Writer Spotlight: Madeline Wilson-Ojo
Writer Spotlight Series, creates a positive image for Black girls to refer to by having conversations with different writers and illustrators. This month we have been doing Q&As with many writers, to get to know more about them and their work. Here, we are showcasing all the questions we have asked Madeline, the author of Suma & Oko and the Stupendous Pot of Okra Soup. You can find more book reviews in our current issue, available to buy here
Hello Madeline, tell us a little about yourself and your book Suma & Oko and the Stupendous Pot of Okra Soup.
Hello! I’m a writer from South London, with Ghanaian roots. For my day job, I am an internal communications officer in local government, and outside of that, I am pursuing my career as the next best British author! I’m also a mother to a gorgeous boy called Micaiah who keeps me on my toes! It’s a lot to juggle, however I am passionate about exploring stories which centre Africans in the diaspora and hope to pass on my love for storytelling to my son. Suma & Oko and the Stupendous Pot of Okra Soup is a rhyming book which tells the story of Black British twins who help Mum and Dad make dinner. It’s perfect for 4–6-year-olds, and a great bonding tool for the whole family as it features a recipe at the back of the book for everyone to get stuck into.
The story promotes family bonding and teamwork. It welcomes young readers to learn new names and foods and is a great representation for those who are already familiar with Ghanaian culture. I plan to turn ‘Suma & Oko’ into a series, and by God's grace, eventually publish my adult books too.
What was the inspiration behind the story Suma & Oko and the Stupendous Pot of Okra Soup?
My initial plan was to begin my author career with a collection of adult novels—and I was actually in the middle of writing my first. However, I changed direction after a few traumatic life experiences. The novel I was working on was pretty intense, and I needed to fill my time with something more light-hearted. So, I found comfort in writing for children instead, and that is how my characters, Suma and Oko, were developed. I wanted to write something familiar, which represented my British Ghanaian upbringing. The rest fell into place.
What is your favourite part of the publishing journey?
Without a doubt—it was creating my characters and writing the story. That is what I am good at. My other favourite part was the excitement I felt every time my illustrator emailed to say he had completed yet another page. The other stuff: reading over contracts, uploading my book to Amazon, constantly marketing my book, I have found it tedious. But as a self-published author, they all came with the territory.
Are there any authors who have influenced your own writing?
I'm highly inspired by my favourite author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and follow her work closely; I’ve purchased and read all her books and have listened to almost all of her speeches on YouTube. Late last year, I saw her speak about her latest piece of work, Notes on Grief. She is who motivated me to become an author. I started that journey with children’s books. The plan is, God willing, to have a collection of adult books under my belt. My goal will always be—whether I write for children or for adults to create stories which centre Africans in the diaspora.
What are you currently reading?
I have to be very honest, life has been so busy lately, so I only have time to read other children’s books with my son: Clean Up! and Look Up! Written by Nathan Bryan and Illustrated by Dapo Adeola and his children’s Bible are amongst the books in rotation at the moment. But for myself, I am not currently reading anything. However, following the sad passing of bell hooks, I have downloaded Salvation, which will be my next read.
About the author
Madeline Wilson-Ojo is a children's author and book blogger. Suma & Oko and the Stupendous Pot of Okra Soup, is her first published book series. Find out more about Madeline's creative journey here: madelinewilsonojobooks.com
Suma & Oko and the Stupendous Pot of Okra Soup | Paperback | Available here