For readers who haven’t (yet!) read your brilliant, witty novel, can you tell us about it in one sentence?
Wahala is a darkly funny, subversive and modern take on friendship, family, culture and revenge, centred around three successful mixed-race friends whose lives embrace jollof rice, ankara and blonde weaves in the same breath as Ubers Soho House and ski holidays.
Did you find it challenging or fun to write an evil character like Isobel?
Charmed lives and perfect people are incredibly boring, so it was a joy to create this wrecking ball of a character with an unlimited budget, a house lacquered in gold, a hulking Russian bodyguard-cum-chauffeur and a banging body.
Are any of the friends in the quartet based on your real-life friendship group?
My friends never stop asking this question and they all think they are Ronke. Yes, my friends influenced the women of Wahala but I also gave each of them a piece of me. Like Simi I dropped out of medical school and freaked my Dad out. And like too many women, I share her imposter syndrome. When I was younger, I was a bit of a Boo, desperate to fit in, to assimilate, I straightened my hair and tweaked my name. And Ronke’s maternal grandparents who wanted nothing to do with her? Well, mine were worse. I’m nothing like Isobel but if I don’t get shortlisted, I might just summon her spirit and go rogue!
The descriptions of the friend group’s Nigerian brunches are mouth-watering! Do you have a favourite brunch dish? And if you had to choose - starter or dessert?
I want all the courses – starter, main and dessert. My brunches usually go on till supper, so let’s make that two of each! Choosing one favourite dish is bloody impossible, but if you held a gun to my head, I’d channel Ronke and order a sharing platter of suya (spicy skewers of beef), moin-moin, fried plantain and roast corn. Oh, and a glass of rosé, please. Large, obvs.
Finally, can you tell us why you think CWIP is important, particularly as this is such a fabulously funny, debut novel?
Hand on heart, being longlisted for the CWIP prize is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. It’s made me more confident about that difficult second book (I’m editing). It’s proof that there is space for my kind of wit – cutting, nuanced and spiky – maybe even bitchy. I don’t have to be turn myself vanilla because thanks to the wonderful Helen Lederer, CWIP exists to champion witty women of all flavours, even dark ones ;-)
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