Interview with writers for In My Dreams, It Was Simpler
(Part 1 of 2) (Part 2 of 2 here)
May 2010 is the one year anniversary of an online, collective writing project, “In My Dreams it was Simpler.” Created by writer and blogger Tolulope Popoola, “In My Dreams…” is a fiction series following the intertwined plots of six “intelligent and vivacious ladies.” “In My Dreams…” (online here) combines the efforts of nine writers scattered across Nigeria, England and the United States. Each writer, who “owns” a character, follows the threads woven by the other authors in order to facilitate a story of complex connections. The added complication of multiple voices writing from multiple locations adds to the allure of this unique, online project. “Season One” of the collective effort has recently been published in book form, titled In My Dreams it was Simpler (2009) (read a sample here). “Season Two” is unfolding now on the blog.
Since In My Dreams… is an unconventional book, I thought an unconventional interview was in order. Over the course of a couple of hours one Saturday, I conducted an interview via Skype with four of the writers, Tolulope Popoola, Jennifer A., Tolulope Adegbite, and Ugo Chime. Rather than it being an audio or video interview, however, the five of us “chatted” (wrote) back and forth. And although we each sat in three countries across three continents, technology was able to bring the five of us together. What follows is an edited version of the full interview. Grammar has been corrected, technical problems experienced in the interview have been adjusted for, and the flow has been smoothed.
In this interview we discuss the collaborative writing process of so many voices across various countries and cultures, the roles of materialism and technology in writing and story development, and of course, In My Dreams… itself. Just to orient the reader on who was interviewed, for In My Dreams… Tolulope Popoola writes the character Lola; Jennifer A. writes Dolapo; Tolulope Adegbite writes Funmi; and Ugo Chime writes Dayo. The bios of the authors come at the end of this interview. Enjoy.
May 15, 2010 – New York City, Ohio, Lagos, London
Shaun Randol: First, thanks to you all for agreeing to this Skype interview. Skype-rview. This is a first for me. I don't know if this will work or not, but I figured that since your book was unconventionally written, the interview could be done unconventionally too. Where is everyone right now?
Tolulope Popoola: I'm in London
Jennifer A.: Ohio, United States
TP: The other Tolu is in Lagos, Nigeria. Ugo is in Nigeria too.
SR: And I am in NYC. Have you all met?
TP: I've met Jennifer and the other Tolu, but that was in 2007 before we started the project. We are bloggers and that's how we became online pals.
SR: How did the idea of a cooperative book writing project come about?
TP: I wrote the first chapter as a short story and published on my blog. Several people asked for a continuation because they wanted to know what happened after Lola discovered Dayo was married. So I decided to expand the story, and invited the rest of the group to come on board. Each person chose a character to write for.
JA: Yes, we all chose our characters.
SR: I have to admit that I was curious to see what happened with Dayo too.
So, to what degree do the characters reflect the real person? How much of Jennifer is in Dolapo?
JA: Dolapo has my faith beliefs. I am a Christian and so is she. Apart from that, there are no real similarities. She is an awesome singer and I'm not. She is doing her PhD and I'm not.
SR: She's a smart girl, and you are...?
JA: Ha ha ha. I guess we're both smart, if I may say so myself.
SR: And how much of Tolu is in Lola?
TP: Not a lot of similarities. The only similarity is that she's a financial analyst and she wants to follow her passion. I used to be an accountant, but I gave that up to pursue writing full time.
SR: How much of [Tolulope A.] is in Funmi?
Tolulope Adegbite: Funmi isn't married, I am. Funmi is a teacher, I'm a writer. Funmi is a mother hen, well I could be that way, I like taking care of people, and in that way I would say we're similar. Another similarity I would see is watching out for people even when it's not convenient for me. Most of the things Funmi have done are just my imagination. They've never happened to me in real life.
SR: Do you all consider this "chick lit"?
TP: I don't like that tag, but I guess that since this is contemporary women's fiction, then it will be called chick-lit.
TA: I don't like the word chick lit either.
TP: You could say it is "intelligent chick-lit." But I think that's the general category our book falls under.
SR: The book/story certainly appeals to women, I think, more than men. I felt like I was given the opportunity to learn about the lives of women that men don't normally get to see. I felt like I was sitting on the edge of a sleep over party.
Do you ladies consider the book a novel, or a collection of interconnected short stories?
TA: I would say a novel. It's not a typical novel though.
JA: I would say a novel as well, at least that was our original intention.
TA: That's what I'd call it too - a novel.
JA: In the world of literary genius, I don't know what it would eventually be called, but we started out with the idea of writing a novel.
TA: Just a novel from different perspectives, or different viewpoints.
SR: Technology plays a role in your novel too. Text messaging, Blackberries and Facebook.
TP: Yes, the story is very modern. This is the world our characters live in.
JA: Our readers got connected to us via technology: blogger, Wordpress, Facebook, Twitter, and RSS feeds.
TP: Even Shaun found us via Twitter.
SR: These elements are so new in society, to see them being written about was strange, but also comforting.
TA: Technology is doing great things
SR: And here we are having a very technological interview across three continents.
TA: My last post was put on the blog via my Blackberry.
