While several writers were still fleshing out ideas, writing tentative opening sentences and deciding characters’ names, Oyinkan Braithwaite, 32-year-old assistant manager at Kachifo Publishers, was writing the final words of her international bestseller My Sister the Serial Killer. It is easy to see why.
Oyinkan’s personality is as sharp and precise as her serial killer character’s decorative knife, with a lilt of humour so sudden it feels like whiplash in person, but hilarious on paper. Written in only four weeks, Braithwaite’s debut novel My Sister the Serial Killer which focuses on two sisters bound by a murderous secret has met global acclaim, being praised by The New York Times, The Washington Post, Marie Claire and other authors like Ayobami Adebayo and Edgar Cantero.
Translated into four languages and available on Amazon and Audible, Guardian Life asks Oyinkan Braithwaite 16 questions about what she calls her greatest accomplishment yet.
Who is your favourite book character?
Ann with an ‘e’ from Anne of Green Gables. She was spunky, intelligent and had a fierce temper. She taught me what a kindred spirit was.
How did publishing your book change your relationship with writing?
There is a kind of freedom you have when no one knows who you are, and no one cares what you write. I definitely feel a kind of responsibility to the reader now that wasn’t there before.
What’s your deepest fear?
Being buried alive.
What’s your greatest accomplishment?
My Sister the Serial Killer
Some people find the fact that your novel focuses on a female character who uses her perceived fragility to kill men as feminist. Do you agree?
I wasn’t trying to write a feminist novel. But if it gives the reader a sense of freedom, if it reveals to them that strength can show up in the oddest places and in the weirdest of ways, if it shows that women can be as dangerous and harmful as men, then I believe that it is these elements and not necessarily the ‘killing of men’ that gives it its feminist sense.
Why do you write?
Because it’s the only thing I am any good at.
What do you dislike about people and what do you think people dislike about you?
I don’t appreciate insincerity. As for why people may dislike me, I have a habit of using a baby voice which annoys my friends and family. And I like to be by myself more often than not.
What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you?
I once led praise and worship, on stage, in secondary school; and no one joined in.
If someone gave you three things to make you happy what would these things be?
A book, a gorgeous journal (it has to be attractive or it doesn’t count) and a pen shaped like a knife.
Do you think killers deserve second chances? If so why?
I think it depends on why the murder was committed. I don’t believe serial killers should be given second chances.
What is the most important lesson writing has taught you?
It has taught me to be patient, and to be focused. But most importantly, it has taught me to keep the promises I make to myself.
How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?
I don’t really know until my work is in someone else’s hands, how much I have asked of the reader. But I think I am targeting people like me, people who don’t want to be told everything. They are people who like to mull over a story – taking it apart and putting it back together.
What is your favourite childhood memory?
Trying to stay up the night before Christmas with my sister, in the hopes that we would catch Santa and get to open our presents early.
How do you deal with failure?
I give the things I do the best of me. And if they don’t work out the way I hoped, I try something else the next time. Perhaps it is because I am in the arts, but failure is mostly just an opportunity for growth.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I read a lot of my reviews, though I have slowed down now. Even the good reviews mess with your head and it can become difficult to write honestly, as opposed to trying to use your work to address praise or criticisms that you have received. Feedback is good, but I try to remind myself that if I let the feedback overwhelm me, I won’t be able to produce anything else worth critiquing.
What is your favourite word?