Creatives—writers, freelancers or the university student rushing to type out their term paper—we often joke about spending our day in our pajamas. Truthfully speaking, most of my e-mails, blog posts or even papers for the LSE were written on a mattress engulfed in oversized blankets, supported upright with pillows from the comfort of my bed. In interviewing Oyinkan Braithwaite the author of My Sister, The Serial Killer, I ventured out of bed, into my living room to work from my kitchen table. Over a video call with the talented young writer, we chatted about character development, writing processes and love of books.
Braithwaite’s novel lures readers in from her very first words. Written from the protagonist’s point of view, Korede prepares to eat when she receives a startling call from her sister, Ayoola, who confesses she killed her boyfriend. Korede sweeps in dutifully, bleaching her sister’s ex-boyfriend’s entire apartment, before asking for more details of what took place.
In developing both characters, Braithwaite took inspiration from anime. Constructing a character against norms, Ayoola takes on both soft, childlike features and hard, killer instincts. Braithwaite brilliantly creates allusion around Ayoola, keeping readers questioning situations, while speeding though pages.
Readers of My Sister, The Serial Killer will quickly notice her bold titles and short chapters. In writing each day, with each chapter as a new Microsoft Word document, Braithwaite did not feel constrained to what she wrote before or after. The titles provided a focal point for her writing. She contributes this process to the National November Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), where writers aim to push out 50,000 words in the span of a thirty days. NaNoWriMo encourages writers not to look back on their previous words, instead focusing on the present and writing forward. Braithwaite adopted this practice in pushing herself to write as much as possible, averaging around 1,000 words each day. This allows her to get ahead of herself, not stopping to read, second guess or start-over with a new story. She also talked about her debut book being a surprise to her family. In writing the story, she often wrote (like all of us) from her room, on her bed. We laughed about how common it is to work like this and how we both try to make efforts to work from a desk.
Dreaming from a young age to become a writer, Braithwaite feels she accomplished her childhood aspirations. In asking advice for young writers, she eloquently stated: “When there is something that you are passionate about, even if it does not make sense, there is a place for it in the world. I would say definitely be true to yourself. I think there is something to be said in writing what is in your heart.”
Last month, My Sister, The Serial Killer made the Longlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Our fingers are crossed for you, Oyinkan! If you have not yet read the thriller comedy, My Sister, The Serial Killer, be sure to check it out at your local library or bookstore.