One Story, Many Voices (Part 2 of 2)

Interview with Writers for In My Dreams, It Was Simpler

(Part 2 of 2) (read Part 1 here)

Continuing the multi-part interview with Tolulope Popoola, Jennifer A., Tolulope Adegbite, and Ugo Chime, for contributors to the online writing project, "In My Dreams, It was Simpler."

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Shaun Randol: The branding and name-dropping is not something that overwhelms your book, just something that stuck out. Ultimately, I think the book is an affirmation of friendship. Jennifer made the point earlier. Jimmy Choo and Blackberry be damned! In the end, the things that matter are those who are close to you.

Jennifer A.: Yes I agree.

Tolulope Adegbite: Yes it is. These days friendships are getting more superficial and ladies are said to backstab each other a lot. But the book shows women can maintain close relationships with each other despite the challenges.

SR: Let's talk about boys.

TA: Boys? Huh?

SR: Boy trouble is a common theme in the book.

TA: [laughing]

JA: Yes it is.

TA: Yes women always have boy trouble!

SR: Man troubles I should say. [The characters are paired with men troubles:]  Funmi and Ebuka; Titi and Folake and Dayo; Temmy and all men; Lola and Wole; Dolapo and [pastor Kunle]. Maureen and nobody! The fashionista is the only one with no men troubles. Was this deliberate, this boy trouble theme?

Tolulope Popoola: It is reality.

SR: ha ha ha

TA: Ladies always have man trouble, [especially] single ladies.

TP: Lots of women have issues with men until they finally find "the one," and even that is not guaranteed.

TA: Tolu, you got that right.

JA: I think each of the man troubles recorded was deliberate to show that young women are in a constant search for that man who will be the world to them, but this dream isn't always easy to achieve.

TP: Especially in a Nigerian setting, women complain that men are dishonest commitment-phobes.

Ugo Chime: I don't think commitment-phobia is particular to [Nigerian] men. In fact, I'd think Nigerian men do better on that area than those in the developed world.

TA: I would actually say [that the] problem cuts across the globe.

JA: I will also say it's not just a Nigerian problem.

TP: Yeah, the dating world is a treacherous field.

SR: Ugo, you write for Dayo, right? What is it like to write for a male character? What is it like to try to get into the mind of a man?

UC: I don't know if I'd say I successfully got into the mind of a man, but I tried as much as possible to think like a man. I was a tomboy growing up, and it was a challenge being a female trying to speak for a man.

SR: I think you succeeded in passing the voice off as a male. I actually thought [his part] was written by a man. So, I'm pleasantly surprised.

UC: Thanks.

SR: As a man I related most to Dayo, although I found all the characters appealing in one way or another. I think all the characters have at least one trait that the common reader can relate to. Of course, none of the characters were dumb or drug addicts or thieves. They're all pretty good people, which I suppose reflects the circles you keep personally as well.

TP: It probably does.

JA: I think they are good people with flaws, which sometimes puts them in places they never imagined they would ever be.

TP: Like [the character] Titi is a good girl, doing something that her friends don't like, and they point it out to her.

TA: And that's the character of all human beings. We all have flaws and we're trying to find our way and deal with circumstances we find ourselves in. Sometimes good people do bad things and bad things happen to good people.

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SR: The writing [in In My Dreams…] is not descriptive. Meaning, details, like birds chirping or the scent of flowers in the air, or the feel of a breeze through hair, chilly nights leaving goose bumps on skin, or hot days making sweat trickle down your back... The sounds and sights of the streets and such, none of it is [in the book]. Filling in the details about temperature and sights in the distance and the color of carpet and such is nearly entirely left to the reader.

TA: Personally, I skip such description in a lot of books.

TP: I see your point, Shaun.

UC: Actually, the novel started out as blog posts. The idea of making it a book to be published came later. So, when I was writing, I wrote as I would for blog posts—not a lot of descriptions, just straight to the point, so busy readers can cram it to their daily routine.

SR: It really is straight to the point, no flourish.

JA: I agree with you Shaun, and I enjoy books that have those in there. I actually try to put a lot of that in Dolapo’s stories, albeit not too much.

TP: Yeah, we tried to focus on the characters and the story, rather than the setting. It reads like a peep into someone's diary.

TA: But some books tend to be overly descriptive, and that turns me off as a reader. [The book chapters] are thoughts of different people, though, and they're busy people. What is happening in their lives? Not much of what is happening around them. I wouldn't be describing the birds or the air around me in my journal or diary.

JA: I agree with you Shaun, and I think more of those settings make a reader connect more. I am learning to use those types of descriptions more and more.

SR: On the one hand, I think the lack of descriptors is reflective of your writing styles. On the other hand, I see it as being reflective of being world's away. I can see that it is difficult to describe the street sounds of London [where the book takes place] from Ohio.

