“The Sun Sets in Singapore”: Kehinde Fadipe unveils a tale of friendship, ambition and identity
Kehinde Fadipe, the author of The Sun Sets in Singapore, talks about her inspiration for the novel and the choices she made while writing in an interview with Hachette.
The British-Nigerian actress and author, who always been interested in writing and storytelling but never thought of it as a career until she took the Writing Your Novel course at Curtis Brown Creative, shares that she wanted to explore what it’s like to make friendships with people you might not normally gravitate toward and how conflict arises naturally from their internal and external struggles.
She also discusses the powerful themes explored in the novel, such as female friendship.
Fadipe received messages from readers who were loving the story, which boosted her confidence and led her to work on crafting it as a full-length manuscript. She talks about the structure, voice, plot, and scene setting of the novel, as well as any major changes made between the first draft and the last. Fadipe’s love for writing about something that drew the characters together, books, made her enjoy writing the novel even more.
The debut novel by the RADA-trained actress with stage and screen credits including Misfits (E4), Of Mary (Lesata Productions), and Ruined (Almeida Theatre) was published by Hachette in August 2023.
Set in Singapore, it explores themes of love, loss and identity. The novel follows the story of a young Nigerian woman who moves to Singapore to start a new life but finds herself caught up in a web of secrets and lies.
Fadipe’s journey to creating The Sun Sets in Singapore emerges as a tapestry woven from her own experiences. The novel’s birth was inspired by a desire for something light after a dark first draft, the arrival of her first child, and her life in Singapore, chronicled in her travel and lifestyle blog.
As the story unfolded, Fadipe says she navigated a winding path in crafting her tale. The structure remained linear, and three distinct voices echoed throughout the narrative. However, subplots were pruned, scenes reshaped, and characters fine-tuned during a six-year creative odyssey. The novel transformed as it matured.
Dara, Amaka and Lillian, the protagonists, were not born overnight but evolved gradually. Fadipe drew from the rich tapestry of her encounters: corporate powerhouses, shoe aficionados and enigmatic souls at barbecues. Their struggles and motivations are the driving forces behind the story, illustrating the intricate interplay of career, friendship, ambition and culture.
Fadipe’s own life as an expat in Singapore resonates in the novel. Her diverse experiences as a teacher, mother, actor and writer shaped the characters’ perceptions of belonging, insecurity and disconnection.
The Sun Sets in Singapore dives deep into themes of female friendship, careerism, motherhood, and cultural identity. It explores how these elements intertwine and influence one another, emphasising the importance of authentic, supportive friendships.
Cultural backgrounds subtly steer the characters’ choices, particularly for Amaka, who seeks to distance herself from her restrictive upbringing. Dara and Lillian, while not consciously driven by their Nigerian heritage, yearn to reconnect with their roots in different ways.
Fadipe’s journey as an actress in England, then a writer, brought its own creative fulfillment. She dabbles in screenplays, plays the piano intensely, sketches, and curates book club reading lists with a passion born from her love of literature.
The book club’s reading list in the novel, she says, was curated organically, reflecting Fadipe and her editors’ love for books. Locations in the book mirror the author’s experiences and explorations. Her time in Singapore, from the city centre to its outskirts, revealed a multifaceted place where UNESCO heritage sites coexist with the world’s top bars.
Fadipe’s life, leaving Lagos at 14, travelling on a Nigerian passport, and living in multiple countries, shapes her unique perspective. Her writing is not only influenced by these experiences but enriched by the diverse individuals she encounters.
Ultimately, Fadipe hopes The Sun Sets in Singapore offers readers a chance to smile, laugh and escape into its world for a few delightful hours, just as her own journey led her to craft this heartfelt tale.