Life is not as simple as we want it to be. That is one of the important lessons we took away from an interview with Tolu Popoola, the pleasantly warm and hardworking personality behind the Favoured Girl Blogs who also just published “In My Dreams, It Was Simpler’’ a book she co-authored with eight other writers.
She takes us into her world of blogging, writing and writing some more!
Tell us a bit about your background?
My name is Tolulope Popoola, I’m married to my best friend and biggest fan, I’m a writer and blogger. I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria – the first of three children. I attended FGGC Sagamu and Doregos Private Academy finishing in 1999, did A’levels at Oxbridge College in 2000. I came to study in the UK, completing my first degree in Accounting and Economics at London Metropolitan University in 2003. Then I did my Masters in Finance and Investment at the University of Nottingham, graduating in 2005. I started working as an accountant, but I gave it up in 2008 to become a full-time writer. I’m a bookworm, thanks to my dad who instilled the love of reading in me from a very young age.
How long have you been writing and blogging?
I started blogging in 2006 but I have always been a writer. I have memories of scribbling made-up stories when I was in primary school. Growing up I always kept a journal, and writing was my therapy when I was going through the angst-filled teenage years.
At what point exactly did you know you wanted to be a writer and what sacrifices have you had to make?
I started getting bored with my job, my commute and the stress of the 9 to 5 routine in early 2007. I realised that I would be miserable if I remained an accountant for the rest of my life. I started thinking about what job I could do that will bring me fulfilment. Blogging had rekindled my love for writing and the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I will always be happy when I am writing. From then on, it was only a matter of time before I left my accounting career. In terms of sacrifices, I would say the only thing I have given up is the security of a regular paycheck. It was scary, but I knew that I had to take that risk. I have no regrets, except maybe I wish I had done it sooner!
Favoured Girl and Tolulope Popoola, how different are they?
Favoured Girl is one side of Tolulope. When I started blogging, I wanted to be anonymous, so I chose Favoured Girl as my online pseudonym. I would like to think they are the same person, but I am much more than just the things I blog about. Tolu is quiet and shy, so Favoured Girl is a more expressive side of me. I express myself better when I write.
Tell us all about the book, In My Dreams It Was Simpler
The book is a series that myself and eight other bloggers started working on last year. 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 my short story blog and also pasted it 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. Initially I didn’t think 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 to see what I could do with them. Then I invited some bloggers and asked if they were interested in writing a group story. Thankfully, they agreed to come on board and the series began on our blog, which we updated every Friday. The other writers are: Latifat Ayoola, Tade Thompson, Ayodele Alofe, Diamond Hawk, Jaycee, Rayo, Flourishing Florida and Writefreak. Each of us writes from a different character’s point of view. The main characters in the story are: Lola, Titi, Funmi, Maureen, Dolapo, Temmy, Dayo, Folake and Wole. The series includes themes that affect the modern young female – such as relationships, fidelity, secrets, moral dilemmas, friendships, cultural conflicts and career choices. The blog ran for eight months and we had lots of followers and regular readers. After a while we started getting requests from our readers, urging us to compile the posts into a book, so that’s what we’ve done with the current story now. The series will continue in February.
What has it been like working with a team of other writers on this book?
It’s been great! Lots of hard work, but fun as well. We’ve learnt to work to a schedule and be flexible regarding the storylines we come up with. I think it also works well because each of the characters has a different voice. Each of us brings something different to the table, so the end result is better than what I could have done on my own. And because we each have the freedom to do what we want with the characters, I’ve also enjoyed the suspense of waiting for the weekly updates from the rest of the team. I hope that excitement and suspense feeds through the book as well.
How has been the response of readers to the book so far?
The response and support we’ve had from our readers has been very positive. We had good feedback from our readers when the series was online, so we are really pleased that the book is also doing well.
Any reviews or criticism yet?
