Bolu Babalola is an author, screenwriter, and culture writer from London. Her best-selling short story collection, Love in Colour, retells ancient myths from around the world as modern love stories with more empowered female characters, taking a “step towards decolonizing tropes of love”.
Honey & Spice is Babalola’s debut novel, a collegiate rom-com set in an Afro-Caribbean Society. It has already received a TBB caught up with Bolu Babalola to ask her about her novel, building a community on Twitter, and what inspires her.
Please introduce yourself…
Bolu Babalola, British Nigerian, a storyteller, story weaver.
Please share a word or sentence which best describes your life right now.
Blessed, joyous, affirming, actualising.
Your debut novel Honey & Spice is coming out soon. How are you feeling? Are you excited to hear all the responses to your work?
I am so excited for the essence of the story to be felt, for people to feel seen and heard, for it to speak to hearts, and for it to brighten visions of possibility. This has been part of my world for so long, and it’s time for me to share.
Love in Colour is a beautiful piece of work, and I often return to my favourite stories in it. How was your writing process different this time around, writing a novel?
It was the same, world-building and character crafting is meticulous work, and doing it for a short story shouldn’t be any different. I actually started writing and working on Honey & Spice way before Love in Colour was even an idea. Honey & Spice is my first baby, it’s just being shown to the world latterly. But I guess, you’re immersed in the world for longer, and so the characters are seared into you more. Kiki & Malakai are part of me now, for better or worse.
The romance genre is often looked down upon, not least because it is a genre associated with and enjoyed by women. Do you see/have you seen attitudes changing towards the genre in recent years?
I actually don’t really concern myself a lot with perceptions, I concern myself with my purpose and what I want to do well, but I do think that we’re going full circle in embracing the joy that a good romance can bring. We understood that in the 90s and 00s but there seemed to be a turn to cynicism. With movies like To All The Boys… and shows like Bridgerton, people seem to be remembering the joy that watching human connection can bring.
You are also a writer for television and a culture writer, are you constantly inspired by the television and media you consume, or are you selective in order to separate your work from your leisure viewing?
Everything is an inspiration! But I do try to watch and read things that I know are well done and well crafted, as an artist it’s important to be exposed to good skills. We are always in school. But as a storyteller, you can pull anything from anything.
A self-titled “romcomisseur”, you have built quite a following on Twitter and have a lovely community of followers. What’s something you love and something you dislike about the app?
I love finding my diaspora of Black creative women globally. Oh, it’s so glorious, that community building. I have made tangible friendships and sisterhoods. It started in the early days. Now it has devolved a little, everyone is trying to drag someone down. There is so much misinformation too. I do love my little community though, but I am wary that it is only a matter of time till I bow out and only use it very sporadically for my creative wealth and mental health! I do wish I can do that and still touch base with my people though. Black women message me all the time saying my words resonate with them and that means the world to me.
In your professional (pop culture scholar) opinion, what’s something everyone should be watching or reading right now?
Everyone should be reading Honey & Spice! And I just finished reading Seven Days in June by Tia Williams which I adored!!!!!!
GETTING TO KNOW YOU
- A book you have to have in your collection? All About Love, Bell Hooks
- A song/album that defines the soundtrack of your life to date? Ah! Way too hard. You know what? I’m gonna go for B’Day. Not because the songs explicitly define my life but because it was Bey’s [Beyonce] second album and when she was really defining and proclaiming herself as an artist. I feel like that’s me with Honey & Spice.
- A film/TV show that you can watch/have watched repeatedly? New Girl for a show, Brown Sugar or When Harry Met Sally for a movie.
- The first stage production you saw and what it meant to you (play, dance, concert)? I can’t remember the first stage production I saw, but the first one that spoke to me might have been Barbershop Chronicles by Inua Ellams. Black men being, blackness being.
- What’s made you sad, mad, and glad this week? Sad? Look at the world! Mad? Look at the world? Glad? My community. Look at my world.
Honey & Spice by Bolu Babalola is out now in hardback, priced £16.99 by Headline Review.