Toni Kan in conversation with Bisi Adjapon who says – I’m a morning writer. I love the quiet.
Toni Kan: Hello, please give us your name and the title of your book(s).
Bisi Adjapon: I’m Bisi Adjapon, author of ‘Of Women and Frogs.’
TK: How do you introduce yourself? As a writer?
BA: I do introduce myself as a writer.
TK: When did you get comfortable enough to introduce yourself as a writer?
BA: A long time ago, because I had been a journalist, long before I was an International Affairs Specialist.
TK: From journalism to fiction, how did the transition happen from reporting facts to making them up.
BA: Well, I also wrote stories even when I was a journalist. Really, I’ve been writing since I was a little girl. For me, there was no clear cut time lapse between fiction and non-fiction. I became a journalist only because I needed the income, not because I had any passion for reporting. To tell you the truth, I never liked reporting. I was always writing essays, poems or stories on the side. As a newspaper reporter, I felt like a sanctioned gossip. My job was to invade other people’s privacy or look for the most salacious stories to report, just to increase sales. I quit within six months.
TK: ( laughs) So, ‘Of Women and Frogs’, right? When we had our book chat at Ake Festival, I forgot to ask; where did the title come from?
BA: (Laughs) I am not going to go into the significance of the title, because it means different things to readers. I enjoy listening to what readers have to say. I started the story with a true superstition and fear that frogs had the power to change a female into a male. Out of that superstition sprang a story about a girl struggling to fit into societal destiny for women, discovering sex and looking for her place as a woman.
TK: okay, I thought it had to do with kissing a frog and turning into a prince, yada yada.
BA: Not a chance, haha, although there is a love story in it and Esi, the protagonist , goes through the gamut of womanhood.
TK:Of course..So ‘Of Women and Frogs’ is your debut novel but not the first thing you wrote or published. Now, lets talk about your process. So, you had a superstition, then a girl’s story sprang into being. What triggers a piece of writing for you, is it a word, a song, an idea?
BA: Anything. A newspaper article inspired an award wining play. A trip to America triggered my work in progress. Meetings with interesting people, past relationships, you name it. I’m thinking about a recent wedding that has a story brewing in my mind. I daydream a lot. As I child I used to walk into poles because I would look at a leaf and my mind would start going. I still find myself bumping into things because I am lost in my daydreams. Sometimes, it’s traffic or an encounter with a policeman. There’s so much out there. My problem is finding time to write everything I want.
TK: So, after this idea has come into your head, what happens next? How do you move from a seed to a full tree?
BA: I jot down random notes on my phone or notebook. I tend to focus on the story that has me tossing about in my sheets. Most of the time I have an idea where I want to go. I do a brief sketch and start writing. Sometimes, though, I wind up with something different and surprising. I know I’m on the right track when I get this tingle and quickening heartbeat, when I forget to eat and just keep writing. It’s like a new lover, I can’t get enough.
TK: You talked about finding time. When do you write best? Morning, afternoon, night or in seclusion and do you set targets for yourself, say a daily number of words?
BA: I’m a morning writer. I love the quiet, when no one else is awake, like five or six am. The only thing I do is meditate, drink water, do some stretches and have some plain tea. Then I write. It can be a bit hard because I’m an athlete and need some heart-pumping exercise to wake me up.. I end up dancing for an hour or even two because I get carried away. That ruins my morning writing because I end up starting at 10, by which time I am hungry. By the time I finish eating, it’s 11 and the morning is gone. To avoid that, I write first, which means I’ve got to go play tennis. With the lockdown, tennis is out, so I end up dancing around four. Because I’m an early riser, if I don’t get some physical activity in by five, I get too tired. But when I have a deadline, I write all day with breaks just for food.
TK: Do you give daily deadlines, word counts, that sort of thing?
BA: Not at all. My deadline depends on my publisher or in this current situation, my agent. I had two weeks to tweak my manuscript, then the pandemic hit and I found myself staring into space in shock, unable to focus. I am several weeks behind but I have luckily found my inspiration again. I need to finish by next week.
TK: So, when you start writing, do you plot everything from beginning with characters and plots and sub plots or like you said, you just let the story take you on an adventure?
BA: I’m afraid I’m one of those writers who doesn’t plot everything. I usually have a storyline down and have an idea where I want to go. Then I just start writing and let myself be swept away.
TK: You said you have missed your deadline and that your agent has been super patient, is that a new book?
BA: Yes, my second book
TK: Which leads us to our last and annoying question – when is it due?
BA: No idea. With the corona virus and life having ground to a halt, who knows? My priority is writing the best story I possibly can. That’s one lesson I have learned, never to focus on publication. My best guess is 2021. I’ve got to keep the rest buttoned up.