Author Spotlight: Louisa Onomé
Feb. 12, 2021
We are excited to feature author Louisa Onomé and her Young Adult novel, LIKE HOME! (Delacorte Press) out on February 23.
Enter to win a copy!
|© Bex Glendining|
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
Sure! Oddly enough, I was never a huge, huge reader as a teenager, I always gravitated to stories that I felt conveyed so many of my emotions. I guess that has never really left me. There's something really dynamic about young adult fiction that makes me think, that entertains me, and as I became more serious about writing, I think I naturally just gravitated to those emotions and ideas I understood best. There's so much room for the imagination, for learning and unlearning, in kidlit. Above all, it's so fun and interesting!
Congratulations on your debut Like Home! Tell us about it and what inspired you.
Thank you! It was inspired by a weird mish-mash of things that, in my mind, all sound similar, but when I start telling the story, I realize they might not be. First and foremost, I was inspired by my own upbringing in a neighbourhood where my friends felt like family. There were a lot of new immigrants there and for many of those in my parents' generation, growing up on that street and interacting with my friends' parents was the first time they'd really befriended anyone of a different culture. We were all friends; we'd go from house to house, eating snacks, watching TV, playing Pokemon. It was just cool, honestly. I adored it so much, but I, like many of my protagonist's friends in Like Home, moved when I was 10 or 11. I had always wanted to write a story where that kind of friendship was front and centre, because it meant so much to me to have that as a kid.
And then, of course, I watched the Korean drama 'Reply 1988' and bawled my eyes out at the ending because it felt so similar to my upbringing. The friends-as-family element is so strong in that show, and it really inspired me to try to write something similar.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
In hindsight, I guess it could be described as long, but it didn't feel that way. I'd been writing since I was very young, mostly spending my time with fanfiction and poetry, all with the assumption that I'd eventually write something original. One summer, when I was between jobs, I figured I would start writing towards publication. I wrote a book a year for about four years, editing (poorly) each one before querying and ultimately being rejected. Each book just wasn't quite there yet, but I appreciated the opportunity to try new things and grow. I learned to take feedback and properly revise. I learned to trust myself more too. From the time I decided to start my first original fiction piece till Like Home's publication date, it will have been 9 years, but I had fun, and that's all that matters to me.
What are some of your favorite classic MGs?
I have been a fan of Philip Pullman's Clockwork forever. It's short and eerie, and I used to take it on vacations with me because I loved it so much. Granted, I haven't reread it in awhile, but the way the narrative unfolds really stayed with me.
What projects are you working on now?
I'm currently revising my second young adult contemporary novel, due out in 2022. It's about a Nigerian-Canadian girl who's caught between two worlds and two loves, and I'm really enjoying the process this time around! Not to say I didn't enjoy it before, but it feels different now that there's so many more levels of approval. I'm so used to writing something and saying, 'There it is, it's done!', but I love getting the input on revisions because it gives me a lot of perspective.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
I was given this advice from an author once and it's stayed with me as the only advice I needed: Keep going. Whether it's learning to revise, or trying a new idea, or writing a few words each day, it's so important to continue. And try not to get so worked up on the idea of time as a measurement of worthiness. Time will pass, anyway, so write something you love.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I have an intense, unreal, near debilitating fear of werewolves. I have no idea where it came from, or why it's as bad as it is, but it's so serious! Yes, I'm aware they aren't real. No, knowing that hasn't helped!
Where can people find you online?
Louisa Onomé is a contemporary YA writer based in the Toronto area. She is Nigerian-Canadian, holds a BA in professional writing, and works in counselling. She is also an all-around cheerleader for diverse works and writers. When she is not writing, her hobbies include picking up languages she may never use, crying over her favourite video games, and perfecting her skincare routine. LIKE HOME is her first novel.
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