It Took Me Three Years To Publish My Debut Novel — Yejide Kilanko
Yejide Kilanko was born in Ibadan, Nigeria. She is a writer of poetry, fiction, and a therapist in children’s mental health.
Her debut novel, DAUGHTERS WHO WALK THIS PATH, was first published by Penguin Canada in April 2012. Her novella, CHASING BUTTERFLIES, was first published by Worldreader in March 2015. A lover of good music and laughter, Kilanko and her family live in Ontario, Canada.
Thank you for having me.
Please tell us about releasing your debut novel in 2012 after being on the scene for a while. Why the wait?
I started my first novel manuscript in 2009 and published in 2012.
Let’s know the number of people present. Jollof rice will soon go round.
Three years on a book? Wow!
I actually got a publisher in 2011. I’ve been working on some other books since 2010. Some books need the time.
How did the journey to writing begin? Was it something you developed in later years or something that was inborn?
I started writing poetry at 12. I also wrote in university for my hall & department press organizations. I started my first novel manuscript in 2009.
CHASING BUTTERFLIES is your most recent work. Tell us about the inspiration behind it.
CHASING BUTTERFLIES is about a Nigerian couple living in the US. It explores domestic violence. I usually write about issues I want to draw attention or process for myself.
Would you say that staying abroad gives writers an advantage? Some writers seem to enjoy the “West privilege”
I (only) write about issues I want to draw attention to. I read an article written by Adaobi Nwaubani in which she mentioned the name of her agent. I decided to send him a query.
What are your thoughts about the Nigerian/African publishing scene vs. that of the West?
Right now, I’m a hybrid author, which means I also self-publish. You have to decide what success as a writer means to you. The one thing you have control over is the quality of your work. Learning the craft and writing the best story should be the primary focus.
“It’s why I think a lot of writers here are turning to self-publishing (platforms), even though we know that this is usually at their own cost and loss. You do much of the marketing and promotional work. And still get ridiculed for being a vanity writer.” — @DheeGenius
I had mentioned in a previous post that I also self-publish. There should be no shame. The truth is even as a trad published author, you’ll still have to market. There are lots of books out there, big names. Writers of colour don’t always get the same opportunities.
I agree that the level of exposure from the marketing helps. It is a privilege. Some opportunities came my way because I was first published in Canada. I’m a firm believer in start where you are, use you what you have. The West does not have all the answers.
We have a question from someone in the audience: “Why do Nigerian writers in diaspora fare better than their counterparts back home?”
In terms of publishers, they’re more options. We need more Nigerian publishers, a better distribution system. If people have to choose between food and a book, the preferred choice is clear. Even here, only few writers can pay their bills without a second job.
From the little I know, publishing poetry in the West is not as easy. A lot of chap books are self-published. We have to remember, publishing is a business. If they’re not going to make money, or if your second book flops, you’re back on the submission wagon.
What word of advice do you have for young writers especially those who have deviated from “purposeful” writing because of money?
I don’t think it’s my place to tell another writer what to write. Stories, whether they’re “purposeful” or have a commercial slant, are important to somebody. There is nothing wrong with wanting to get adequately paid for your art.
We can’t wrap the show without touching the subject of mental health. What contributions are you making towards this discuss?
The plan is to write some children’s fiction. My first picture book titled THERE IS AN ELEPHANT IN MY WARDROBE is being published by Farafina books later this year. It address anxiety.
Please briefly tell us about your work in children’s mental health. That is a topic a lot of people don’t talk about.
I work with children ages 6-18 and provide therapy to address anxiety, depression, OCD, ADHD, suicidal/homicidal ideation e.t.c. We need to talk. Nigerian children are not coping well. My heart broke when I watched the BBC video on the codeine epidemic in Nigeria.
We don’t want to end the show but we must! Special thanks to all those who joined us. The love was massive!
And it’s a wrap! Thank you Yejide Kilanko for honoring our invitation all the way from Canada! It was indeed an eye-opener.
Thanks for having me. My books are available at Patabahbooks @PAGE_Book_C Roving Heights @thebookmarketNG The Book Dealer NG and at other great book outlets. If you can’t find them, please let me know.
Thanks everyone. I’ll be happy to answer other questions. Just tag me. Keep writing, keep reading. Don’t forget to live life. Enjoy the rest of your evening.
To the lovely #Synners squad who turned up tonight, we love you so much.
Thanks for joining us, everyone!
This interview originally happened on Twitter. Follow the #SyncityNGLLL every Monday evening to be a part of the conversation.