Seun Lari-Williams was born in 1987. He attended Badagry Grammar School and studied law at the University of Lagos where he served as President of the Law Society for the 2012/2013 Academic Session. During this period, he doubled for the most part of the year as the President of the Council of Faculty Presidents and also represented the University of Lagos at the G20 Summit which held in Russia in 2013.
Upon his graduation, Seun proceeded to the Nigerian Law School and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2014. He thereafter had his NYSC in the FCT, Abuja where he was President of the Legal Aid Community Development Service group.
He is currently an Associate at E.A Molajo (SAN) & Co and concluding his LL.M at the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos. He also co-runs an NGO for the protection of the rights of indigent prisoners in Nigeria.
Seun is also a poet; and his first anthology (Garri for Breakfast) was longlisted for the 2017 NLNG Prize for Literature.
He plays the flute.
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Many Nigerian writers, especially poets tend to write poems that are not particularly associated with their nationality or culture, what inspired you to do otherwise?
Seun: Well, I was born in Nigeria and I’ve always lived here. I believe that what the world needs to hear is our own voice and story, not just an imitation, and we tell these stories through our music, movies, and paintings; why should poetry be different? When I write from our perspective, it’s easier for me. It’s not forced. It’s smooth and natural.
What do you love most about being Nigerian?
Seun: What I love about being Nigerian is being Nigerian. Being Nigerian gives one a unique state of mind. Our history, our challenges as a people all just make you wonder and see life in a way you’re almost certain no one else does. Being Nigerian is being “Street!”
What is the most Nigerian thing that you do or say?
Seun: I love Nigerian English, so, naturally, I use words like “o”, “ehen”, “shebi” and “abi” when I speak. I also eat certain foods using my hands instead of cutlery. I mean, who cutlery ep?
Is writing personal to you and what does it mean to say writing is personal to you?
Seun: Writing is personal to me. By personal I mean, I find it therapeutic. I always feel better when I get my thoughts off my chest. Also, sometimes I feel exposed and naked when I write for the world to see.
How and when did you start writing?
Seun: I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I was introduced to writing by my father who is a writer. I grew up helping him with proofreading and developing ideas. He encouraged me to write, and I found it fun to put down interesting thoughts.
Do you remember the first poem that you wrote? What was it about?
Seun: Hmmn, no, I don’t. I only remember writing a lot of incomplete poems or just messing about with rhymes.
How did you develop your writing? Who or what contributed to your development as a writer?
Seun: I developed my writing by continually writing. I wrote a lot of things I now consider rubbish. But I know that if I didn’t write them “off”, better stuff wouldn’t come. I’m glad I was not afraid of sounding foolish when I started. Fear of sounding foolish holds a lot of writers back. I’m glad I’ve conquered that. Who contributed to my growth as a writer? Hmmn. Many people did. First, my father, Lari Williams MFR. He taught me to express myself freely, without fear. I appreciate him for that. Also, my best friend and girlfriend-Feyi, has been very helpful. Her reviews and comments are invaluable. Nothing I ever publish goes out without her reading it first. Other influences came from authors whose works I enjoy reading including Dale Carnegie and Wole Soyinka.
Who and what are your biggest inspirations or influences when writing?
Seun: Myself and then, my audience. If I love what I’m writing, I believe my readers would love it too. I made that my test and a source of inspiration. I try to impress myself and then hope my readers like it too.
Before you published Garri for Breakfast what were your expectations in terms of the sales of the book? What were your fears or struggles or hopes?
Seun: I did not bother about book sales. I just wanted people to read my poems. I wanted people to see poetry in a different light because of the book. Or at least see my type of poetry. I was not afraid. I just hoped for the best.
What was your reaction toward the outcome and the impact that your book had in Nigeria and in the literary community in Nigeria?
Seun: I had a mixed reaction. But mostly, I was delighted that my book earned a nomination for a prestigious award, the NLNG prize for literature. It meant a whole lot to me. It meant finally having a place in the literary community which had never been my first choice audience. I had always considered my writing to be for the rest of us, and not for the literati.
In your book Garri for breakfast, you write about human experiences, highlighting little things that we overlook and take for granted. How do you know which experience is important enough to be written about?
Seun: My heart tells me. When I feel strongly about something, I take that as a cue that I must write about it, either in a poem, an article or just a Facebook post. I do this whether or not the subject seems important to me.
How has the internet contributed to your success as a writer and as an author?
Seun: The internet has been of great help, I must confess. I read up tips on writing on Pinterest and Quora. More importantly, I share my works on Facebook and Instagram and get feedback from some of my readers. This helps me see the reaction to my works and it helps me learn how the minds of readers work.
When you write, which audience do you hope that your works impact the most? How does your expected audience affect the content of your works?
Seun: That would depend on what I’m writing at the time. Sometimes, I write for judges, sometimes for housewives, or from even the perspective of a non-living thing. At the bottom of it all though, I just want my readers to feel the emotions each persona exudes.
What career field do you work in and how do you manage combining that with your writing?
Seun: I am a lawyer. Luckily, that field uses words as well, which is the same tool used in creative writing. About finding the time to write, whenever I have a poetry idea, I just note it down and come back to it later to develop it. Mostly, I found, the subconscious part of the human mind does a lot of the work after one simply take a mental note.
Are you working on another book, if yes, what should your readers be expecting?
Seun: Lol, yes I am! My wonderful readers should expect a pleasant surprise.
What qualities do you think contributes to being a good writer and more particularly, poet?
Seun: I believe a good poet must learn to make his readers feel more deeply. A good writer must learn to hold on to a thought until it’s refined enough to be shared with the world. He must not only portray but invoke. Invoke the good in mankind.
Who are your favorite Nigerian writers? (Mention up to 5)
Seun: This is a tough one. I haven’t read that many books to have 5 favourites. But the most memorable authors off the top of my head at this moment are:
What are your favorite Nigerian books? (Mention up to 5)
Seun: I’ve always wondered what makes a book Nigerian. Well, here’s a list of what I think should qualify (judging from the books I’ve read):
What impact do you hope that your works make?
Seun: I hope they promote freedom amongst artistes generally. Art is freedom. I want people to realize that we do not have to be slaves to the past in any area, especially when it comes to art.
What is the best advice that you have gotten as a writer? What advice would you give to writers that read this interview?
Seun: Write hard and clear about what hurts. –Ernest Hemmingway
You can view and purchase Seun's book; Garri for Breakfast on amazon buy clicking the green "VIEW NOW" link below:
Seun Lari-Williams was interviewed by Oyindamola Shoola.
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