The ‘Acceptance author in fewer than one year has shot to fame, with 2 bestselling novels to her name – Acceptance and Acceptance into Darkness (now being adapted into a movie), and has won over Nigeria with her just concluded book tour. Ibitola is about to take over!
Nigerians have become synonymous with surprising the world with their wealth of talent. There’s no little talented Nigerian, Ibitola is just an epitome of that phenomenon. I feel proud being a Nigerian too. You’ve got to be. Chatting with her for C. Hub magazine on her journey so far as an author and her coping with finding fame, although it’s yet to sink in, the pharmacology graduate tells me of her stumble into becoming now an award winning bestseller.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Writing my first novel was a way of freeing up my mind. Having just given birth to my first child, l thought the whole world had gotten into a tiny box with me and was squeezing me in. I just couldn’t breathe. One day l was reading an article in a magazine which talked about the different forms of therapy. The one that caught my eye was writing your thoughts and feelings down and de-cluttering your brain from unnecessary things that shouldn’t be controlling your life. I started applying this technique that very day. l just kept writing and writing every spare moment l got. By the time l reached Chapter 9 of Acceptance, I couldn’t believe I was actually writing a book. I started feeling very much lighter and happier. It was quite an intense process.
My readers and the positive feedback I have received since publishing my first novel ‘Acceptance’ were the inspiration behind my second novel. So far, writing the sequel and publishing it was a whole lot of fun.
How much of the story is realistic?
Surely the topics covered within the book are far too realistic. It covers the dark side of relationships within the family, within a marriage and in life in general. It was very important for me to include my Nigerian heritage. I wanted the book to speak to my fellow Nigerians as well as Africans as a whole. l also wanted my book to touch the hearts of other cultures globally. Acceptance speaks a lot to most young adults and women especially in many African and Asian cultures. Acceptance touches on many issues that people deal with in life. The book speaks of a mother and daughter’s non-existent relationship, it speaks of how a loving marriage can go horribly wrong, it speaks to us of how the act of war can damage one’s soul, and it speaks of the reason why people migrate through no fault of their own.
Are characters based on someone you know or events in your own life?
Nothing is based on events in my own life. The characters are loosely based on people around me.
Is there a message in the book you want your audience to grasp?
Acceptance touches on many issues that people deal with in life, it is gripping and intense. The main theme is secrets and lies. It’s a destructive force as can be seen as the book progresses. Just when you think you know which direction it is going, the book catapults another direction. As the story unfolds we discover that no one is quite what they seem and Eva the main protagonist gradually uncovers the truth about their deception with tragic consequences.
Which of the characters is your favourite and why?
The mother especially was the character l loved creating the most as it was a character most close to my heart. The character of the mother is several Nigerian mothers l know all rolled up into one. The relationship between mothers and daughters is probably both the most fruitful and the most fraught a woman ever has. It’s the source of the deepest love and deepest anger – even hate – we ever experience. A mother is a symbol. She’s all-knowing, all-powerful, maybe the enemy and maybe the nurturer—but you don’t see her as another woman with similar problems and experiences.
Which character is less interesting and why ?
I would say Janet, Eva’s sister is the one that is least interesting as I did not expand on her character.
Do you regret anything, would you change anything about your book if you could ?
Absolutely yes! I’d love to expand more on Eva and Janet’s relationship as sisters. The sibling bond, , is now thought to be one of the most important in our lives. No other peer relationship involves a shared upbringing, shared genes and shared secrets. If I know anything about my future, it is that my relationship with my two younger sisters is going to be one of the most important and meaningful elements of my life. We are different in almost every way, but we have the same need for the love and support of the other. They are my little sisters, but as I have grown older, I have needed them more than anything.
How did you come about the title?
The title acceptance came to me in my dreams like most of my other works. When I woke up I knew then It was a title sent to me from the most High.
Aside family who else has supported you most through your writing career?
my publicist (Mr Fiesta) has been key in my growth as a recognised writer he has worked tremendously hard to get me noticed and I am truly grateful to God for coming across him. Also during the course of coming into the limelight, Organisations such as Divas of Colour , Temika entertainment run by Omowunumi Akanni has boosted my status considerably and have been a great source of support.
How about your family, how much have they contributed to your writing success?
I really cannot thank God enough for what he has provided in my life. I am truly grateful for the continuous support from my family and friends, all of which have led me to be creative in my work.
Have you always aspired to be a writer?
