In her work as a reviewer for the Sunday Times, Dorothy L. Sayers often took the opportunity to praise the work of her friend Agatha Christie – calling Murder on the Orient Express, for example, ‘a murder mystery conceived and carried out on the finest classical lines’. Inspired by this, we asked April’s guest bloggers, Yvette Edwards and Irenosen Okojie, to each sing the praises of their writer friend.
They met when they appeared together at a literary event, a couple of years ago. Irenosen takes up the story:
It was a platform to showcase new writers; at that point the buzz had started to build about Yvette’s writing. When she read, her work immediately captured me. It was evocative, fearless and powerful.
Not only that but she was very warm, generous and humble. She was the star attraction on the bill but she didn’t behave that way and she didn’t distance herself from me or the other writer. She was incredibly chatty, curious about our writing journeys and happy to offer advice.
One of the images I never forget from that evening was Yvvettes’s mother managing her stack of books being the literary equivalent of a roadie. I enjoyed this tiny window into their relationship.
We all exchanged details; afterwards, I bought a copy of her book A Cupboard Full of Coats. It was so engrossing I read it in one sitting. What I really loved was that the female protagonist was complex and darkly drawn, unapologetically so. It is a brilliant debut novel, a heartbreaking read worth every penny.
One of the things I admire about Yvvette is her tenacity. She didn’t have an easy writing journey but she never gave up.
Over the next year, we’d bump into each other at literary gatherings, our friendship developed from there. We’d email back and forth and she’d encourage me to keep writing when things were difficult. Writing can be such an isolating endeavour that friendships and support are invaluable.
My favourite thing about her other than her literary prowess is her humour. She’s one of the most hilarious writers I know and is never without a funny anecdote or encounter. I cry with laughter whenever we meet up. She could have been a stand-up comedian had she not wanted to go into fiction writing. She’s a natural storyteller. When you engage with her, this becomes apparent.
It’s been fun and heartening watching her journey so far being both a fan and a friend.
Irenosen is a power ball of energy that continually amazes me. She is always busy, is always writing as well as juggling various projects, passionate about everything literary, from the craft itself to championing events, interviewing other authors, getting involved in awards and prizes, reading, judging, spreading the word.
I think her website is a perfect reflection of her as a person and as a creative. It is warm, full, interesting, regularly updated, filled with information about her own work as well as the projects she’s involved in.
It is vast and varied and quirky. You could pop in, intending only a short visit and a quick browse, and hours later still be clicking into tabs and links, discovering fabulous pics, astute observations and confident commentary, writing that’s rich, humorous, profound. It’s impossible to sum up either Irenosen or her website with a mere handful of words.
And that’s what her writing is like. It defies strait-laced and simple definition. It doesn’t slip into any pre-packaged boxes or notions or expectations. You can never exactly anticipate the journey she’ll take you on, or the destination you’ll reach, but you can be confident it will be interesting, that there will be surprises in store, that you will be challenged and entertained along the way, that you’ll emerge from your journey both heady and giddy, like stepping off a super roller coaster at a different place to where your journey began.
And if you do decide to take the matter up with her, there is every possibility she’ll hug you, throw her head back and laugh.
A Cupboard Full of Coats (Oneworld) by Yvette Edwards was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.
Irenosen Okojie’s first novel, Butterfly Fish, and a collection of short stories, Speak Gigantular, will be published in June 2015 by Jacaranda Books.