Winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize and recently long-listed for the 2009 World Book Day Campaign, Books to Talk About, Sade Adeniran has had an admirable start to her writing career. Even more impressive when you find out that her debut novel ‘Imagine This’ was self-published. Sade tells us why she believes that just because you get a rejection letter, it doesn’t mean your work isn’t good, it just means it hasn’t found the right home.
Imagine This is the journal of Lola Ogunwole which she starts at the age of nine; it charts her survival from childhood into adulthood. It’s a compelling story about one girl’s resilience against the odds.
We talked to Sade about why she decided to self-publish this highly original novel and what advice she has for other writers out there.
Imagine This is your first novel, what made you decide to start writing it and how long did it take to write?
I was made redundant from my job as a marketing executive, I was so mad at my boss because he made me work the whole day before telling me. So I went home with a lot of anger and hurt which I decided to express in a novel. The pen is said to be mightier than the sword, so it was my way of seeking revenge. Of course it didn’t work out like that, the story was boring and I’d only written about 100 pages before I ditched it and stuck with my characters back story which was much more interesting than the revenge quest she was on.
The story is told through a series of journal entries from the protagonist, Lola. Why did you decide to write it in this style?
The story started out in third person. As I mentioned above, Lola’s voice emerged very strong and determined so I went with her.
*You decided to take the step of self-publishing your book – many would consider that to be a brave choice. What made you decide to do it? *
I knew that there was an audience out there for Lola’s story. Publishers on the other hand were painting a different picture, I had to create the opportunity, the audience and the demand. I guess I did it because I wanted her story to be read and I had sufficient confidence in my skill as a writer – bolstered by great feedback – to build the door of opportunity myself.
What’s your advice to writers who have confidence in their work and have received some good feedback, and yet keep receiving the rejection letters from publishers?
All I can is what a wise woman said to me when my radio play was rejected by the BBC then subsequently made for Radio 4 when I resubmitted it for First Bite. “Just because you get a rejection letter doesn’t mean your work isn’t good, it just means it hasn’t found the right home.” Keep on sending it out to the relevant publishers and agents.
You have a well developed website about yourself and your book. How important do you think it is for a writer to have an online presence?
It’s the world we live in, gone are the days when readers want writers to be mysterious beings that live in attics. People want to know everything, plus the fact that in the age of technology where we spend a good deal of our time online; it’s a crucial marketing tool. One that has definitely helped Imagine This.
You won the Commonwealth Writers prize for the region of Africa and have now been long-listed for the 2009 World BookDay campaign, Books to Talk About. Has this made you relax a bit and enjoy the compliments, or has it made you even more determined to get your book out into the world?
Relaxed!!! Are you kidding. It never stops. Winning the Commonwealth Writers Prize was great because it raised my profile, people looked at me with a bit more respect. My name was being mentioned in the same breath as Chimamanda Adiche, Chinua Achebe and other great writers, I no longer had to hold my head in shame because I’d self-published. It was a huge confidence boost. The World Book Day campaign is an entirely different experience, I want Imagine This to get as far as the shortlist because the sort of publicity and profile it will hopefully receive is only afforded to books from mainstream publishers. Imagine This is a book that deserves a wider audience. But then I would say that, I wrote it. :-)
So, time to vote for Sade’s novel on the World Book Day website!.