From the Women’s Prize Archives.
Oyinkan Braithwaite’s thrilling debut My Sister, the Serial Killer was shortlisted for the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction. We caught up with Oyinkan to discuss thrillers, being nominated for the Prize and how a poem about a spider helped lay the groundwork for her debut.
What was the initial inspiration behind My Sister, the Serial Killer?
I wrote two poems in 2007. One was based on the black widow spider – a creature that sometimes devours her mates. The second poem was about two friends, one who is beautiful and poisons her husbands to inherit their fortunes and the other who is plain and keeps her friend’s secret until a man comes between them. I suppose these two poems laid the groundwork for My Sister, the Serial Killer.
How did it feel to be nominated Women’s Prize for Fiction for your debut?
I have known about the Women’s Prize for Fiction for a long time; it is the prize I am most familiar with. But I didn’t allow myself to imagine that my debut novel would be longlisted. It was a dream for another time, another story; so it felt surreal. I was amazed and excited and grateful. I do not take for granted how huge this is.
Did you always intend for your debut novel to be a thriller?
I didn’t really know what it was when I started writing it. I knew there would be a number of male victims, but I didn’t concern myself with genre.
The character of Ayoola is very interesting – beautiful, Instagram-famous and deadly. Were you looking to say something about the societal importance of beauty?
Yes I was. I have always been a little surprised by the weight society places on beauty and especially the pressure placed on women to be beautiful. I think I’ll continue to explore that, for a little while at least.
What are you working on next?
At the moment, I am still jumping from story to story. I haven’t fully settled on an idea yet.