I do not expect it to be less accepted. If anything, I am expecting it to do better. There is a story for everyone in the collection. My friend, Nnamdi Oguike, the author of ‘Do Not Say It Is Not Your Country’, feels that the stories will appeal to everyone who has ever done something they want to keep to themselves.

“He also feels that even if you are a saint, you will also find something to enjoy in the collection. Two other authors, Nze Sylva Ifedigbo and Ever Obi, who have also read the advance copy, have shared their views. Secrets are what we all cannot do without. Even people who say their lives are open books still have stuff they do not want to share with the public. Some people can even kill to have their secrets kept.

“I think the theme of secret will help endear the book to readers. Secret can be used as enormous power over. Both the rich and the poor harbour secrets that can be used against them, but the rich are the ones who have something to protect and as such will go to any extent to have their secrets permanently locked away in vaults buried.

“Having access to a secret can be a weapon, but it can also expose one to danger because chances are that those who have something to hidewill also be after you. Many people have been killed because of secrets they stumbled on, because of the need for preservation. It is a double-edged sword,” he added.

Sharing his writing process Yishau said: “The stories in the collection came to be as a result of what happened to others, which I was privileged to hear about and use as materials for these emotional stories. It took me about two months to do the first draft of the stories that eventually become ‘Vaults of Secrets’, but over the next one and a half years, especially when the editing process was activated, some stories had to be reworked to make them better.

“I don’t strive for perfection in the first draft because it stifles writing. I wait to do that in the second draft, third draft, and during editing. Two or three of the ten stories were written over one year after the first set. So, in a way, it took over one year to get everything together.”

Juxtaposing the challenges of writing a novel and the short story he said: “For me, I always like to say the difference between the short story and the novel is like a room apartment and a mansion. A novel is a mansion and you have the luxury of space complete with plenty rooms, swimming pools and other facilities. For me, a short story is a room apartment.

“The writer must manage to do everything essential within the space; he must avoid frivolities. He has to be very disciplined with character development in a short story because there is no room for too much details; conflicts must be resolved within the available space. It is not particularly easy to write because I remember we kept going back and forth at the editing stage. A novel can afford to give more details and all that.”

Sharing the reason why his new book would be released on October 1, which happens to be Nigeria’s Independence Day, he said: “October 1 has deeper meanings in my life and my siblings than just being Nigeria’s Independence Day. Picking October 1st is like killing two birds with one stone. One, I wanted to identify with our nation, a victim of secrets being kept by men and women who have had the chance to lead it.

“Two, my parents, the late Kayode Yishau and Titilayo Yishau, got married on October 1. And for a reason or reasons only the heavenly bodies can explain, my father also died on October 1 eight years ago. The book is dedicated to the memories of my father and my late sister, Olusola whose death made me the third born of the family.

“It is also dedicated to my mother and the rest of my siblings who have more than one reason to see October 1 as extraordinary. I had to plead with my publisher, Azafi Omoluabi-Ogosi to do me the honour of releasing the paperback, kindle and e-book versions of the book that day.”

Still on the collection of stories, Yishau who gave a sneak peak of the characters noted that there are many flawed female and male characters in this book. ”I do not set out to denigrate either sex. I just wanted to tell a story. There are many other male characters that are secretive, such as the one who keeps his paternity issue away from his caring wife; there is also Emmanuel, who specialises in helping people to bury their secrets even when it can harm the society; we also have Nelson, who was planning treasonable acts and kept his adorable wife in the dark only for her to suffer as a result of his action; and there is the annoying Nonso whose life is built around secret adventures.

“I can also remember the annoying Olola Akioye who is impotent but keeps dating women to hide the secret from the society. On a last note, there is also a male character who wiped out a whole family and sets up a law firm from the proceeds and he keeps this secret to himself. Then there is the man caught with his house-help and begging to have the secret hidden from his church and his wife”.

Delving into the choice of ‘secret’ in the title of his short collections he said: “I really did not set out to do that. What eventually became ‘Vaults of Secrets’ started as an attempt by me to do a second novel. I had this idea of doing a novel about three politically-exposed persons in jail for treasonable felony. It was to take the form of diaries by each of them about their lives in prison and before prison, but after writing over fifty thousand words, I felt something was missing.

“ I left it for a year or so and when I went back to it, I needed no one to tell me that it would work better as short stories. So, I started working on the script all over again. And another secret, I did not set out to write about secrets, but when I finished, it jumped at me that secrets have forced themselves on me as a motif and I am glad they did”.

Sharing his thoughts on the Nigerian publishing landscape, Yishau noted that it

is coming back alive; thanks to the small presses. “The big presses are only interested in textbooks because they want to recoup their investment. The small presses are also interested in recouping their investment but they are giving room for new voices to be heard as far as novel writing, poetry and so on are concerned. I believe better days are ahead”, he added.

On whether African literature exists, the author said: “For me, literature is literature. But for categorisation, we can permit terms such as British literature, European literature, African literature and so on. Our writings are defined by our experiences, so if I am African, you will feel Africa in my writing, but it does not make it inferior to American literature. We can just define African literature as one written by an African, especially on African themes”.