Tomi Adesina is a screenwriter, author and fiction series blogger. In 2013 she won the Nigerian Blog Awards for her blog fiction series, and in 2015 her screenplay on cyberbullying (Feisty John) won the Homevida Prize. She also won the Nigerian Writers Award for Best Young Writer in 2015, and her short stories have been featured in magazines across Africa. Tomi was also an AMVCA nominee for best writer in 2018 and bagged the AMAA award for best screenplay for her contribution to Hakkunde. She lives in Lagos. Her other works can be found on her blog at tomiadesina.wordpress.com
KNOWING THE WRITER
Why do you write?
I write to live; literally. I am grateful to God because He has deposited the ability to write in me and with something as beautiful as the love for words, I cannot do any other thing aside writing. I have got so much inside my heart to say and writing is such a beautiful medium of expression. I also enjoy the process of creating, I think it’s fascinating, and writing gives me the ability to do that. So, it’s my thank you.
What personal qualities do you possess that contributes to being an excellent writer and what qualities do you expect other excellent writers to possess?
I am quite organized with my work. As boring as this might sound, I operate on a writing schedule. There is a time allotted to everything I do, and I try to stick to my regime. This helps with timely deliveries.
What causes are you passionate about? If any.
Just for fun: Black or Blue Pen to write?
Your writing is very distinguishable, however, do you care about distinguishing yourself with your writing and if yes, how are you choosing to do so? What about your writing do you think stands out the most?
I don’t think I have ever worried about distinguishing myself. I think it boils down to the honesty in the words and this is what makes a case for me.
What career field do you work in?
I work as a screenwriter.
Who are your favorite Nigerian writers? (Mention up to 5)
Ayobami Adebayo, Tunde Leye
What are your favorite Nigerian books? (Mention up to 5)
Stay with Me, Golden Sands
THE CREATIVE ENERGY, GROWTH, AND TRANSFORMATION
If you were not a writer, how else would you have unleashed your creative energy?
Which genre of writing did you start with? Poetry or Fiction and how did they influence each other in your works?
I started out writing Fiction. Over time, I realized that humans are a walking heap of poetry and fiction. Poetry is writing their truths while fiction makes it more attractive to read, so both styles have been enthralling for me.
If you could only write one genre for the rest of your life, which would you pick, poetry or fiction and why?
I would say Fiction.
Why do you write and what do you love most about being a writer?
I love the fact that I have got this ability to be real with myself. I can write what I like, whenever I like it, and however, I like it without being restricted, except when writing for TV and budget needs to be considered LOL!
Is writing personal to you and what does it mean to say writing is personal?
It’s personal, but I have learned to grow out of my bubble and understand that some other people need the words. Sometimes, I may not be writing what is true to me but is true to someone else, and I’d find truth and personality in it because it relates to another human.
What other genres or aspects of writing have you not explored but hope to, in the future?
Maybe sci-fi but I am not keen on it as it is.
What is the earliest memory you have of writing? When did you write your first piece and what was it about?
Good thing you said the earliest memory because I’d say I wrote a story titled ‘Burial Day…Crucial Day’ at about 6 to 7 years old, but my parents have earlier years for my writing interest. About the title… LOL. Now I can’t stop laughing, I had burial day in mind as the title of a story, and I remember hearing the word crucial, and it just rhymed so I asked my uncle what crucial meant and he told me, then I kept it as my title. The story was about a burial, and I can’t remember what follows.
How did you develop your writing? Who or what contributed to your development as a writer?
It started from turning every piece of paper at home into mine, documenting everything as a writer grew on me. I also did a lot of storytelling as a child to my siblings. We had one we called ‘The Henry story.’ It was about a kid in high school and his friends. Now that I look back, that high school was nothing like the one I went to, it was fictional, and I absolutely loved the fact that everything I created in it was a contrast from what was real to me, but eventually, these guys in the story grew real on me. My siblings and I would see real people and say this is Henry or Daniella and whatnot. I started blogging fiction in the university around my 3rd year in Microbiology and the desire to do more with my writing followed.
Then screenwriting happened upon my graduation in 2013. I started reading books on it and reading scripts to help me understand what it was all about. Screenwriting was entirely different from writing prose, and there was the need to learn if I was ever going to write well for TV. I also had the privilege of attending a couple of workshops that enhanced my skills.
What challenges have you faced as a writer?
When I started blogging, I was worried no one was reading and started wondering why I was doing it in the first place. I’d later realize people were reading and not saying anything and that got worse for me. I was like: Is it this bad? ☹. But over time, my audience came around for me. I was consistently putting stuff in their face; they had to find time to write how they felt about an episode LOL.
