In My Dreams It Was Simpler
Today, I’m doing something different. I have an interview with my first guest and I’m doubly excited. I always wanted to have other people on my website but I didn’t think it would happen so soon. The honour of being first to grace my website goes to Tolulope Popoola, pictured below, she is a writer and blogger, and I must add, she is bold. Tolulope quit her job as an accountant in 2008, so she could focus on her writing career on a full-time basis. How daring is that right? She has been blogging at ‘Favouredgirl Blogs,’ which has three different blogs and includes, My Own Thoughts – for her general musings, A Girl’s Journey Down the Aisle – where she blogs about relationships and marriage, and Writing My Stories – for her short stories. Her decision to become a full-time writer is paying off though she says the road has not been easy. In 2009, Tolulope and a group of other writers started an online series titled, In My Dreams, It Was Simpler. The idea was to get a group of writers together and each week, one of them would write a story for an existing plot. She has gone one step further and turned the online series into a book. She tells me about the project and soon to be released book.
How did you come to write for this series and what attracted you to the project?
It all started when I came across a wedding album on Facebook one day and I thought the groom looked like a cousin of mine who was already married to someone else. This gave me an idea and a few days later, I wrote a short story titled My Dilemma. I put it on one of my blogs and as a note on Facebook. I got good feedback from people who read it, and lots of people asked for a Part 2 to the story. I didn’t think much about it until someone left a comment saying that the story could be turned into a series. That caught my attention and it sounded like a neat idea, so I decided to expand the plot and the characters. Then I invited some bloggers and asked if they were interested in writing a group story. Thankfully I got a great response and a few weeks later, the series was born!
How many people do you have in the writers group and what are their names?
There are nine of us and for the series, I write as Lola. She is the troublemaker, feisty and very blunt, but she has a vulnerable side. The other group members are: Latifat Ayoola, Rayo, Ayodele Alofe, and Jaycee*, Diamond Hawk*, Flourishing Florida*, Writefreak* and Icepick* (*blog names for other group members)
How did you come up with the title?
At the beginning I asked the team to suggest titles. Latifa came up with In My Dreams It Was Much Simpler, most of us liked it, and I said we should drop the ‘much’ so it became In My Dreams, It Was Simpler.
How did you develop the plots and characters, and did you use any set formula?
Initially the story centred around Lola and Titi so I didn’t really develop the others. When I expanded the story, I went back to the drawing board and created simple profiles for all the other main characters in the story. I didn’t use any set formula as such, and I told the other writers that they were free to play around with the characters and make them as real and as crazy as they wanted.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I like having some kind of outline in my mind for the characters and the plot of a story before I begin. I sometimes brainstorm for days and weeks before I actually sit down to put an idea down in written form. I find that having a structure helps me so that I don’t get stuck or run out of steam halfway into a story. Having said that, sometimes I ignore the structure and I let the story flow freestyle, which can also yield surprising results.
Who is your favourite character in the series, and why?
Oh that’s a hard question! I like all of them because I feel like they all exist in my head. I like Lola because I enjoy writing about her so much, but Dolapo really intrigues me. It’s as if there’s something hidden beneath the good girl exterior, like a wild alter ego she’s afraid to let out.
Is there a message in the series that you want readers to grasp?
Dreams are one thing, but real life is never completely simple and straightforward. We don’t have all the answers.
Do you see yourself in any of the characters?
Not really. I tried to make them as different from me as possible. And with the imaginations of my team mates, they are now totally different from me.
Are the characters and their experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The characters are a mixture of other people’s traits that I’ve observed, and my imagination. Same thing with their stories: some of the events have happened to people I know, and some are imagined.
Apart from writing, what else do you do?
I read, I blog, I edit and I write some more. I also love photography and painting but I haven’t explored those avenues yet.
What do you think makes a good story?
Intriguing characters and of course, there should be a decent plot, but the people make the story. I have to care about the people in the story. Otherwise, no matter what happens to them, it’s like “so what?”
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I have so many, going back to Louisa May Alcott, Cyprian Ekwensi, Mabel Segun, Enid Blyton, Buchi Emecheta and more recently, Abidemi Sanusi, Rose Tremain, Sadie Jones, Sefi Atta and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I’ve learnt different things from each of them.
What are you currently reading?
I’m reading the 25th Anniversary edition of Wasafiri, which is not a book, but a literary magazine. But it’s quite meaty, so it counts!
Are you working on any other writing projects of your own?
Yes, I’m working on a novel and a collection of short stories.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Top secret! You’ll find out very soon.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Yes, the actual writing. I have two or three stories going on in my head at any time, but I’m lazy regarding actually sitting down and working them out. There are too may distractions competing for my attention.
Who is your favourite author and what strikes you about their work?
If I had to pick just one writer, it would be Sidney Sheldon. He knows how to weave a story that grabs you from the beginning, takes you through unexpected twists and turns and leaves you wanting more when the story ends.
What have you learnt from writing this series?
That collaboration works! Before doing this, I had no idea how it would turn out but it has worked very well. The series has brought different styles and ideas together to create something that I could not have thought of on my own. And of course, the actual writing for Lola has helped me improve my other works in subtle ways.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Keep reading and writing. There is no better way to improve your work. And be resilient in doing it, even when you get discouraging comments. Pick yourself up and continue.
In My Dreams, It Was Simpler will be launched online on 15 January.
For more information on how to get a copy, visit: In My Dreams, It Was Simpler
Series website: In My Dreams It Was Simpler