By Prisca Sam-Duru
Tayo Utomi who writes under the pen name, Tayo Emmanuel, is a British author of Nigerian descent. She grew up in Lagos, where she had her education up to Masters Degree level. Tayo has professional experience in Communications, Business Development, Brand Management and Business Analysis. A passionate speaker on relationships and family issues, she currently lives in London and works in the banking sector. In this exclusive chat, Tayo who wrote her first novel, “A Bouquet of Dilemma” in 2013 and her second novel, “Echoes from the Past”, recently adapted into a movie, “Echoes”, to be premiered soon, speaks about her latest book, “Peace in the Abyss” and other issues:
How long have you been writing?
I have been writing since my secondary school days. I used to write poems. However, I published my first book, ‘Little Things of Eternal Value’, in 2011. Novels I’ve written before ‘Peace in the Abyss’ are; ‘A Bouquet of Dilemma’ – a coming of age love story – ‘Echoes from the Past’ – a story about forgiveness which as you know, has been adapted into a movie – and ‘Blurry Lines’ – an exposition of love and life in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Which one of the books do you feel is best and that challenged you most?
Every book is the best as at the time I’m writing them. So, I can’t categorically say one is better than the other. My readers have equally expressed the same feeling, especially because each of my novels has its distinct theme. The one I found most challenging is ‘A Bouquet of Dilemma’ because it’s my first full-length novel. It took me about three years to finish it, just so I had to get everything right.
What kind of genres do you have bias for?
I’m for romance all the way.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I draw inspiration from real issues I witness in everyday lives to tell my stories. Am an incurable romantic, so I’m continually fascinated by the interplay and unpredictability of human relationships.
My stories are usually inspired by true life events and I always touch on elements of family drama.
What’s the purpose of releasing ‘Peace in the Abyss’ at this time?
About ten years ago, I lost a friend who had some issues in her marriage. And I often wondered whether she could have lived a better life or had a positive outcome if her marriage had worked out or if she had had a good support system. That incident made me explore the topic of domestic abuse and how emotional abuse is often under-reported because the scars are not visible. Feedback from early readers have confirmed to me that this novel is indeed timely and is set to be a catalyst for positive change in relationship outlook and social behaviours.
The title is oxymoronic. How can there be peace in abyss?
The title infers that we can find peace in unlikely places if our original place of peace fails to provide the succour we need.
Are you trying to encourage abused women to stay put and keep enduring?
I’m saying everyone, both man and woman, should be intentional about their relationships and marriage. Marriage should not be an end in itself. It should be a means to some of our aspirations.
Do you think good parenting should be emphasised as a major instrument to end domestic violence for blissful marriages?
I believe in good parenting hundred percent. However, there’s a Yoruba saying that ‘it’s not enough to be trained well, but one needs to train oneself too.’ We can blame bad parenting for all the ills, but there are instances where two people from the same family with the same upbringing turn out differently. Why? Because as adults, we have the power of choice. We behave in certain ways, first, because it is convenient for us. When something comes to shake the foundation of that convenience, then we are forced to change. Persistent abuse needs an enabling person or environment.
What then are you saying to anyone in an abusive relationship?
I’ve mentioned that people need to be intentional about their relationships and marriage. If you read “Peace in the Abyss”, you will understand why you should re-evaluate your relationship at every stage of the way. “Peace in the Abyss” is a clarion call for people to turn the tables and the odds against domestic abusers.
The society is now littered with broken homes, and it appears people no longer have regard for the sanctity of marriage. What do you think is the reason and the way forward?
It’s not one straight forward answer. But one foundational issue I see is lack of or low level of self-actualisation from the view of Carl Rogers’ theory of person-centered therapy which infers that life is an active process, not a passive one and that whenever a person is free to choose their goals, they select positive and constructive pathways.
So many marriages would fail when people don’t embrace life as an active process and choose positive pathways.
Marriages would fail when we don’t personally define the purpose of the marriage before we embark on that journey; now, we all know that the profession of love alone doesn’t secure a marriage. Marriages would fail when there’s a baggage of low self-esteem, insecurity, dependency and lack of trust. Marriages would fail when two strange-bedfellows decide to travel together without first aligning their visions and destination. Marriages would fail when the society is no longer traditional, yet couples are bent on maintaining traditional roles.
What do you propose as way forward?
For me the way forward is to recognise that for every marriage that is working, there is at least someone doing the work. For each one of us, that work would be different and my encouragement to couples is to find what works for them and stick with it.
What else do you do when you aren’t writing or at work?
When I’m not writing or working, I’m meddling with other people’s love lives, trying to set up or fix their relationships.