Patience Agbabi: Author Interview

PatienceAgbabiSuper excited that Patience Agbabi’s second novel in the Leap Cycle series, The Time-Thief, is flying on to the shelves. It’s a real treat!

The wonderful, energetic Elle is back – with her gift for time-travel, she’s leaping back to a London that’s very different from today. The result is a thrilling adventure, rich in detail and intrigue. So, of course, we had to invite Patience Agbabi to tackle MyBookCorner’s infamous questions…

Tell us about you in 25 words or less.

I’m a poet and novelist of Nigerian origin. I love reading, sprinting and having beach picnics with my family, especially if there’s delicious vegan cake!

The Time-Thief cover

Cover Illustration: Debbie Cartwright

Your second novel in the Leap Cycle series – The Time-Thief – is hitting the shelves this month. Can you tell us a little bit about how it came to be?

As the first novel, The Infinite, was set in the future, I wanted to set The Time-Thief in the past. I remembered 1752 was the leap year they cut 11 days from the calendar and knew that would appeal to my time-travelling Leaplings. As Dr Johnson’s Dictionary came out in 1755, I couldn’t resist featuring it in the narrative. Then I found out that by brilliant coincidence, in 1752 10-year-old Francis Barber became servant to Dr Johnson. It was the ideal opportunity to celebrate a Black British historic figure. The plot came from there.

Ok, here’s a challenge… can you sum up your book in five words? [runs and hides!]

Thrilling 18th century time-travel adventure (if you count time-travel as one word. Otherwise, 18th century time-travel adventure.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Every day’s different for a self-employed writer. But when I’m working on a novel, I get up at 7am and start writing at 8am in my pyjamas, once the children have left for school. I always get my best ideas first thing so need to write them down longhand. At 9am I work on the novel until about 12.30 or 1pm. When It’s going well, I manage a whole chapter, about 2,000 words. After lunch, I respond to emails, go for a walk, the gym or sprint training. Once the children are back home, I read books or articles relating to the novel I’m working on. By 5pm I stop to cook dinner and in the evening I might read more, listen to retro music or watch a film.

What makes you happy?

When my family’s happy, I’m happy. But it also gives me much joy to write the really good scene of a novel or to read a book chockfull of creative ideas.

What’s on your TBR pile at the moment?

Adult books include This One Sky Day by Leone Ross and A River Called Time by Courttia Newland. Children’s books include Tilly and the Map of Stories by Anna James and When Life Gives you Mangoes by Kereen Getten.

What’s your worst habit?

Overestimating what I can achieve in day!

Your favourite word(s) and why

Onomatopoeia. I love the sound of it, the look of all the vowels on the page and its meaning.
Words that sound like themselves are such fun!

What are your top tips for budding writers?

Read, read, read! The more literature you devour, the better you’ll write. Read every genre: poetry, short stories, novels, comic books, non-fiction. Listen to people reading or performing their work online. Read what inspires you. If you like snails, read books about snails. You never know what you might find out.

Is there anything that’s surprised you about the publishing process?

Yes. Poetry and novels are different worlds. When you publish a poetry book, you tend to get detailed feedback from mentors on the poetry scene, you publish individual poems in a variety of magazines so by the time you approach the publisher, much of the work is ready for press. There’s minimal work for the editor. Whereas with a novel, you write several drafts until you think it’s perfect, send it to the publisher and that’s when the real work begins. You work closely with an editor on six more drafts: structural edit, line edit, copy edit, sensitivity read, first and final proof. It’s much more collaborative and incredibly rewarding. You learn so much!

Can you give us a glimpse / hint at your current WIP? (I can bribe you with cake!)

A slice of vegan triple-layered chocolate cake, please! OK. I’m working on Book 3 of the Leap Cycle series: The Circle Breakers.

Did we forget anything?

Yes, it would be great to have some soya cream on the cake…

Just for fun

Tea or coffee?
Paper books or e-books?
Paper books!
Cake or chocolate?
Triple-layered vegan chocolate cake!!!
Write or type?
Poetry or prose? [apologies! ;-D ]
Hot or cold?

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