I was born in Camberwell, South East London. My parents had moved to the UK from Nigeria in the 1970s, so my upbringing was a real mishmash of UK and Nigerian culture. My parents were very wary of the freedoms UK children had. Up until my teens the places I could go without question were school, the Safeway supermarket, Sunday school, and the library. The library was brilliant because unlike when I watched TV, my choices were completely unmonitored. I read EVERYTHING! My own tastes centered around fairy tales and epic fantasy stories by authors like Tamora Pierce and Diana Wynne Jones, but I also read the books by authors my older sister enjoyed, like Stephen King, V.C. Andrews, Lois Duncan, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, and Mildred D Taylor. I wrote the odd story as a child but really I loved having pen pals and people would get those long, rambling, multipage letters from me.
Every few years we’d take a family trip to Nigeria and it felt like a completely different world. Most of my extended family lived there, and they were always so excited to see us. Alas, my Yoruba was terrible, and elders like my grandmothers couldn’t speak English, so there was a lot of awkwardness. Even worse, the mosquitoes loved me and the sun hated me. I felt like the country was physically repelling me. I got used to being called “Britico” for my British ways. It was very odd to be thought of as “other” both in the UK and in Nigeria
I studied Media Arts at Royal Holloway University in Egham, Surrey. I had a vague idea that I wanted to work in TV but I had no idea what jobs existed or how anybody got them. I took screenwriting as one of my courses, and for the first time I began learning how to shape a story and create characters. After graduation I worked in post-production for ITV Digital and ITV Kids. Many days were long and boring since I was the most junior staff member. I took a lot of lunch orders, ferried studio tapes around, and occasionally got to cut something. With a lot of downtime in the office I started reading a ton of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfiction. The quality of the stories varied hugely, and I soon learned to sort the good stuff from the bad. It was while reading these stories by amateur writers that I realized a few things.
1. Anybody could write a thrilling story. Some of the fanfiction stories were better than published books I’d read.
2. Unlike TV writing, you didn’t need money or a crew or anything beyond a computer to tell a great story.
I started writing my own fanfiction and then my own stories. I kept writing even when I moved out of TV into teaching and then journalism. I took evening classes and joined writing groups.
I write in cafes, libraries, museums, art galleries—anywhere with comfortable chairs and big windows. I also like to write in transit—buses, trains, coaches, and cars. I think the changing scenery coupled with a regular rhythm helps my brain work. I self-published a romantic-suspense adult novella years ago. It was the first full-length story I’d ever finished, and publishing it meant I couldn’t keep fiddling with it.
10 Things You Don’t Know About Me:
1. My favorite color is purple.
2. My favorite foods are jelloff rice, fried plantains, and avocado.
3. I’ve worked as a junior post production editor, an editorial assistant, a primary school teacher, a camp counselor, a cinema attendant, a receptionist, a security guard, and a McDonalds crew member.
4. My favorite singer is Whitney Houston.
5. I took singing lessons for most of my teens and only gave up the dream of singing professionally when I realized I’d never sound like Whitney.
6. I love to ice skate.
7. I still own cassette mix tapes I made in the 90s.
8. I’m addicted to Cadbury’s chocolate.
9. I’ll wade in the ocean but I won’t swim in it because I’m scared of sharks (specifically, the one from the movie Jaws).
10. I live in Toronto, Canada.