I love books. ‘My mother having sent me away to boarding school in Nigeria, used to send me novels all the time I guess as a form of a treat for being absent in my adolescent life. At first l was angry a lot at her and my father for sending me away so I always ignored the books. Thinking if l ignored them l was making some kind of statement, even though my mother wasn’t around to see me make those statements. I eventually got bored and started reading them. I use to spend all my spare time with a novel.’ I still remember my first book ‘Flowers in the Attic’ by Virginia Andrews. I became obsessed and got lost in a world that was sweet as honey. A world where an ordinary girl in a book has a past, present and future, she has connections and motivations. I can relate to her. I see the world through her eyes. Anytime I was asked what l wanted my mother to send to me from the UK instead of asking to be taken back to home to England like l always did and getting the same old response from my grandmother “you are home” l started asking for Virginia Andrew books. Perhaps it was inevitable that I would grow up to be a writer.
What was the hardest part of getting your book published?
The first draft was a lot of hard work, trying to find an agent to believe in my work battered my self-esteem, as having your manuscript on submission feels like lining people up to insult your baby. Then being rejected then finally coming across self-publishing and not looking back. Finally Marketing and selling enough to make it worthwhile.
What was your biggest learning experience during the publishing process?
Self-publishing is not a serial process where you can write a book and then worry about marketing it later. You need to start building a marketing platform as soon as you start writing because the process takes a year. One should already have thousands of followers on social media on the day that you ship.
How long did it take for you to get the book out? Did you have to adopt a particular lifestyle to stay motivated to write?
It took me a year to get acceptance out. I spent all my spare moments writing. Sometimes it will go on until 4am. My husband has woken up beside many times with a look of concern. I always just reassured him that I was fine and just needed to write just another paragraph. I continued like this until the book was finally published. The sequel only took me 6 months on the other hand as I already knew what I wanted to write.
Can you give me any tips that helped you get the book finished finally?
Firstly, you should write because you love it. As you cannot go into it half-hearted. Secondly, learn to write rough. Stop caring about spelling and sentence fragments and plot holes and grammar. Get the story down. Listen to the dialog and try to keep up with your fingers. Get to the end of your manuscript and THEN worry about the quality.
Do you still need fans, how can they be of help?
Yes of course. Fans are the lifeline for my success. They can help by telling their friends and promoting my book on their own platforms.
Any work in progress we do not know about?
I am currently working on a new book which will be part of a series comprising of 5 books. I plan to release it next year.
Any surprising thing about you people should know about?
I wanted to be an actor and I started my journey by being an extra in the film ‘Taxi for a comedian’ (2007) directed by Simon Antoine.
What books have most influenced your life?
Well, I’ll come clean and say I don’t think I have one book which dramatically altered the course of my life. But, I do know the book which began my reading life, made me aware of the wonders of books, of authors, of stories, of words. That book was The BFG by Roald Dahl. The first time I encountered it, it was read to the class by my year five teacher in primary school. Her name was Mrs Mackey and she had the sweetest, softest, voice I had ever heard. I went through a heavy Enid Blyton phase with books such as ‘The magic faraway Tree’ and my Favourite the ‘Famous Five series’. But the book that changed my life was Flowers in the Attic – by Virginia Andrews it’s all coming back to me. I devoured that book in one sitting. Bear with me, as I justify this, as I first read it when I was about 12, following a childhood of reading every Enid Blyton book under the sun. It really opened my eyes to adult literature, not least to a controversial story-line, but I admit that I was hooked on Andrew’s’ style of writing and read the whole series with relish. I put them down at the age of about 17. I Really appreciated her descriptive way of writing and the easy dialogue, and given how many stories she spawned, she must have had some considerable imagination and drive.
Who is your favourite author?
I’ve been a lifelong V.C. Andrews fan. It was Virginia Andrews’s unique, gothic style novels that inspired me very early on to become a writer. I read her books year after year, not wanting to read anything else. Her stories were captivating and have always left me wanting more.
Any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Richard Paa Kofi Botchwey Author of ‘The tale of an Orphan’. Richard’s way with words is amazing he is definitely one to watch out for.
Tell me about your cover artwork, why did you choose that particular image ?
Three aspects of a book make the greatest first impression on potential readers. The opening sentence. The title. And, of course, the cover. I choose this book cover as I wanted something that would draw a first time reader in. I’m a primitive reader and I judge books by their covers all the time.
What makes a character less appealing?
I guess when a character lacks relatability
Do you have any interesting talent or hobby?
The act of telling a story in the most unique way as it is a talent I didn’t even realise I had until ‘Acceptance’ was born.
Which author do you aspire to be like?
Lol, it should be obvious by now ‘Virginia Andrews’.
Do you consider yourself a successful author?
I will consider myself a successful author the day I give up my 9-5 Job as a Clinical research Consultant and write full time.
Tell me about your work schedule as a writer, mother, wife and also with a day job. How do they all fit in?
Is hard work juggling a nine to five job as well as keeping up the schedule of a writer. I am only able to do it due to encouragement and support from family and friends.
Stepping into the limelight, how has it been?
