Author Interview with Tola Okogwu

Hello everybody! Today, I’m thrilled to be welcoming Tolá Okogwu to the blog for an interview, because I really enjoyed her book earlier this year. Onto the post!


1. Hi Tola, thank you so much for being here today! To start off, can you describe ONYEKA AND THE ACADEMY OF THE SUN in 5 words?

Lost girl finds her power

2. The book takes place in a high-tech Nigerian boarding school, and on this blog we LOVE a boarding school setting, so I thought I’d ask what some of your favourite book settings are? Do you have a favourite fictional boarding school?

Narnia is my all-time favourite setting and I still live in hope that I will one day step into a wardrobe and find it. My favourite fictional boarding school would have to be Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.

3. Another book-themed question for you: Onyeka has a superpower, as do all the other Solari at the school. If you had a superpower, what would you want it to be and why? Do you think you’d want to be Solari?

It would be the power to stop time, mostly so I could nap whenever I wanted to. I don’t think I’d want to be Solari actually. As cool as their power is, it’s also a terrifying responsibility and something that essentially isolates them from everyone else including their families.

4. I think Nigerian culture is also such a huge part of the story and one of my favourite things about the book. Is it your hope that people learn more about Nigeria by reading Onyeka’s story? And is there anything you didn’t include that you’d like to in a future book?

It’s also one of my favourite aspects of the book too and yes, I hope the book makes readers curious. Not just about Nigeria but Africa as a whole. The book is in no way a definitive guide on all things Nigerian and I’ve changed the history a lot too. I’ve tried to include as many cultural touch points as I could, but I obviously couldn’t go into as much detail as I’d have liked. The culture is too rich and broad, and the book has only so many pages. I wish I’d been able to explore what everyday life looks like for non Solari and I hope I get to in future books.

5. You’ve released books in other age categories before under pseudonyms, but this is your first book in middle grade. What’s been your favourite moment in the lead up to publication? What are you most excited for now the book is out?

There’ve been so many, from seeing the amazing cover, to Onyeka being selected as Waterstone’s Children’s book of the Month. It’s truly been a special journey to this point. Now the book is out, I’m honestly most excited for readers to finally get it and to find out what they think. I really enjoy school visits and every opportunity I get to interact with readers is a special moment of joy.

6. Before the book was even out, it was optioned for a film deal, which is super exciting! Do you have any dream casting you’re hoping for? What are you most looking forward to about seeing the book adapted to screen?

I’ve always thought Forrest Whittaker would make a great Dr Doyinbo and I’d love to see Michaela Coel or Cynthia Erivo as Aunt Naomi. What’s truly exciting about the adaptation is that it’s an opportunity to discover new talent as there aren’t too many well-known Black British actors in the right age range.

7. On that note, and I promise I thought this before the film deal was announced, your writing definitely does have a very cinematic quality to it. What tips would you give other writers trying to create that feeling in their work?

I spent some time dissecting my favourite movies and scenes to figure out how the action flowed. I also studied other books I thought had a similar cinematic quality to the one I was trying to invoke. I grew up on action movies, so I think that really influences the way I write. I’m also a visual person so before I can write it, I first have to see it play out in my head. The hardest part is finding the words and structure to convey that in written form. Studying how other great writers do it has helped.

8. Another writing question I always love to ask is: what’s your writing routine like, if you have one?

Do you have any unusual habits or quirks? My routine is incredibly boring and mostly consists of me forcing myself into my chair and bashing out whatever word target I’ve set for the day. I usually have a coffee beside me and I write to music. I often create playlists with songs that have the same kind of vibe or mood as whatever I’m working on. So for Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun, I listened to a lot of Afrobeats.

9. Finally, can you give us any hints about what will be happening next for Onyeka?

I’m so excited for the conclusion to the duology! The first book is very much like an origin story, setting up the world and a vibrant cast of unexpected superheroes. In the second book, we’ll get to see how Onyeka handles the fallout from book one. She still has many secrets to uncover, people to rescue and bad guys to vanquish.


QUICKFIRE

Favourite weather, in honour of the title? Early Autumn time, when it’s not too cold yet and the sun is still playful in the sky.

Favourite thing about summer?

The lift in mood that comes with better weather.

Song you have stuck in your head right now?

High et Monalisa by 7th Sound

Top 3 books of the year so far?

Sadé and her Shadow Beats by Rachel Faturoti Mia and the Lightcasters by Janelle McCurdy The Unmorrow Curse by Jasmine Richards

3 other 2022 releases you’re looking forward to reading?

Fight Back by A.M. Dassu

Zo and the Forest of Secrets by Alake Pilgrim (Note from me that I can confirm this is great!!)

A Flash of Fireflies by Aisha Bushby


Thank you so much for reading! Have you read this book, or are you planning to? Which superpower would you want to have? I’d love to have a chat in the comments!

Amy xx

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Author: goldenbooksgirl

Disabled book blogger who also writes TV, film, music and other posts from time to time | UKYABA Champion Teen 2018 | Email: goldenbooksgirl@gmail.com | she/her

2 thoughts on “Author Interview with Tola Okogwu”

  1. Michaela Coel as Aunt Naomi would be brilliant! And I def agree that this very much felt like it was setting the scene for a more action packed book two! Loved reading this interview!

    Liked by 1 person

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