Thursday, August 11, 2022

Q&A with Abi Ishola-Ayodeji



Abi Ishola-Ayodeji is the author of the new novel Patience Is a Subtle Thief.  A journalist, her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including and Essence.


Q: What inspired you to write Patience Is a Subtle Thief, and how did you create your character Patience?


A: When I took a screenwriting class in undergrad on a whim, I had to complete the first act of a screenplay as my final assignment.


The idea of a young woman who gets involved in shady dealings in Nigeria to get to America became my go-to when it came time to craft my assignment because I had met a few people in New York who had done such work in Nigeria to get to the States.


This was after the internet boom, and at the time in America, Nigerians had already become notorious for 419, AKA, advance fee fraud in the form of email requests for money.


As I watched Nigerians depicted as crooks I often wondered why the media hadn’t really humanized the issue. What would make someone want to defraud someone living in another country out of their life’s savings?


Of course we know poverty is the root cause, but poverty is a blanket term when people think of Africa. I feel people deserve to have the full scope of their stories told. That was my goal.

I was also inspired by MKO Abiola. He was a wealthy businessman who ran for the presidency in Nigeria in 1993 after decades of military coups and dictators promising year after year that they would make way for a democracy.


The election was the most free and fair election Nigeria had ever seen and Abiola won by a landslide, yet the military annulled the results, sending the country into chaos. It was a pivotal moment there that I believe could have changed the course of Nigeria.


The country eventually got its democracy, but not via the man who the people chose to steer the country towards economic prosperity. I often wonder what the country would be like had the election results been honored.


Q: The Kirkus Review of the book calls it “A poignant, revealing, and rueful tale of how much the political can affect the personal.” What do you think of that description, and how do you see the relationship between the political and the personal in the novel?


A: I really appreciate that description because that was my goal. Government has so much power over the way people end up living their lives, and over the choices people make day to day. My characters are balancing their hopes for political change along with their own personal desires. It’s a heavy burden to feel like you have no power over your own life.


But at the same time, I think people have a natural resilience when they have crucial goals and things they want to accomplish. Patience is trying to get to her mother, and at some point what happens during the election threatens her chances.


Other characters have professional and financial dreams and they’ve done all they can to achieve those dreams, yet the state of the country is a constant burden. In the end they make a choice because they are passionate about the things they want to see happen in their own lives.


Q: Did you know how the book would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: Ironically, it took me quite a while to finish partly because I wanted to know how it would end before I went to deep into my writing process.


There was a time when I made a decision that I thought was final in terms of how it would end. But when I allowed people to read it, I got pushback on the ending and I felt those feelings were valid. So I had to dig deeper and add more to what happened and how certain conversations at the end played out.


I’m definitely more of an outliner. I like to see the story before it’s written, but I’m learning how to be more flexible in order to allow for more creativity and spontaneity.


Q: How was the novel's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: I chose the title after sitting with this story for years. I always knew the working title would not work J. I wanted the title to be memorable and to represent my main character and a major theme in the book.


When it comes to patience, there are times when people wait for things that never come to fruition. In my novel, the people waited for democracy only to have it stolen. The feeling of defeat and loss that brings on can be quite overwhelming as if something has truly been taken away.


The title is also a double entendre given the fact that Patience, my main character, actually ends up engaging in shady jobs against her better judgement.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am working on the first draft of my second novel! It’s been quite a journey with that since this book will be based in America and follow the life of Nigerian immigrants, their children, and how they adapt, or don’t adapt, to living in America.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Nothing else I can think of, except, visit my website, and sign up for my mailing list. Thank you so much!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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