Stepping into the limelight has become a shock to me as I do feel like a fish out of water at these big events; every time I do a red carpet I’m in two minds about whether I actually want to go out the door and get really nervous. I kind of go onto the red carpet apologetically. I had to pinch myself, when I was at the screen nation awards recently and was guided over to Idris Elba’s table by Fredi Nwaka(Award winning Director) and introduced to Idris Elba as the author of the bestselling the book ‘Acceptance’ the new project he had taken on and he would like to discuss it with Idris later. I stood there paralyzed praying to God that I didn’t have lipstick on my teeth. I crashed down to earth when he kissed me on both cheeks and said hello. I was too far gone so I don’t actually remember if I gave him a response or not. All I saw before me was the physical representation of ‘Hercules’ himself. Anyone that’s read my book ‘Acceptance’ would understand. lol
You recently won Divas of colour Author of the year award, tell me about it and how it feels? Any other awards so far? Which other awards do you aspire to win ?
When I won the Diva Author award I was stunned! I couldn’t believe it as It took a while to sink in but then I enjoyed my moment of glory. I was also nominated for ‘Author of the year’ at this year’s women4africa 2015 award as well as the upcoming C. Hub magazine CA award. I would love to win the Booker and Caine Prize awards.
You’re married, any children yet? How many?
Oh yes I’m married and I have three girls who I adore. My family are my life. I having a loving partner who has always supported me in everything l do. Whatever new idea I come up with – trust me there have been many – he has always been ready to help me and give me advice. I have vowed to make sure that my relationship with my girls are kept strong and forever fruitful. There came a critical moment in my life, when I gave birth to my first daughter and I started to understand the deeply rooted themes that run through all mother-daughter relationships. Finally when l look into the eyes of my three little girls and see their dependence on me, it pushes me to try harder in whatever l lay my hands on and try to make it a success. So at least when they look back at my life after I’ve gone to the great father above they can be proud of what Mummy had accomplished in her life.
Does your marriage have any part in inspiring the story ?
Yes a lot. Only close family and friends know that the prologue chapter of acceptance ‘Hercules’ was actually how my husband and I met.
At what point in your life did you realise you could actually write books?
When I reached chapter 9 of ‘Acceptance’.
What do you think makes a good story?
A story tightly wound around the important thematic questions the story is intended to explore. No waste – nothing superfluous. A central theme arising out of an important moral conflict that is symbolic of a conflict we all face.
What else do you like to do?
I Love to watch Horror films in my spare time
What does your family think of your writing?
My family and friends are very excited about the book and it was a shock when l announced the release of my book to the world. My dad had always wanted to write a book but never ended up putting pen to paper. He feels as if he is living his dreams through me. This makes me laugh because if l had told my father l wanted to do literature instead of Pharmacology at University he would have gone spare.
How many books have you written?
‘Acceptance: Into the Darkness’ I plan to write one more in this series which will be the concluding part. I am also currently finishing off my third book with is a totally a new series. I plan to write five books in this new series.
Tell me about the upcoming project we heard of.
My First book ‘Acceptance’ is going to be adapted into an international standard feature film. Multi-award winning Script Writer and Director, Fredi Nwaka AKA Fredi Kruga is has converted the story to a screenplay. The feature film “Acceptance” is still currently open to potential investors and sponsors. It is seriously worth considering the possibility of partnering with us in this endeavour. We intend to produce a film that is entertaining, appealing & gripping. To find out more, interested parties can contact us via the website: www.ioadebayo.com /www.gridlocfilms.com, crowd funding has been set up for the feature film.
Any suggestions to help others to become better writers?
Acceptance can be purchased from any of the following platforms:
Get social with Ibitola on :
Blurb for Acceptance:
Acceptance exists at the core of our being. It is our default status. In order to reach this base level of acceptance, one need only remove the items lying on top. To do this, we must first identify all the things we do not accept around us. Then, one by one, eliminate them. This I did without so much as a backward glance or afterthought. But the people who hurt me deserved it. After today, no one will ever hurt or crush my world again.
Looking back, I would say I had always been a fighter. Never backing down to anything or anyone, never accepting being second best, and definitely never ever letting a man walk all over me or put me down. But all that changed six years ago when Richard entered my life…
Blurb for Into the darkness:
The thought of those betrayals, those terrible blows to my trust, cracking the very core of my being, made this dark nightmare I now inhabited feel a little more welcoming. But I could still feel the cold weight of the knife in my hand, feel it sinking into Richard’s soft flesh. I had to wake. I had to know if my anger and rage had turned me into a monster..
Making the cover
Photographer : Idris Abdulkareem (Ismile photos)
Designer : Rose Perkins (Fashion sistas)
Make up artist : Damilola Balogun (True Glam Beauty)
Creative Director : Faustina Anyanwu
Interview/words : Faustina Anyanwu.