So far we’ve got positive reviews! Someone said she read the book and felt like she was watching a movie because it felt so real. People have told me that they can relate to the characters and their lives. Another commenter on our blog said:
“In My Dreams It Was Simpler” ….wow! Fantastic book. Had me reeling… turning pages on and on, and then left me still very hungry for more. I loved it. The story line is fantastic…with lots and lots to learn, one of which is, “Ladies, let’s leave other ladies’ men alone”. I loved Wole’s, Lola’s and Funmi’s characters the most, but really, I loved all the characters…like they were my own family. Keep up the good job. I really can’t wait for the next one when it comes out. I am hungry, very hungry for more!
What lesson would you want readers to take away from the book?
One lesson is this: we may have plans, dreams and goals for ourselves but some things are out of our control and we find our dreams don’t quite match up with reality. Life is not always as simple as we want it to be.
Most successful women have had to climb on the shoulders of others to have a clearer view of the road ahead them, who are your own mentors?
I have so many, going back to Louisa May Alcott, Mabel Segun, Enid Blyton, Buchi Emecheta and more recently, Rose Tremain, Sadie Jones, Sefi Atta and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I’ve learnt different things from each of them. In particular, I am very grateful for the friendship and support of Abidemi Sanusi (author of Kemi’s Journal). She’s taken me under her wing since I began my writing journey. She has and continues to be a source of inspiration, encouragement and motivation.
What are the challenges you encountered in writing and publishing the book.
Since I didn’t write it alone, the book itself was not too difficult. Each member of the team did a great job working on their character’s life and individual dramas. The main challenge was getting the individual plot lines and different chapters to come together into one story. We had to read the chapters over and over again to ensure that we didn’t overlook any important detail that could change the direction of the story. The decision to self-publish it was a bit of a risk, as none of us had any experience with that side of the business. This presented a huge responsibility as we had to make all the decisions regarding the book ourselves – from choosing the cover to using the right formats. It was quite daunting; but it was a good learning experience and we are very pleased with how the final product turned out.
What significant life lessons have you learnt on this journey?
Believe in yourself and the talents God has placed inside of you. Stop procrastinating. God gives the ideas and opportunities, but you have work to bring them to life.
Your greatest strengths and skills that has been particularly been of help in achieving this.
I think for every fiction writer, the main skills you need are the power of observation, and an active imagination. Creating a story based on made-up characters requires both of this because you have to use your imagination, and also bring in aspects of real life that you have observed. I’ve heard someone say – writers are professional eavesdroppers, lol. I’ve learnt how to take inspiration from real life and turn it into fiction.
Your most fulfilling moment from inception of the idea till now.
I’ve had so many, but the best moment was when I first saw the proof copy of the novel. It was amazing, for days I kept looking at the book and thinking, “Wow, this is real!”
What’s the future beckoning you to?
I have many more books in me yet! I’m only at the beginning of my writing career but I know that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I don’t have any “formal” training in Creative Writing or Literature so I would like to go back to uni to do a degree in the field in the not-too-distant future. Long term, I would like to create opportunities for other aspiring writers to develop their voice, improve their craft and market their work. I also want to develop some of my other passions in art and photography, amongst other things.
What do you think are the success essentials for today’s young women?
Have a dream and make plans towards achieving it. If you don’t have a dream now, you cannot have a “dream come true” in future. Invest in something you are passionate about, that drives you and motivates you everyday. If it’s not your day job, find something else worth devoting your time and energy to. It could be a hobby, a business, a personal goal, but we all need something we are very passionate about. And never give up on your dream, even when you face challenges. Pick yourself up and carry on.
One thing you know for sure
I know that He who began a good work in me, will be faithful to complete it.
Where and how can we know more about your work?
My blogspot profile: http://www.blogger.com/profile/06799796628809329966
Series Blog: http://inmydreamsitwassimpler.blogspot.com
Preview and Sample Chapter: http://www.freado.com/book/5498/In-My-Dreams-It-Was-Simpler
Buy the Book from: http://stores.lulu.com/inmydreamsseries
Buy the Book from Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/My-Dreams-Was-Simpler/dp/1445254204/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1266769368&sr=1-1
Buy the Book from Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/My-Dreams-Was-Simpler/dp/1445254204/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1266769614&sr=1-1
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tolulope-Popoola/55740442780
Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/TolulopePopoola