Award-winning author Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ was born in Nigeria, and now splits her time between Norwich and Lagos
A Spell of Good Things, longlisted for the Booker Prize 2023, is Adébáyọ’s second novel. Her debut, Stay With Me, won the 9mobile Prize for Literature, was shortlisted for the Baileys Prize for Women’s Fiction, the Wellcome Book Prize and the Kwani Manuscript Project. It has been translated into 20 languages, and the French translation was awarded the Prix Les Afriques. Longlisted for the International Dylan Thomas Prize and the International Dublin Literary Award, Stay with Me was a New York Times, Guardian, Chicago Tribune and NPR Best Book of the Year.
I started working on it in 2013 but I took a break from it for about a year after my debut novel was published. It took about seven to eight years. The process depends on the stage I’m in with the work. When I’m working on the first draft, my goal is usually to get to the end or a stand in for it. That is usually quite quick, easy to schedule and could take under a year.
After that, the real work begins. I go over the book repeatedly, section by section, chapter by chapter, page by page, and often sentence by sentence. It is hard for me to plan that stage or anticipate how long it might take or what the rhythm might be like. While I mostly work on a computer, I write in longhand whenever I feel stuck. There’s usually a notebook next to me when I’m working. I use it to doodle, make notes or test out sentences.
The impulse to write often strikes when I’m observing others. Something in a face or manner grabs my attention. It is rare for me to write about it immediately because I can tell that I’m only glimpsing a shadow. The thing itself might stay hidden for days or even a few years. Ideas, especially the ones that become novels, come to me before I am ready for them. The wait before I write the first sentence is twofold. I wait for the figure casting the shadow I’ve glimpsed to come into view. Then, I wait for my skill as a writer to match up to the demands I feel a story has placed on me.
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A Spell of Good Things is an examination of class and desire in modern-day Nigeria. While Ẹniọlá’s poverty prevents him from getting the education he desperately wants, Wuraola finds that wealth is no barrier against life’s harsher realities. A powerful, staggering read— The Booker Prize 2023 judges on A Spell of Good Things