Tell us about yourself
I am a storyteller, a mum, a friend, a lover of good sleep, who enjoys sampling amazing food from all over the world.
Can you share a little about your writing process with us?
Once I get a story idea, I record it anywhere I find, usually on my phone, and in shorthand.
I don’t start working on an idea unless I am terribly excited about it. The next thing I do is to outline. An outline could take me many months. I outline just enough to get me to the point where I think I am ready to start. I try to define characters, voice, point of view, conflict, setting etc… and then a few paragraphs to frame each chapter. During my outline phase, I do a lot of reading. I read many books that are in a similar vein to what I am trying to achieve.
Once I feel like I can no longer resist the urge, I start to write. And when I do, it is often relentless. I write every moment I can. I write on my phone, text chapters to myself when my laptop is not with me. Once I am immersed in my novel, I stay there. I am a loyal, dedicated mother to my book babies. It isn’t until I type The End- and I always, always, type “The END” because it is important for me to celebrate that achievement-before I start re-writing and editing.
The Girl with the Louding Voice has really captured readers' attention worldwide. Tell us how life has changed (or not) for you since the release of the book?
Life has changed in many ways – I've met thousands of amazing readers who have shared stories of their louding voices with me. I’ve had wonderful opportunities open up to travel (after the pandemic!) and to advocate for girls’ education. I appreciate every single moment and don’t take any of it for granted.
What was your inspiration behind the character of Adunni?
I drew inspiration from the very many housemaids I encountered over the years, from listening to interviews and watching movies, from reading excellent books that had been written in Non-standard English. Adunni inspired herself. It felt like she demanded to have a sense of humour and intelligence to balance out the heavy themes the book addresses. I discovered a lot about her as I wrote. She felt like a living breathing character who was sitting in front of me as I wrote, arms crossed, deep frown on her face or sometimes laughter, demanding what would happen to her and how she would react. Sometimes I felt her subtly chastising me for writing her reaction in a different way and I’d rewrite a scene until I felt that she was satisfied. I’d like to think that I simply followed her directions through. In many ways, she was and still is, a force unto herself.
What do you hope readers take away from The Girl with the Louding Voice?
There are a number of themes the book addresses, but I hope readers appreciate the value of using our voices, of finding our true selves and of speaking up against injustice. There is also an underlying theme around kindness: I believe that a little kindness can go a long way in healing hearts and minds.
Are you working on any writing currently whether that be a new book or for fun?
I am trying to work my way through what I hope will turn into a new book--- while trying to have fun.
Describe your writing spot for us.
I often write in cafés and find writing therapeutic and hugely rewarding when it’s going well, and terribly frustrating when it isn't. The most difficult part is trying to figure out if the idea you had in your mind comes out as beautifully as it should on paper. Writing is life! It is my way of giving meaning to life's questions, of asking, seeking, and knowing. Writing for me is a calling; I have a responsibility to tell every story inside of me and in doing so, I feel like I am humbly serving the world in my own way and so my routine is a daily grind. Once the kids are out of the way (in school, play dates, wherever), I grab my laptop and go sit and write until I’ve hit my daily world count.
My local cafe is noisy and filled with orange light and the smell of coffee and freshly baked croissants and cake. I often go in with a pillow to support my back, order a cup of tea (I’m currently taking a break from excessive caffeine) and sit in a corner with my laptop, often under a blown-up photo of a happy girl from rural Africa (I feel, weirdly, like I am writing for her when I sit under her watchful gaze).
What books have you recently read and loved?
I have been in a painful reading slump, but I've recently loved The List by Yomi Adegoke and a non fiction called The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, which is about understanding the complex nature of trauma and finding healing from it.
What book do you always recommend to others?
A few books had made me wonder what the character is doing now; if they are okay; if I will ever meet them in real life- even though I know they are completely fictional.
- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
- Room by Emma Donoghue
- The Colour Purple by Alice Walker
- The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Husseini
- Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
- Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Who are the three people (living or dead) you would love to have dinner with?
Michelle & Barack Obama (they can count as one right?)