Can we just say that today’s interview is superb! Our guest on today’s #WriterSpotlight is the multiple award winning writer, Ibitola Adebayo. She is about to release a new book called Lizzy Adams but despite all her awards as an outstanding author, Ibitola had to deal with rejection from publishers at the early stages of her writing journey. In our interview with her, she shares how she was able to get her first book published and also become the well recognised author that she is today.
Hello Ibitola. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Well I’m a UK based multi-award winning author of best-selling books: ‘Acceptance’ & ‘Acceptance: Into the Darkness’ which are a series of fictional stories. I am a graduate of the University of Portsmouth with a BSc in Pharmacology. My genre of writing is Contemporary Romance with a twist which is a portal into my mind and soul. Sparked with a passion for gothic horror, mystery and romance novels; my top writing influences include Virginia Andrews and Stephen King. I am also a strong woman coming from a family line of strong and inspirational women. I am a mother of three beautiful girls.
Why did you decide to become a writer?
To be honest I stumbled into writing. I never had an interest in writing but I loved books. My mother having sent me away to boarding school in Nigeria, used to send me novels all the time, I guess as a form of a treat for being absent in my adolescent life. At first l was angry a lot at her and my father for sending me away so I always ignored the books. Thinking if l ignored them l was making some kind of statement, even though my mother wasn’t around to see me make those statements. I eventually got bored and started reading them. I use to spend all my spare time with a novel. I still remember my first book ‘Flowers in the Attic’ by Virginia Andrews. I became obsessed and got lost in a world that was sweet as honey. Anytime I was asked what l wanted my mother to send to me from the UK instead of asking to be taken back to home to England like l always did and getting the same old response from my grandmother, “You are home” l started asking for Virginia Andrew books. Perhaps it was inevitable that I would grow up to be a writer.
What are your thoughts about the reading culture in Nigeria?
I think the reading culture has dwindled over the years. But to be honest when people have to spend their entire time making ends meet, what time – or money – do they have to read?
But unfortunately parents being the principal educators of their children cannot pretend that sending their children to schools will necessarily morph their kids into book worms. Buy books; encourage them to read newspapers, magazines and other literature. Poor reading skills can make a child develop a poor attitude toward school and can create self-esteem problems later in life. Reading skills are essential to succeed in society.
What would you say is the biggest challenge you have faced as an author?
It took me a year to get ‘Acceptance’ out. I spent all my spare moments writing. Sometimes it will go on until 4 am. My husband has woken up beside me many times with a look of concern. I always just reassured him that I was fine and just needed to write just another paragraph. I continued like this until the book was finally published. The first draft was a lot of hard work, trying to find an agent to believe in my work battered my self-esteem, as having your manuscript on submission feels like lining people up to insult your baby.
How rewarding has writing been for you?
Since I released my first book 3 years ago, I have become a recipient of numerous local and international awards, some of them are: ‘The Author of the Year Award’ at the Divas of Colour Awards UK 2015. ‘Author of the Year’ at the C-HUB Creativity Awards 2015, ‘Author of the Year’ at the African Women Rock Awards UK 2015, ‘Diaspora Writer of the Year’ at the Nigerian Writers Awards 2016, ‘Most Outstanding Author of the year’ Award at The Highflyer Entrepreneurs Online Award 2016 and ‘Best Author’ at the just-concluded BEFFTA AWARDS UK 2016. I have also been nominated for quite a few other awards which are set to hold within 2016 and 2017.
You are launching your new book, Lizzy Adams, in a few weeks. Can you tell us what inspired you to write the book?
I campaign strongly for the girl-child and one of the best ways in which I am able to do this is through my stories. My writing is my voice. A way to speak out on issues surrounding us as human beings each and everyday.
This ambition consequently birthed my up-coming book, ‘MY NAME IS LIZZY ADAMS’ which is the introductory part of the Lizzy Adams Boarding Mysteries series; a young adult fictional novel which is due to be launched 16 December 2016. This new book also gave birth to my new initiative ‘THE LIZZY ADAMS Brand.’
My mission is to change mind-sets that have long-prevented girls from pursuing their dreams. My aim is for the girl-child to her their full potential and live her best life story. The ‘Lizzy Adams’ platform aims to empower the girl-child by directing them through the path that would empower and inspire them to becoming the very best at their chosen career paths.
What should readers expect from the book, Lizzy Adams?
My upcoming book ‘My name is Lizzy Adams’ is a compelling story of true friendship and sacrifice, love and betrayal and above all the bravery of a girl who chose to stand out in a strange land. The novel will be the first of a series of books from the ‘Lizzy Adams Boarding Mysteries’. I plan to write four more books in the series.
What’s the worst thing anyone has said about your article or book?
I haven’t had any negative thing said to me directly about my book.
If you had to choose, which of your published work is your favourite and why?
It would have to be my first book ‘Acceptance’. When I started on this journey of being an author I never planned to be a mentor to anyone to be honest. All I wanted was to publish my first book. When ‘Acceptance’ was published for some reason God sent countless young people especially in Nigeria my way, requesting my mentorship and guidance especially as it relates with their writing interests and their dreams of becoming successful authors. At first I was a bit shocked as the only young people that looked up to me were my siblings now I had all these people, young and old looking up to me. I then realized apart from my siblings I had a responsibility to all these people as well.
Many writers face challenges getting their books published. Do you have any advice that they may find useful?
Authors should not be lazy. They should not believe in romantic notions of how publishing works. They should do their PR as well as their homework. As there are many other authors out there the competition is great. They should learn to swim in the opposite direction in an aquarium.
There’s a perception that one cannot earn a living from writing. What are your thoughts about this?
Writers can work full or part time, and earn a supplemental income to help cover the bills or generate a lucrative primary income. Every business and every industry needs writers. What you make will depend on how good you are, what you choose to write, and how much you are willing to work. There’s also a social factor. Your career will be more satisfying if you write what’s most important to you, or what you know most about. You might be passionate about health and beauty, business, technology, gaming, or auto repair. Wherever your expertise lies, there’s a market, publishing platforms, and an audience.
Do you think you will ever retire from writing?
Yes. When I am 6 feet under.
Where do you see yourself and your works in five years?
I see myself writing more books, mentoring up and coming authors and further advocating for the struggles of the girl-child.
What do you do in your leisure time?
Apart from looking after my family and working, I look for other new inventive ways of promoting myself as a brand.
Any last words for upcoming writers?
Everyone starts by learning from the masters, by emulating them, and then through them, you find your own voice. Read a lot. As much as possible. Pay close attention to style and mechanics in addition to content.
Keep a little notebook handy and write down ideas for stories or novels or characters. Having these ideas written down helps, because they can inspire you or actually go directly into your writing. I find that it’s so much better to write like you talk (without all the umms and uhhs). People relate to it better.