This week’s installment of Ten Questions features Oyinkan Braithwaite, whose debut novel, My Sister, the Serial Killer, is out today from Doubleday. A novel of violence and sibling rivalry, My Sister, the Serial Killer follows Ayoola, the murderer in the book’s title, and quiet, practical Korede, a nurse who cleans up her younger sister’s messes. (“I bet you didn’t know that bleach masks the smell of blood,” Korede says in the novel’s first pages.) The pair work reasonably well together until Ayoola sets her sights on a handsome doctor who has long been the object of Korede’s desire. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called My Sister, the Serial Killer “as sharp as a knife...bitingly funny and brilliantly executed, with not a single word out of place.” A graduate of London’s Kingston University, where she earned a degree in creative writing and law, Braithwaite works as a freelance writer and editor in Lagos, Nigeria.
1. Where, when, and how often do you write?
Most of the time I type on my laptop, lying on my bed. Generally, I like to write when everyone is asleep and everywhere is quiet. But if I have to, I will write on my phone, standing up, in the middle of a party. I try to write every day. It is a fantastic practice, but not an easy one.
2. How long did it take you to write My Sister, the Serial Killer?
The entire writing and editing process took about seven months.
3. What was the most surprising thing about the publication process?
What has surprised me the most is how much takes place before a book is released. And how much of a book’s success is dependent on the publishers’ faith in the book. I have enjoyed far too much favour, warmth, encouragement and kindness from my agents and publishers, and from strangers—booksellers, book bloggers, etc.—people who do not know me, but are going out of their way to make sure that My Sister, the Serial Killer is a book that is read.
4. What is one thing you’d change about the literary community and/or the publishing business?
The publishing business is a business at the end of the day. The literary community, however, I believe could make a bit more of an effort to bring to the spotlight books that were well written and engaging but were, for all intents and purposes, unknown.
5. What are you reading right now?
We and Me by Saskia de Coster.
6. Who is the most underrated author, in your opinion?
It surprises me when I mention Robin Hobb’s name and people don’t immediately know who she is. Clearly, I don’t know the right people. The right people would know who Robin Hobb was. Also, her books should have a TV series, and/or a movie.
7. What trait do you most value in an editor?
Frankness. And perhaps kindness. I worked with two editors on this book—Margo from Doubleday and James from Atlantic Books—and it seemed to me that they were conscious of the potential difficulty of having two different views and stances; so they went out of their way to make the process smooth for me.
8. What is the biggest impediment to your writing life?
Social media! Social media is distracting and it invites too many voices into your head. The world is in the room with you and it can be difficult to stay true to yourself and to your creativity.
9. What’s one thing you hope to accomplish that you haven’t yet?
I would love to be involved in the writing and animating of a feature length animated movie. But I am still honing my skills, especially as far as animation goes; I am not very good yet!
10. What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever heard?
“If I waited till I felt like writing , I’d never write at all.” —Ann Tyler. “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” I have learned that it isn’t wise to wait for inspiration; inspiration will meet me at my desk writing.