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
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.