“I’m the Only One in the Room with the Page.” Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ on Writing the Sophomore Novel
In Conversation with Brad Listi on Otherppl
Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ is the guest. Her new novel, A Spell of Good Things, is out now from Knopf.
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From the episode:
Brad Listi: So Stay with Me is published to great acclaim, nominated for all these awards, surpassed I think your expectations for it, it’s fair to say, and launched you as a writer. And then the next step for you is to follow it up, which is what you’re doing here. This book is publishing six years later. I know from reading a little bit online that it’s been a busy six years for you in ways that fall outside of literature. You got married, you had a baby. Congratulations.
Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀: Thank you.
Brad Listi: What was it like to try to follow it up? You know, there’s the sophomore slump or curse—this is something that gets talked about. But did you feel pressure? Was it difficult in ways that Stay with Me was not?
Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀: It was difficult in a way. I’m so grateful that I had started working on it before Stay With Me came out because I think it would have been even more difficult to start something totally new after the first book got the kind of attention that it did. Because I think it did throw me off for about a year at least. It was difficult in that with Stay with Me, I had a kind of freedom because I didn’t know that anybody was going to ever read the book. I wanted people to read it. But it was this crazy thing that I was doing, spending hours and hours on it. I was telling my friends, I’m writing a book. And three years later, they’re like, you’re still writing the book?
But with this one, I had an awareness of an audience which did not exist with Stay with Me. The thing that I had to do, each time I sat down to write, was to help myself return to that point where I’m the only one in the room with the page. It’s important for me as a writer to have that freedom to create without immediately thinking about how people might respond to what I’m writing. I want to think about that much later in the process, not when I’m actually creating.
Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ was born in Lagos, Nigeria. Her debut novel, Stay with Me, won the 9mobile Prize for Literature, was shortlisted for the Baileys Prize for Women’s Fiction, the Wellcome Book Prize, and the Kwani Manuscript Prize. It has been translated into twenty languages and the French translation was awarded the Prix Les Afriques. Longlisted for the International Dylan Thomas Prize and the International Dublin Literary Award, Stay with Me was a New York Times, Guardian, Chicago Tribune, and NPR Best Book of the Year.