UK-based award-winning Nigerian writer, Ibitola Ojoye-Adebayo is the author of the widely read Acceptance book series which has two titles. She is currently in Nigeria to promote the books, and also to engage in talks towards turning the books into a feature film. In this chat with E24-7 MAGAZINE’S TOFARATI IGE, she speaks on her journey so far as an author, acceptance of the books, family life, what to expect in the film, and other issues. Excerpts…
Tell us a bit about your background?
I had my primary school education in the UK, before coming down to Nigeria for my secondary school education at Government College, Ikorodu. After that, I went back to the UK, where I graduated from Portsmouth University with a degree in Pharmacology. I currently work as a Clinical Research professional.
As a Pharmacology graduate, how did you make the switch to being an author?
It was by accident actually. Back in 2007, when I newly got married and had a baby, I felt like I was being bogged down by a lot of stuff, and I just wanted to get everything out of my head. I started putting things down in a diary format, and I began to feel better which made me to put it aside. But in 2013, I wanted to do something special for my wedding, and I was rummaging through the house when I came across the notebook. I read through it and I realized that what I wrote could be turned into a story, and other girls in the black and Asian communities; even globally can learn from. Men can also learn from it; that’s why I decided to turn my little jottings into a book. That’s basically how Acceptance was born. However, it’s not an autobiography, because people tend to assume that the book is about my life; it’s got nothing to do with me.
What’s the central theme that runs through the book ‘Acceptance?’
The central theme that runs through the book is a mother and daughter’s non-existent relationship, and how people migrate through no fault of their own. People tend to assume that when other people migrate into their country, they’re like a hindrance to them because they feel like they don’t belong there. But the reality is that a lot of this people are actually happier where they come from; it’s just situations and circumstances that drive them out of where they’re comfortable to another country where they try to make a living. Another focal point in the book is how a marriage can go drastically wrong. One minute, it’s all lovey-dovey; the next minute, everything starts to fall apart.
Can any part of you be found in the story?
Like I always tell people, it’s got nothing to do with me. I draw inspiration from myself, as well as people around me. My favourite character in the book is actually the mother of the lead character, and the mother is basically my mom, your mom, and everybody’s mother out there, especially the African ones. That’s why a lot of people can relate to the book, because they can see their mothers in her.
How will you describe the acceptance of Acceptance…(pun intended)?
(Chuckles). I didn’t really expect to get this amount of followership. Like I said earlier, the book came about by accident, so I thought if one person could read my book, then it’s a plus, but to get so many people reading my books has been a true blessing. I recently won an award in March: Diva Author of the Year 2015 for Divas of Colour, and I was also nominated for the Author of the Year award at the Women for Africa awards, which are both based in the UK. I’ve also been nominated for the Afro-Asian awards, and others. It’s been a great year. I’m just an ordinary girl living my ordinary life; so all this just came out of the blue.
Are you under any pressure to release your third book?
For now, the third book in the series has been on hold. I got so much attention for the first two books, and that’s why I want to turn it into a feature film. An award-winning director, Frederick Nwanka aka Fredi Kruga has turned it into a script, and he will be directing the film. Right now, we’re looking for more sponsors, investors and collaborators to come on board so we can make this dream a reality. We’ll like to film in the UK and Nigeria because the focal point of the book is my Nigerian heritage.
Which actors will you like to work with on the film?
Right now, we’re thinking of Idris Elba, Sophie Okonedo, Genevieve Nnaji, Joke Silva, and many others.
How do you think the film will connect to the Nigerian audience?
I’ve got a huge fan-base in Nigeria already, so I think it’ll connect with the audience because the characters wouldn’t just be from Hollywood alone, but from Nollywood as well. They will be people that Nigerians can identify with as their own, and that people can also reckon with globally.
What do you think is the selling point that’ll attract investors to this film?
We intend to make a gripping and exciting film. It’s a film that’ll break all barriers, and it’s going to be great for investors to come on board because it will connect to Africans as a whole, as well as other cultures culturally. A lot of people, not just Black, already relate to the book, so I’m sure that when the film is released, there’ll be a great following. We’re doing this internationally, and not just locally.
How much of African culture will be in the film?
It’s about 60% African and 40% British. Like I said earlier, I’ve got both backgrounds, so when I write, both backgrounds influence me. However, I wrote it to relate to other people as well.
How financially rewarding has your journey as an author been?
When it comes to people reading my books and coming back with positive feedbacks, it’s been a blessing. When it comes to finance, quite a few has been sold so far, so I’m not complaining; I’m not regretting it one bit. I went through the self-publishing route because when I started off, I sent manuscripts to many agents and they rejected it. That’s enough to make you want to give up, but I chose to forge ahead instead. I gave the manuscripts to many prominent people in my community, and they had positive things to say about it. The book was eventually published by Completely Novels, a UK-based firm which helps authors to self-publish.
How do you juggle your roles as a wife, mother, clinical consultant and author?
I’ll say it has mostly been with the support of my family. My husband, mom and sisters. Without them, it would have been hard, because when I start, I don’t stop. Even my 9-5 job is not the regular one; I close by 8pm, and after that, I pick up my project which is my book. I don’t finish till 4am, and I also have three kids and a husband to run around for. However, my husband has always been supportive of my dream.
Is your husband a Nigerian?
Yes, he is.
How do you unwind?
When it comes to enjoying myself, I’m a martial arts freak, so I love watching martial arts films, and horror movies. I also read horror books and that’s why my idol when it comes to authors is Stephen King.
Will we be seeing elements of horror in your film then?
I’m very into my gothic kind of thing, so there are some dark parts in the books.
What will you like to say to your fans?
I want to thank them for their continued support; it’s been a great encouragement for me to see people having interest in me and my books. That’s why I’ve got another series on the way, and it’s something totally different. It’s a young adult book which will connect to young adults.
How can your fans connect with you on social media?