The last book author of Stay with Me, Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀, disagreed with is, ‘one I am working on now. Ah, why? A scene I was precious about had to be discarded but it would not leave without a fight.’
Our questions are italicized.
What books or kinds of books did you read growing up?
My mother made sure I read everything from Ladybird Classics through Dickens to the African Writers Series. My favourites included L.P Hartley’s The Go Between, which was the first book that made me cry and Mongo Beti’s Mission to Kala.
What book from your childhood would you pass on to someone younger?
Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows was the book I returned to repeatedly as a kid. Reading it was such an unmetered pleasure.
If you could rewrite a classic book/text, which would it be and why?
The Book of Job. I want to do a close third meditation on all that happens from his wife’s perspective.
My mother made sure I read everything from Ladybird Classics through Dickens to the African Writers Series.
What is the last book that you disagreed with, and why?
The one I am working on now. Ah, why? A scene I was precious about had to be discarded but it would not leave without a fight.
And, what’s a book you read recently that changed your mind about something?
Katherine Angel’s Unmastered. It has shifted something about how I approach writing female desire.
What is one common misconception about Nigerian literature?
There is some commentary that Nigerian literature are totally unprecedented. Often enough, such claims are ahistorical.
What is your writing process: edit as you write or draft first, then edit?
I write. Then I edit and edit and edit and edit and edit and─
What was your process for writing Stay with Me?
See previous response, add six years, several disappointments and detours into other novels. Voila in the seventh year, there is a book in print.
I write. Then I edit and edit and edit and edit and edit and…
What is the most meaningful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
I cannot settle on one piece of advice as what I find meaningful changes from project to project. In lieu of that, I recommend Margaret Atwood’s Negotiating with the Dead and Carole Maso’s Break Every Rule.
Who is an author you wish you had discovered earlier?
Cheik Hamidou Bamba. I also wish I could read him in French.
What is your favourite topic to write or read about these days?
I tend to work my way through oeuvres instead of reading by topics. One of my goals for the year is to catch up with Elizabeth Strout’s.
What are you currently working on?
As always, a novel. Also, I am working with a team of artists and technologists to develop an exhibition. In a number of significant ways, the project is an attempt to negotiate the interface between literature and immersive technology.
Question from Chidinma Irene Nwoye: What piece of literature or work of art (painting, film, etc.) inspired you to start writing? And why?
Music has always been a part of my process, but it is impossible to pick one piece as sole inspiration. Instead, I will mention a few that I’ve had on repeat at different times. While I was working on Stay with Me, I listened to every version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ I could find. For the new book, I’ve been trolling YouTube for renderings of Enoch Sontonga’s ‘Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika’. This live performance of Asa’s ‘Bamidele’ has been indispensable for almost a decade.
Bonus: Please suggest a question for a future author’s First Draft.
What are your thoughts about genetic memory?⎈
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