Ayobami Adebayo in Conversation with Toni Kan – “Ahh, don’t ask when my next book is coming”

Toni Kan: Just say your name and books you have written.

Ayobami: Okay, my name is Ayobami Adebayo, I am the author of Stay With Me

T.K: Would you call yourself a writer?

A.A: Yes, I would.

T.K: At what age or at what point did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

A.A: I think I can remember very well, that I was writing what I thought was poetry, at the age of 9 and I made this decision when I was 13 or 14 that this was what I wanted to do.

T.K: So, if you want to write a short story or novel, for instance, how does it start?

A.A: For each story or book, it’s different. Sometimes, it’s a conversation, sometimes, I am driving and I see something, and I can’t just get that thing out of my mind. Sometimes it begins with an image, sometimes, it is music or I see a drawing and I just keep thinking about that. Then it sits with me for a while, like I think about it for anything like a month to 5 years before I then feel ready to start working on it

T.K: So, what sparked Stay With Me?

A.A: Stay With Me was a collection of events that sort of triggered the thoughts that would become the book. One that comes immediately to mind is about a friend that passed on. About a year after that, I ran into her mother and I couldn’t help thinking about how much she had changed in the year of grieving for her daughter. So, that was one of the main things that came together to make the book.

T.K: So, when this idea has come to you and is insistent, how do you write? Do you write in the morning or at night, do you get away, go somewhere quiet? How do you set a target for yourself?

A.A: For the first draft, there is a target because that is just to get the words out. For the first draft I can say that I want to do this number of words a week. By the time I start editing, it’s impossible because a chapter could take a day or a week to get through it, depending on how complex it is or how much trouble I am having with the sentences. Writing is also in phases, I mean, each project is different depending on what is going on in your life. I mean writing as an undergraduate, I had to write during the night because during the day I would go for lectures. When I was working full-time, it was the same thing, I’d wake up before dawn before heading to work, if you are going to get any work done. So, it depends on the phase of life, and I have had the opportunity to go on fellowships. When I am on a fellowship, the schedule is different because I don’t have to think about work or other responsibilities that I have.

T.K: Stay With Me is three years old now?

A.A: No, it’s two

T.K: If you were married with child now, people would ask, when is the next one coming?

A.A: Really, people shouldn’t ask that question again (laughs). That is the whole point of the book. People should stop asking me, that’s why I wrote the book. I mean, it’s a book, it takes its time.

T.K: (Laughs) Thank you.

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