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Author, Leke Apena

As part of a series of interviews with our artists and makers, we ask local indie author, Leke Apena, 10 questions about his writing process.

Leke is based in south London where we're also located, and Diverse was one of the first stockists of his debut novel, A Prophet Who Loved Her, which was published in 2020. He writes unconventional, challenging and entertaining stories about the modern Black British experience because he feels there aren't enough well-written stories about complex, funny and multifaceted Black British characters. He is on a mission to change that.

His second book, Flavours Of Black, was longlisted for the Mo Siewcharran Prize 2021. 

He published his third book, Flavours of Hackney, in 2022.

1. Three facts about you.

British Nigerian. Indie author. Early 30s.

2. Tell us a bit about your first book A Prophet Who Loved Her.

A Prophet Who Loved Her is a Black British romance novel set in south London during the 1980s and 2008. It tells the story of two childhood lovers: Elijah, the proud son of a popular pastor and Esther, a rebellious and bisexual woman with a beautiful voice. They grew up together and fell in love while surviving the racism and hardships of 1980s Britain. Now both in their early 40s, they reconnect. They rekindle their romantic relationship when Elijah agrees to help Esther find her father who has mysteriously fled Nigeria. But is their love meant to be or must they say goodbye to each other again? 

3. What was the first book you read?The first book I read were the Biff and Chip books when I was in primary school. They were short books about these kids and a magic key. They captured my imagination. 

4. How long have you been writing? 

I have been writing for the past two decades but sporadically. A Prophet Who Loved Her was my first published novel. I have also written two additional novels: one I wrote at 14, and the other when I was 18. Both are so terrible they shall never see the light of day!

5. When did you realise you wanted to express yourself through writing? 

When I started reading books such as Harry Potter and Things Fall Apart, I realised you can capture reality and human emotions through words.

6. What would you say your writing style is? 

My writing is style is very character-focused. It's often why I default to third person limited because it allows me to get right into my character's thoughts but remain detached as narrator. When done well, it's a very effective method for telling character-driven stories.

7. Are you a 'planner' or a 'pantser' (someone who maps their stories vs. someone who freestyles)?

I am definitely a planner. Before I begin the first draft of a book project, I have an outline of the entire plot, detailed character profiles and research I might need to refer to for the story. The idea of drafting a novel without any idea of where I'm going with it is just terrifying to me.

8. How do your surroundings inspire your work?

Massively. A Prophet Who Loved Her is set in Brixton and so to help me with the descriptions, I would walk around Electric Avenue or go to Brockwell Park and soak up the atmosphere. When it came to my descriptions of Brixton in the book, I was able to really capture the essence of it through words. 

9. Where do you see your career in 10 years' time? I would love to be a millionaire from my writing but I would be content if I had a dedicated fan base who love my books. A film adaptation of one of my novels would be nice too. You've gotta dream big, right?

10. Your three top tips for emerging writers.
i. Write from the HEART. 
ii. Be as AUTHENTIC as possible.  

iii. Tell the story YOU want to tell.