JA: Each character in the book actually does reflect the writer's writing style.  And it is an interactive book, so there's diversity in the writing style.

TP: I feel like a lot of descriptions could overwhelm the story

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SR: Do you read each others' sections before they go live onto the site?

TP: Yes we do.

TA: And give feedback and constructive criticism.

JA: Sometimes though not everyone is able to review each section.

TP: At first we didn't, but it became necessary for us to know what our character would be up to.

JA: But not less than three people review at a time.

SR: Interesting So what happens when someone writes something you disagree with, in terms of plot development?

JA: We have disagreed several times with the plot.

TP: We have to inform the "owner" of the character of the plot before we publish the story.

UC: That happened. We generally pointed out our logic to them. This is why I don't think this should be. Sometimes, they get our point, and sometimes they don't. In the end, some corrections are made and some things are removed.

TA: Because our characters intertwine, if you're mentioning a character, then they must agree with what you're doing with their character. Such that you don't take their character away from the plans they have for them.

JA: Just as it is in the corporate world, we do not always agree, but we usually come to some sort of compromise.

TP: Now we have meetings to discuss our next posts and plans for each character, so that we are aware beforehand.

TA: And we try to agree on those.

SR: So, in essence, the development of each character is a collective process.

TP: Yes.

SR: There are never surprises?

UC: Surprises happen.

TP: There are some surprises.

TA: There are some!

UC: But mostly we saw the surprises before our audience did. We've also had lots of pleasant surprises, I must add.

SR: Anyone: can you give me an example of a surprise to you? For example, one day you read the next chapter from XXX and you think to yourself, "what the!?!? I didn't see that coming!"

TP: When Dolapo tried to kiss Pastor Kunle. That was a funny surprise.

TA: That was an absolute surprise.

JA: Yeah, it was quite surprising.

SR: ha ha ha- I liked that surprise too. When I read that, I thought "OH NO!" I thought it was hilarious and embarrassing at the same time.

Is there an order in which you write? A schedule?

TP: We try to follow the story logically so we have an outline.

UC: Basically the same order was the book was published.

TA: Yes we have a schedule, and we have a timetable for the next few posts. And we know when we are to write beforehand.

SR: Is it getting easier or more difficult to continue this project? There are a LOT of characters and therefore, a LOT of plot developments that must be kept in check.

TP: Yes that's why it became necessary for everyone to know what each writer is planning, so that we don't create story arcs that we can't cover, or write ourselves into a corner.

TA: Personally, it's getting easier for me, because I know I want to take my character somewhere.

SR: Jennifer?

JA: The ease or difficulty varies for me with each post. I'm a linear writer so I tend to pick up from where the last writer stopped, and sometimes it's easy and sometimes it's difficult, depending on the twist I try to instigate.

SR: Is anyone confident they know exactly where their character will end up?

TP: I know what I have planned for Lola, and I think the others too know how they intend to wrap up each character's story

TA: We have a fair idea of where our characters are going... but things might change a bit along the way…

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To get on board with In My Dreams it Was Simpler, visit the blog here.

Tolulope Popoolais a writer, blogger and a passionate lover of books and music. After venturing into a career in Accounting and Finance for a few years, she started blogging under the pseudonym “Favoured Girl” in 2006 and rediscovered her love for writing. She quit her job in 2008 to become a full-time writer. She now has three blogs one of which is http://writingmystories.blogspot.com, and is the creator of the fiction series and book, “In My Dreams It Was Simpler.” She also writes poems, articles and short stories for magazines, and is currently working on a novel.

Ugo Chimeworks with an international N.G.O. She is a wife, a mother, and is a published author of contemporary short stories. Ugo is presently working on another novel. She writes from Lagos, Nigeria.

Tolulope Adegbite is a writer and entrepreneur. She holds a bachelor’s degree in literature from the Obafemi Awolowo University. After working for some years in the corporate environment, she decided to pursue her areas of interest. Tolulope has written a number of articles and short stories, and writes a blog which enjoys a good followership. She likes cooking, reading, swimming, hanging out with her husband and friends and loves to play scrabble. Tolulope has a manuscript which she completed recently and hopes to publish in the near future. She lives with her husband in Abuja, Nigeria.

Jennifer A. (nee Ojakovo) is a growing author and established blogger. She’s been writing on her blog, “Light-A-Lamp” under the pen name “Jaycee” since September 2006 and has gained over 30,000 visitors from 146 Countries. Her website is www.lightherlamp.com. Her inspirational writings have attracted such awards as Most Inspiring blogger 2009 and Best Religion Blog 2009 (Nigerian Blog Awards 2009). She’s a graduate of Howard University, Washington D.C. and is currently working on completing her graduate degree, while she keeps up with writing on the blog and other future projects as well.

Shaun Randol founded The Mantle in 2009. Today he is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher. You can email him at shaun [at] themantle.net. Shaun is the co-editor of Gambit: Newer African Writing.