TP: This is unprecedented in the book world. I think that's one of the things that makes our work so unique.
TA: I typed on my laptop to make it easy, put it on my [Blackberry], and voila I posted it on the blog.
TA: It's a very modern book, and I would say I don't know any book on the shelves with the same angle as it.
SR: It's modern technologically and in elements, like Google and Facebook, which we have been discussing, but it is also modern in terms of branding. There seems to be a semi-obsessive streak in some chapters of naming brand names.
TP: Is there?
JA: When you say "branding" Shaun what do you mean?
SR: Jimmy Choo and Prada and Nokia and Manolo Blahniks and Blackberry and other brand names make their appearance, especially with the Maureen character.
TP: Oh I see.
Ugo Chime: “Sex & the City” influence, more like, or rather Hollywood.
JA: I would like to say that those brand names are very popular amongst our generation, hence the use in the book.
TA: Everyone owns a Blackberry these days, almost everyone.
TP: And [the character] Folake is a rich girl too, who likes to aspire for top brands.
TA: Maureen is a fashionista. Fashionistas wear Jimmy Choos, and they're usually very brand aware, unlike the [character] Funmis of this world.
TP: It wasn't deliberate to put those brand names in the book though.
JA: For instance many shoe lovers and fashionistas I know (who are my age) would kill for some Jimmy Choo and Prada items, even though they are expensive.
TA: You can say that again, Jennifer.
JA: It's the way our generation thinks I guess.
TA: Expensive is not the word I'd use, I'd probably say overboard. Or extravagant. Those are my personal views though.
SR: It's just an interesting trend to note in your book, that instead of saying “she put on a dress,” the character specifies the brand. That it happens second nature, I suppose, reflects the brand awareness of our generation.
JA: It's amazing how much money people spend for these items, but they don't care. The book in that way reflects a materialistic way of life that this generation has.
TP: I didn't think about it, now even [character] Wole noticed the brand of bags that [character] Temmy had.
TA: Oh wow. [The character] Funmi has never talked about brands.
TP: Shaun, do you think it's a good thing? People might think we are doing product placements in our book. But it wasn't deliberate.
TA: I don't think it's a good thing that our generation is so materialistic, but that's my own view. I would want to know more about other important stuff.
JA: I feel that at the end of our book, people will see that what really matters most is love (that's my own perspective of the book). So materialistic things like fashion, singing, careers, and even degrees won't count at the end.
TP: Companies pay people a lot of money to advertise their brands for them, but we are not getting a dime.
SR: It didn't seem deliberate, just second nature. As to whether or not it is a good thing, that's not for me to say. It's just something to take note. I haven't read too many “intelligent chick-lit” [books] lately, so I don't know if dropping brand names is common. I think it reflects trends/thinking of our generation. If you read Hemingway or Jane Eyre, for example, there's not a lot of name-dropping in their novels.
TA: I understand that Shaun.
SR: You will probably see more and more novels where saying Blackberry or iPhone will be as common as simply saying telephone.
JA: In our book, I don't think we will ever use the word "telephone." It seems so archaic.
TA: I have a B.A. in literature and most of the books I read in university never had much of that. But the world has changed since then. And if you write a book that won't relate to modern day, why bother?
JA: I agree [with T.A.].
TA: This generation will probably not even read it.
TP: Yes, unless it is deliberate historical fiction, you have to move with the times.
To get on board with In My Dreams it Was Simpler, visit the blog here.
Tolulope Popoolais a writer, blogger and a passionate lover of books and music. After venturing into a career in Accounting and Finance for a few years, she started blogging under the pseudonym “Favoured Girl” in 2006 and rediscovered her love for writing. She quit her job in 2008 to become a full-time writer. She now has three blogs one of which is http://writingmystories.blogspot.com, and is the creator of the fiction series and book, “In My Dreams It Was Simpler.” She also writes poems, articles and short stories for magazines, and is currently working on a novel.
Ugo Chime works with an international N.G.O. She is a wife, a mother, and is a published author of contemporary short stories. Ugo is presently working on another novel. She writes from Lagos, Nigeria.
Tolulope Adegbite is a writer and entrepreneur. She holds a bachelor’s degree in literature from the Obafemi Awolowo University. After working for some years in the corporate environment, she decided to pursue her areas of interest. Tolulope has written a number of articles and short stories, and writes a blog which enjoys a good followership. She likes cooking, reading, swimming, hanging out with her husband and friends and loves to play scrabble. Tolulope has a manuscript which she completed recently and hopes to publish in the near future. She lives with her husband in Abuja, Nigeria.
Jennifer A. (nee Ojakovo) is a growing author and established blogger. She’s been writing on her blog, “Light-A-Lamp” under the pen name “Jaycee” since September 2006 and has gained over 30,000 visitors from 146 Countries. Her website is www.lightherlamp.com. Her inspirational writings have attracted such awards as Most Inspiring blogger 2009 and Best Religion Blog 2009 (Nigerian Blog Awards 2009). She’s a graduate of Howard University, Washington D.C. and is currently working on completing her graduate degree, while she keeps up with writing on the blog and other future projects as well.