interviewBy Adie Vanessa Offiong
Araceli Aipoh is a Filipino married to a Nigerian medical doctor. Having spent twenty five years in Nigeria, working in Lagos and Abuja the mother of four describes herself as very conversant with Nigeria and the challenges women here face. This is what has motivated her to write, 'No sense of limits' in 1995. The second edition was recently presented at the Sheraton Hotels and Towers, Abuja. The author spoke about her work.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I'm from the Philippines. My husband is Nigerian and we've lived in Nigeria since 1987. I finished a degree in Mass Communications in my country and I have various interests at the moment, such as writing, publishing, designing, and photography. I divide my time between my family, my work, and my personal interests.
What is your book about?
It's about the choices that people make and how these choices affect, directly or indirectly, the lives of other people. I believe that the choices we make play a great role in determining our fate, but at the same time I also believe that sometimes, things happen beyond our control. I'm often obsessed with questions like "what happens if..." In the novel, this question is asked several times... What happens if a woman finds her husband has been unfaithful? What happens if a girl falls in love to a point of being obsessed? What happens if you are made to choose between wealth and friendship? Of course, this is not the first time that these questions are being asked, but for my characters, this is the first time they are being confronted with these scenarios.
Why did you decide to write the book?
For the simple reason that I had a story to tell and that I wouldn't be settled until I had written it down. I read a lot as a young girl and while reading, especially works of fiction, I remember telling myself that I too could write a book like that or even a better one. I admire writers who can make you laugh or cry or smirk or raise your eyebrows in awe or disbelief. And it's my wish to be that kind of writer.
Many authors emerge everyday but a lot of what they write do not see the light of day. What's your take on this?
I think that aside from producing a fantastic manuscript, there are two other things that may determine whether a writer gets published or not. One is that you have to have the financial means to publish your work, but if you don't, or if you don't believe in self-publishing, then there must be someone out there who believes in what you have written and is ready to spend money on it. Self-publishing is like indulging in an expensive hobby. Almost all writers in Nigeria do it and one of the main reasons is that they just don't have the luxury to wait for financiers or publishers. In other words, they make it happen for themselves. It's good, but I won't advise everyone to go into it. Publishing a book is not a guarantee that it will sell.
Why do you think people should read your book?
'No Sense of Limits' is not a book for everybody. Even the best writers in the world cannot write a book and say everyone should read it. So, I believe it all depends on your interests as a reader. If you've read the synopsis of No Sense of Limits and you are curious about what I've written, or if you have heard someone either praising it or tearing it to pieces and you want to find out for yourself what's it all about, then I guess you have to read it. At the end of the day, it's a personal choice whether you read a book or not.
Piracy is an issue artistes deal with. How do you intend to combat it?
Honestly speaking, I have no idea, but I think that a writer or author or any artist for that matter should not be saddled with the task of combating piracy alone. Since piracy is a crime, there should be bodies or agencies who will do that for him or her... and the public should be vigilant and report to the authorities concerned whenever they see any form of piracy. Successfully combating piracy happens only if everyone says no to it. Artists should be in the business of creating most of the time, and they need a lot of concentration and energy to do that, so the least of their problems should be about combating piracy. The authorities concerned should be able to do that for them.
What are the challenges you face as an author?
Not so much at the moment because I don't see this as a do or die affair. For me, it's all about accomplishing something and having fun while doing it. Since the book was published in 2005 and the copies either sold or given away, I've been meaning to have it republished. It took me more than seven years to summon enough energy to do that. So it's my choice. If there are challenges along the way, I will not allow them to take control of me or this project.
Could you tell us about the characters in your book and what is unique about them?
What's unique about them is that they are all Nigerian characters created by a non-Nigerian. One reader has told me that Nigerian women will not do as what my characters would have done, but I am not worried about that. What makes a character stand out is that he or she does something out of the ordinary and that's why there's a story. If you tell me that Nigerian women who find their husbands unfaithful don't behave like Victoria, then I will say, well, my Victoria is different from your Victoria and this is what my Victoria did! But so far, the feedback from readers as far as the characters are concerned have been great, meaning that the characters are accepted by the majority. After reading the book, some people have come to ask me what happened to Laura... or whether I could do something to change the ending and things like that.
What group of readers are you targeting?
Those readers who enjoy a good laugh because there are some really funny moments in the book, those who enjoy a little mystery and would not go to the last page to find out what happened, and those who would like to know what will happen to the characters long after they have finished reading the book.