First Drafts

Candide Kirk
Date21 September 2023

Angus Blair and Kayode Adebiye might come from very different backgrounds, but their love of fiction brought them together to support each other through writing their debut novels. Angus’ spy thriller and Kayo’s complex family romance both emerged by the “tranquil waters” of the Thames, supported by the creative community of literature lovers they found on the Peninsula.

Fostering such nurturing communities is the founding principle behind Novellic, a mobile app for readers and book clubbers, so founder and CEO Candide Kirk went to meet Angus and Kayode to find out how their first works of fiction materialised in tandem.

What’s Greenwich Peninsula like as a place to write?

Angus: I’ve been a resident of Upper Riverside Greenwich Peninsula for four years now. The majority of my novel was actually crafted right here on the Peninsula. It’s a tranquil space, with the calming riverside view providing a conducive atmosphere for writing. Most of my writing is done in the mornings, in my apartment, with the river flowing in the backdrop. The novel is somewhat autobiographical, with many settings rooted in London.

One of the fascinating aspects of living here is the community. I’ve had the chance to connect with some creative minds like Kayo and others from the Greenwich area who share a common interest in the creative arts and writing. There’s a creative pulse here that adds to the allure.

Kayode: I do most of my writing at home, often at night. I love the serenity and peace the night gives. It allows my imagination to run wild and I am able to pour my heart out effectively. I don’t force myself to write. I don’t believe in giving a storyteller deadlines as they can stifle creativity. When I was writing Entangled I wrote some parts of it under pressure to finish quickly and I ended up expunging those sections from the final edit. You can literally sense that there was no flow. It was too mechanical, whereas writing is supposed to be like a gentle stream of water flowing through easily.

Your writing is obviously influenced by your love of reading. What books or authors have inspired you?

Angus: My work falls within the spy genre, but it leans more towards exploring the psychological aspects of characters and situations, focusing on themes of betrayal and confession. Graham Greene has been a significant inspiration for me. John le Carré is another author who, much like Greene, delves into the psychological nuances of espionage. I believe spy fiction can range from the glamour and drama of James Bond to narratives highlighting the grittier aspects of life. My preference leans towards the latter.

Kayode: Growing up, I found myself constantly engrossed in novels from authors like James Hadley Chase, Robert Ludlum and Agatha Christie.

What was your journey into publishing like, and your first experience of writing a novel?

Angus: I started writing the novel in 2020, facilitated by a course I took at The Faber Academy. With 15 other writers participating alongside me, we read and critiqued each other’s work, which I found very beneficial. There were several talented younger authors writing about London, and their feedback and insight were instrumental in refining my work and maintaining momentum. I completed the manuscript within a year.

Kayode: Writing my book took longer than I initially anticipated, as I sometimes encountered writer’s block. There were moments when I had no idea where the plot was heading and had to leave it for some time. Sometimes, I would be inspired after a hiatus of six months and then would continue writing. From the inception of the idea to the completion of the book, it took me two and a half years.

Interestingly, even after finishing the book, I carried the manuscript around for another four years. I constantly contemplated whether I could find a publishing company in the UK that would be interested in an African love story. I believed that love, being a universal theme, could appeal to a broad audience.

From the time of submitting my manuscript to a publisher to the actual book release it took just over a year. This was my first experience with the publishing process and I was unacquainted with the rigorous editing stages that a manuscript goes through. But it was all worth it when my book became available across major retailers.

What’s next for your writing careers? Are you working on second books?

Angus: The sequel to my first book is already in progress. Unlike the first book which was set in Russia, this second instalment of the trilogy takes our main characters to China. I’m diligently working on this project, hoping to complete a first draft by next year.

Kayode: I am working on something completely different, although it’s also a love story. Perhaps I’m a romantic at heart.

Novellic is a mobile app for readers and book clubbers which curates recommendations according to users’ personal tastes. It provides the tools for users to create, discover, join and manage book clubs through which they can meet like-minded readers and share their recommendations.

Images by Charles Emerson