Interview With Author Leye Adenle
Mr. Leye Adenle is a Nigerian-British author, who has just released a thrilling novel titled: When Trouble Sleeps. Through email correspondence, Mr. Adenle was able to discuss the process of writing and where he draws his inspiration. Below are his responses; not only does he give us insights into the writing process but also he illustrates the humor he brings to his craft.
What inspired you to become a writer?
I suspect that whatever inspired me to write is long lost in playfulness and adventures of my youth. For as long as I can remember I have loved books and when reading some, I’ve thought of how cool it’d be if I wrote mine. If I were to try and remember, or guess, I’d say it was being surrounded by books growing up. Having writers in the family, or perhaps even my father owning a printing and publishing press. But I’d be guessing. I think the seed was definitely planted at some point by some event, maybe even an encounter with a book or an author, and then several other ‘inspirations’ watered it. The end result is that for as far as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a writer.
Could you describe the process of writing– (do you find it joyful, lonely or hard)?
I love a book that totally submerges me into its world. The book that describes the heat and you feel the burn on the back of your neck even though you’re on a cold, cold train carriage in the middle of winter. A book that introduces you to characters that become so real, you fall in love with some, you hate some to the point of wishing on their murder. Books that transport you to an alternative reality that persists long after the story is done. You know the kind of books I’m talking about? The books you wish would never end? Now multiply that joy by a million and you would still be light years shy of the joy that comes from writing. Writing is only lonely if the characters you’re writing about are not worth spending time with. I enjoy the company of mine. The process of writing is the process of creating illusions so real you believe them yourself.
Your books explore the mistreatment of sex workers in Nigeria, what truth can we draw from your storytelling?
I’m suspicious of universal truths. I’m more suspicious of books that promise any such truths, or any truths for that matter. My truth is an expression of my knowledge, my experience, my bias, my prejudice, and my introspection or lack therefore, my cognitive dissonance. My truth is mine alone. Far be it from me to presume its safe to preach it to others. I write about topics that interest me enough to want to write about them. I do not write to right any wrongs or push any agendas, but I’ll talk about the things that attract my interest or my conscience or my sense of right or wrong.
Why is it important to set your books in Nigeria?
I love Lagos. I think enough books can never be written about Lagos. As a Nigerian, I have a comparative advantage when it comes to setting stories in this lovely, amazing, fascinating, contradictory, complex, mega-city; no one will question me. It’s a privilege I’m exploiting. And why not? That said, I do have a speculative fiction book coming out next year and it’s set on the moon amongst other places including Lagos.
In a few words persuade someone to read When Trouble Sleeps?
In researching the book, When Trouble Sleeps, I came across the story of a cook who knows where his boss, a well-known Nigerian politician, buried a coffin full of dollars. To keep the location safe, the boss had every one killed who helped with, witnessed, or knew about the burying of the money. Everybody except a cook whom the politician could not bare to loose because of the cook’s amazing jollof rice skills. This cook became a prisoner in the politician’s home where no one was allowed to talk to him. One day the politician fell ill and had to be rushed to a hospital where the doctors concluded it was an allergic reaction to something he ate. They needed to know what had gone into the politician’s meal. The politician sent men to fetch the cook. When they arrived at the mansion they discovered that the cook was blind. His eyes had been gouged out. The cook told the men his story. He told them about the coffin full of dollars. How the money had been taken out of the mansion in the dead of night. How all the domestic staff had been forced into a bus that accompanied the SUV carrying the coffin. About the burial in the middle of the night. The loud bangs and the cries for mercy as the domestic staff turned gravediggers were gunned down. But of the location of the treasure itself all he remembered was that it was in a forest. His eyes had been removed so he could never retrace the way back. When I head this story, I was sure it was tall tale, until I myself sat opposite a skinny, sickly man who had hallow emptiness where eyeballs should be and he told me his story himself. He asked us to be left alone then he told me something that he claimed he had never told anyone else. His eyes may have been removed and even if he still had them he may never be able to see his way back to the grave full of dollars, but he lost his iPhone on that day while taking turns to dig the grave. I don’t know why he decided to trust me, and even he said he wasn’t sure it would work, but he allowed me to search for the location of his iPhone on my laptop. You see, he had the Find iPhone feature turned on. The coordinates of his iPhone’s last known location is encoded somewhere in the pages of When Trouble Sleeps.
Interviewed by Lydia Kakwera Levy