What's in a Page: Wahala author Nikki May on the importance of food in books
Nikki May's debut novel, Wahala, melds the beach read with the thriller — with a little dose of Sex and the City energy on the side. The book follows three (rather fabulous) friends, all Londoners with ties to Lagos, Nigeria. They navigate careers, rocky relationships, and marriages — until a fourth member, a woman with a mysterious tie to each of their pasts, shows up and inserts herself rather forcefully into their circle. May, who also lives in London, ran an advertising agency for years before pivoting to the world of fiction; here, she breaks down her long history with the written word and dishes on what readers should know about her book (on shelves now).
What is the first thing — ever — that you remember writing?
Angst-ridden poetry as a spotty teenager. I still cringe when I remember my odious rhyming and obvious metaphors.
What is the last book that made you cry?
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel. Is it the piercing nostalgia? The portrayal of loneliness? Or am I simply crying at my inadequacy? How does she write so beautifully?
Which book is at the top of your current to-read list?
Family of Liars, by E. Lockhart. It's the prequel to the brilliant We Were Liars, and I'm counting down the days until it's published.
Where do you write?
Ideally in the garden on a warm day. But I live in England and it's always raining — so it's in my office with a jumper on.
Which book made you a forever reader?
I vividly remember reading Ice Station Zebra, by Alistair McLean, as a 12-year-old in Lagos (books were in short supply, you read what you could get your hands on). I stayed up all night, transfixed, terrified, thrilled, desperate to know what would happen.
What is a snack you couldn't write without?
I can't get started without an iced coffee. And the promised reward of a glass of cava at sundown keeps me going.
If you could change one thing about any of your books, what would it be?
I'd put more food in it. More cooking scenes, more eating scenes, more talking about food scenes. You can't have too much food in books!
What is your favorite part of Wahala?
The hairdresser scene, where Boo is getting a full blaxploitation weave and Ronke tells the story of Aunty K's carjacking on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. Fifi, the hairdresser, is a great character, she deserves her own book.
What was the hardest plot point or character to write in this book?
Simi was the hardest character — she's the most like me (dropped out of medical school, nearly drowned in shame, major imposter syndrome). Sometimes it felt too much like self-analysis!
Write a movie poster tagline for your book.
"Mixed-race and mixed-up."