Tolulope Popoola is a writer, blogger and lover of books and all things literature. She used to be an Accountant, until she rediscovered her love for writing in 2006 and became a full-time writer in 2008. She is also the creator and one of the writers for the fiction series and book, In My Dreams It Was Simpler. Her novel, “Nothing Comes Close” is a spin-off from the series and has been published by Accomplish Press. She also writes short stories, flash fiction, poems and articles for magazines.
1-You were an accountant until you switched to full-time writing. Why did you decide to become a full-time writer? And how long have you been writing?
My writing journey began towards the end of 2006 when I started getting frustrated with my career as an accountant. I wasn’t fulfilled in my job, even though it paid well and the company was a great place to work. I was not using my creative talents, and when I thought about it, I was filled with horror at the idea of working in Accounting for the next forty years of my life.
Writing was always a hobby that I enjoyed doing, since I was about six years old. I devoured books, and sometimes I wrote my versions of the stories I’d read. When I was a teenager, I wrote pages and pages in my diaries. I found writing therapeutic; it helped me to get things off my chest and sort through my private thoughts. However, it was never something I considered as a career. I’d always thought a job was one where you had to wear a suit, work in a 9 – 5 office job, and get paid monthly.
In 2006, I came across a blog when I was searching for some information online. I was immediately attracted to the idea of writing an online journal, so I started my own blog. I enjoyed writing, commenting, meeting other people, and joining a community of bloggers. I started looking forward to coming home after a long day at work and unwinding by writing on my blog. One day, I wrote a short story and published it on my blog and that post attracted positive comments from the readers. I was surprised and pleased that people thought I could write fiction and they enjoyed my stories. So I started writing some more. The more I wrote, the more I wanted to continue doing it. In 2008, I finally quit my job and decided to write full-time.
2.Was it necessary to actually quit your job to write your novel? Because a lot of people write while having a career.
I’ve been asked that question many times J . At the time, I was commuting nearly two hours to work, each way and getting home totally exhausted. I was also taking some writing classes twice a week, and my schedule conflicted with a full-time job. Long story short, I wanted to focus on one thing at a time. And since I knew my career as an Accountant wasn’t going anywhere, it didn’t make any sense for me to continue holding on to it
3. You created a fiction series with 8 other bloggers. Can you tell us a little bit about that project? And about the experience in general. Did that project help you with your novel in any way?
The series was an interesting experiment. It all started when I came across a wedding album on Facebook one day and I thought the groom looked like a cousin of mine who was already married to someone else. This gave me an idea and a few days later, I wrote a short story titled My Dilemma. I put it on one of my blogs and as a note on Facebook. I got good feedback from people who read it, and lots of people asked for a Part 2 to the story. I didn’t think much about it until someone left a comment saying that the story could be turned into a series. That caught my attention and it sounded like a neat idea, so I decided to expand the plot and the characters. Then I invited some bloggers and asked if they were interested in writing a group story. Thankfully I got a great response and a few weeks later, the series was born. It lasted on our blog for over a year.
Unfortunately, it ended on a cliffhanger leaving readers wondering what happened next. Lola and Wole were getting closer and their relationship was deepening, but we didn’t get to see if they overcame a new set of challenges that was thrown at them.
The series helped me with things like plot and character development, juggling different storylines and working to a regular schedule.
4. Why did you choose the romance genre for your novel?
I didn’t choose the romance genre deliberately; it just grew out of the series that way. I wanted to get my female protagonist, Lola to a point where she was satisfied with the choices she had made for her future, and I wanted the reader to understand Wole’s character better. With the novel, I got to make that happen. I also wanted to write about people and relationships that I observed around me.
5. Should we expect something from you in the future? On the same genre? a different genre?
I plan to continue creating stories so I’ll always have a project I’m working on; whether it’s a short story, flash fiction or a novel. I have ideas for a novel that is not in the romance genre so we’ll see how that goes.
6. What did you enjoy most about the writing process?
Writing the novel was a learning experience, as I’m sure writing any book will be. I’m still a new writer so I’m learning how to do it better. I really enjoyed writing the dialogue and interactions between Lola and Wole. I wanted to reveal who they were through their speech. The main challenge was the process of going through several drafts and rewrites, but it was necessary to make the prose better.
7. Do you think an African literature exists? If yes, what does it represent for you?
I think African Literature exists and it is beginning to enjoy a renaissance. I would like to see it continue to grow and gain more recognition worldwide. For me it represents stories that are unique to my heritage. There are many stories we have to tell, and I hope that many more writers will start having the courage and opportunities to tell our stories and present our unique culture to the world.
8. Would you consider writing in your native language?
I really wish I could! I’m good at speaking Yoruba, but since I left school, I haven’t been doing any written work in it. To write a whole novel would be a challenge but also a great achievement. Maybe I can get some of my work translated in future.
9. Who are your favorite African writers?
I love reading books by Buchi Emecheta, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Chika Unigwe, Abidemi Sanusi and Lola Shoneyin.
10. Name two books by African writers that change your life?
I’ll pick “Joys of Motherhood” by Buchi Emecheta. When I first came across her books, I realized that stories of women in my environment needed to be told. I’ll also choose Lola Shoneyin’s novel “The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives”. It made me think that there were no topics one couldn’t write about.
11. Any advice for aspiring writers?
Spend every spare moment you have reading and writing. There is no better way to improve your work. And be resilient in doing it, even if you get discouraging comments at first. Pick yourself up and continue.