Bolu Babalola is redefining old-fashioned romance

The Twitter icon, writer and rom-com connoisseur tells us about her new book of short stories, ‘Love In Colour’.

by Jenna Mahale
|
17 August 2020, 1:32pm

It’s certainly no secret that the annals of ancient literature are brimming with women’s pain, condemnation, and shame. But when presented with the opportunity, author Bolu Babalola decided it was time for that to change.

Certainly, the women in Love In Colour -- Bolu’s debut collection of short stories -- fare notably better than their counterparts in the global folklore and mythology she draws from. The protagonists in Love In Colour are drawn exactly, with loving detail; these are women who know their worth, respect their desires, and take no shit. “All of the female characters have a bit of me in them,” Bolu says. “I'm not afraid to say that I have a big ego! I'm Nigerian. And I’m also a dark-skinned Black woman, I feel like it's actually very healthy for me.”

The London-based author, who also works as a scriptwriter and a freelance journalist, started her creative career as an assistant producer at BBC Comedy. At the time, Bolu was the youngest person in her department, as well as the only Black girl. “I spotted Cecile Emeke who was going viral then,” she explains, “So she was on my radar in a way that wasn’t on anyone else’s.”

Now, after years of working her way up in an exclusive and often unforgiving industry, Bolu is getting to do what she loves full-time. “It's not even that ‘I always wanted to write’ -- I've always written,” she says. Here, Bolu tells us about her new book, the ups and downs of being extremely online, and answers the eternal question: Nick Miller, Michael Moskovitz, or Michael B. Jordan?

Did you have a one story in particular that was your favourite to write?
I love all of them for different reasons. The one that I had real fun writing is one of the originals, and it's “Orin”. She's basically me. The bad date she experiences is very similar to a bad date that I've had before, and the guy that she ends up going for is very similar to the kind of guy that I go for. I think when you read that you can tell that I just had a blast with it.

Is there a dream cast you have in mind for a Love In Colour TV adaptation? 
No. Because the thing about this country is that there aren't a lot of opportunities for young Black actors and actresses. So I really feel like whatever show that I create, it will definitely be full of people that we don't know yet. I want to be able to give the opportunity for an audience to see the shine of unseen, unknown stars and be able to provide a platform to showcase new talent. That's actually what I'm looking forward to the most.

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You’re obviously online quite a lot. Would you say it helps or hinders you as a writer?
I need to tweet less, man. It’s definitely helped my career, one hundred percent, but I never tweeted with the intention of being like, “I want to showcase myself as a writer!” I just wanted to get my opinions out because I had a lot of them. And when you're a Black woman, when you're somebody that's marginalised from the mainstream, Twitter is such a great way to get your thoughts out there, and that's what I did.

And through that, I met so many people -- Black people, Black women, writers --  and I find so much strength and solidarity and power within that community. I don’t know if I would have been able to find that community without Twitter. We encourage each other, we love each other, we are supportive of each other's endeavours. And when we, for lack of a better term, go through fuckery in the industry, it means so much to have a community to confirm: “Yeah, that's fucked up.”

The downside is obviously, as a Black woman online, you get a lot of abuse. And just generally, there's just so much noise. There's so much chaos. You really need to learn how to block out that extra noise because it's good to have some self-awareness, but also when you're a writer, it's really important to not let those outside voices hinder or censor what you write. They should never dictate what you create.

I saw you called out someone on Twitter the other day who was being very blatant about wanting to pirate your book. What do you think makes some people act so entitled towards you?
It's because I talk on Twitter like I'm talking to a group chat. And so I think people can be over-friendly, and assume that they can say things like this to me. And also just being a Black woman online, people tend to have this false sense of intimacy with you.

I just kind of laugh at it. It is kind of disrespectful, but it's also just so ridiculous to me. Like you just told me to my face that you were going to steal from me. Like, do you actually think I’m a dickhead? Part of me does want to fight, but I’m learning to pick my battles online these days, because most of the time it’s just not worth it. And you know what? They were excited about the book, ultimately. So, in a strange way, their heart was in the right place. And I can't really be too mad at that.

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My last question for you is: Nick Miller, Michael Moskovitz, or Michael B. Jordan? You have to choose.
Oh, no, this is really difficult. Let the record show that I am torn.

I can't believe no one's asked you this yet.
Oh my god, I’m sweating. I’m going to have to go for a combo, I’m sorry. I’m going to have to cheat. I want him to look like Michael B Jordan, but with the rest of them like, smushed into him. I know, it sounds like a Jordan Peele film.

He’d have Nick Miller's complete sweetness and also kissing ability, because I just know that he's a really good kisser. And Michael Moskovitz… Just how attentive and smart he is. I remember in one of the books Michael Moskovitz tells Mia that she's the Stephen King of her genre. Do you know how romantic that is? That is exactly what I want a guy to say to me, that I am the Stephen King of my genre. That is up there. I love it.

Love in Colour: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold by Bolu Babalola comes out on 20 August.

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