The Author, Don Harris Oben holds a Ph.D degree in Agricultural Economics with specialization in Agricultural Development and Policy. He has written extensively and consulted on a wide range of agricultural and rural development policy issues reflecting not only his academic, but also his career backgrounds. In a distinguished and enriching career spanning several decades, he worked as a rubber planter in the Cameroon Development Corporation plantations, acquired veterinary experiences, was a post-doctoral fellow/researcher with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, had tenures in two universities, ending up with a 21-year career in international development, cooperation and diplomacy with the United Nations.

Xlibris Author Interview Blog  

Please briefly describe your book.
My book is an autobiography titled A Journey to the World: Reminiscences And Moments. It tells how as a frail lad of 14, I set out on a long bumpy journey in a mammy wagon to the unknown to “broaden my own horizons” like my father had done during his employment in Nigeria in the 1930s. During the journey I had to make some of the most difficult decisions in my life and I encountered all kinds of people, including the “good,” the “bad” and the “ugly” in human behaviour and character. It is an honest and captivating story of that journey that lasted several decades and took me to several countries in Africa, Europe, North America, the Middle East and East Asia.
Who is the author “behind” the book?
As I said, the book is an Autobiography. It is a book about myself written by myself. I hold a doctorate degree in Agricultural Economics with specialization in Agricultural Development and Policy. I have written extensively and consulted on a wide range of agricultural and rural development issues reflecting not only my academic but also my career backgrounds. In a distinguished and enriching career spanning several decades, I started as a clerk in my country’s civil service after high school, then worked as a rubber planter in the plantations of the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) after my first degree; I also acquired veterinary experiences, worked as a post-doctoral fellow and researcher with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), had tenures in two universities and ended up with a 21-year career in international development, cooperation and diplomacy with the United Nations. Although I have published extensively in professional and technical journals, this is my first literary experience with publishers. A Journey to the World: Reminiscences And Moments is my first novel.
Do you have any particular literary influences that have helped you develop in your genre, subject and style?
I used to read copiously in high school, where we were encouraged to read at least one novel a week. But in later years I have read the works of only a few authors. I have read quite a few biographies and autobiographies but I don’t think any one of them had any influences in helping me develop my genre or subject. However, I have admired Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s writings, especially her style of presenting “conversations” between the characters in her books. I think I must have used some of that style in my book.
What inspired you to write your book, and how long did it take you to finish it?
What inspired me to write my book? Well, the source of my inspiration I think, was the experiences which I had and wanted to share with readers – experiences stemming from my wide professional background and my travels and interactions with all kinds of people. Frankly speaking, most people go through their entire life practicing only one profession. I was many things at different times.
I had been a 3rd class clerk in the civil service, a rubber planter, a veterinarian, an international agricultural researcher, a university don and a development economist with the United Nations for over two decades. I had travelled to almost all the regions of the world and met and interacted with people some of whom I would term as the” bad”, some the “good” and some the “ugly” in character and behavior. I had all kinds of experiences and I wanted to share with readers so they could be learning experiences especially for the young people.
I started writing in 2011. But after a short while, I lost interest because I thought nobody will be interested in reading my story. Afterall, I was not a famous head of state, nor a freedom fighter, nor a popular star. So why waste my time? But when I reluctantly attended one small retirement lecture a few years later and heard the convener’s last word that no one is too small to write his story and that each story is different and has its constituency or constituencies, it inspired me and rekindled my interest to go back to my book. When I completed the manuscript and Xlibris LLC provided the service and tools that transformed it into a well-designed, customized, and well-published book, I realized that the book and its author had become much larger than hitherto thought. It took me many years to finish the book because initially, I wrote it mainly during my spare time. Many other commitments including social obligations and international consultancy engagements took most of my time.
What is the one message you would like to convey to your readers?
There is not only one message but many messages that I would like to convey to my readers.
Firstly, I want readers to know that with determination, one can achieve one’s goals. Secondly, I want the book to entertain, inform, arouse and tickle the mind of the reader. Thirdly, I want the book to teach readers one of my major experiences and that is: One can turn ‘enemies’ into friends. The good book says, “love your ‘enemies’ and do good to those that curse you.” Fourthly, I want to acquaint readers with Africa’s major development challenges during the decades of the 70s, 80s and 90s, and the role which its foremost regional organizations — the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the Organization of African Unity (OAU), played in trying to chart a path for its socio-economic development and transformation. Fifthly, why inspite of the numerous initiatives taken by these two organizations, the continent has still not gotten out of it’s economic quagmire. Many experts attribute this to the lack of “political will” by African member states and governments to implement these initiatives and plans. But what is “Political Will”? Craig Charney once said this of political will: “It’s hard to define, harder to grasp, and hardest of all to measure. In a recent paper, three academics took 32 pages just to offer a definition of political will”. Readers, please, join the conversation. Get a copy of A Journey to the World: Reminiscences and Moments.
Are you working on a sequel to your book?
At the moment, I am not working on a sequel to my book
Are there any events, marketing ideas or promotions planned for your book?
I intend to do a book launch later. For now I am engaged in giving the book as wide publicity as possible, using many media outlets (including social media) and private forums. There have been lots of inquiries as to where the book can be obtained. Since the book has just been released, it is being obtained by print on demand.
What was your favorite part of your publishing experience, overall and with Xlibris?
The laws against infringement of copyrights which Xlibris enforces very stringently made the choice and selection of images for the book a bit frustrating. So did the laws against libel affect the copy-editing. But this is understandable. All stages in the publishing process with Xlibris were enriching experiences. All the publishing staff I had the privilege to work with were courteous, patient but firm, and professional.
Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring authors?
I don’t believe anybody is born a writer and publisher. You just start and by God’s grace you catch the plague!. So why not give it a try.