Post blogging, primary challenges that I faced in screenwriting involved not feeling adequately financially rewarded for my work. The industry came as some work, man! But again, patience and just knowing when to stamp your foot has come in handy.
How have you challenged yourself as a writer?
I always try to improve on my last work. This may not necessarily be in the time frame needed to execute the work but in its quality.
What does being a successful writer mean to you?
Aha, success…a word that has people chasing pavements which sometimes leads to nowhere. Success for me is simple. Contentment and not living for the validation of others: allowing God, family, and friends count so that you don’t spend forever looking for what is not out there to be found. Surely, awards and recognitions are good, but as a writer that can’t be my first motivation else, I’d be too drawn into winning that I forget to live.
GEORGE’S PIECES OF ME
In your book George’s Pieces of Me, you used the concept of “home” many times, physically and metaphorically. I am curious to know if it was intentional. How has your personal experiences and values played into this (intentional) decision and recurring use of “home”? What, who or where is home to you?
Home is very intentional. It is a core theme in the book because I believe the concept of Home is real to everyone. We are always in search of something that gives us calm and doesn’t take away from the realism we’ve probably found. Although the beauty of Home is it can scatter what you have previously built, and the new will make sense because it was made for you. Home can be in a person, in a place, and it can even be in you. Home for me in recent times has had to change from work to people and new understandings, but I have a constant, God, and whatever is called Home for me should not take me away from God.
What was your experience like with publishing your first book and how do you think it could have been better?
It was quite stressful as the busy term of my publishing experience came when I was sick and had to be in the hospital for a while, but I had friends and family moving all grounds to ensure that George’s Pieces Of Me was released. The main reason for this stress was because I self-published since we don’t have enough traditional publishing outlets in Nigeria that would be willing to take a chance on you and offer you a book deal. If more of that were available, the process would have been smoother…from getting an editor to having someone design the layout of your book and then running back and forth to nail a great printer. It’s a lot of work, not to talk about the stress involved in organizing an event and then selling your book. Phew.
What are the top factors that contributed to the success of your first book and were you expecting the kind of responses or attention that your book has received so far?
The top factors were God and Humans (Family, Friends, Random strangers).
If anyone picks up Goerge’s Pieces of Me and it means something to them, I consider it successful. Because I write for people – for souls and moments, everything that connects to another human is of importance to me, that is success.
Are there parts of your book George’s Pieces of Me that were primarily influenced by personal experiences or people who eventually became characters in the book?
I think every part of it has a piece of me and everyone in it. When you think about it, I am George. My future Husband whom I have not met is George. My kid is George. A random guy is walking down the street who is George. There is a lady singing right now who is George. An 80-year woman is sitting outside her house called George.
In George’s Pieces of Me, I find that you spent enough time building your characters and their persona before telling a story about them or for them? Why is that?
Because characters would always tell the story for you, they are essential in development, and I don’t think they are as well developed as I’d have wanted them to be. But I’ll do better.
At what point did you decide to write or collate George’s Pieces of Me and what was the book assembling process like? At what point did you decide to publish it?
At the beginning of the year 2017, I knew I wanted to write a George story. One of the first of many anyway. So I started with his life, and it continued until I was done. It was a pretty quick process because I always had the thought in mind and since the book I’d have published first was a financial battle for me, I chose George's Pieces of Me which appeared cheap but turned out not to be when I was already stuck with it 😉, Traitor!
What did writing George’s Pieces of Me make you learn about yourself?
That I could do anything, I wanted to do with God.
What is your favorite poem and story from the book: George’s Pieces of Me?
Poem: The Middle
Story: Meet me on Tuesday
What criticism did you or do you have about George’s Pieces of Me?
Some thought it was too ‘simple,’ but I have always lived for the simple things 😊.
What are your top three beliefs/advice about love and were they replicated or challenged in your book George’s Pieces of Me?
Love is more than feelings. It’s a part of it, but it is a lot more than how you feel. It’s more about choosing and loving that choice.
Yes, I found a way to incorporate it into my character’s life.
If you could go back in time, what would you take back or do differently about your writing experience?
Nothing. Everything has contributed and will contribute to the greater good.
What plans do you have in the future with your writings and what impact do you hope that your works make?
I hope that my works continue to touch lives in whatever way it does for them. I believe that the future will be okay. One thing is sure; I’ll keep writing.
What is the best advice that you have gotten as a writer? What advice would you give to writers that read this interview?
Find your audience. Don’t write for other writers.