Welcome to Kicking Back with Kick-butt!
Today we’re chatting with Louisa Onomé, the author of
Chinelo, or Nelo as her best friend Kate calls her, is all about her neighborhood Ginger East. She loves its chill vibe, ride-or-die sense of community, and her memories of growing up there. Ginger East isn’t what it used to be, though. After a deadly incident at the local arcade, all her closest friends moved away, except for Kate. But as long as they have each other, Nelo’s good.
Only, Kate’s parents’ corner store is vandalized, leaving Nelo shaken to her core. The police and the media are quick to point fingers, and soon more of the outside world descends on Ginger East with promises to “fix” it. Suddenly, Nelo finds herself in the middle of a drama unfolding on a national scale.
Worse yet, Kate is acting strange. She’s pushing Nelo away at the exact moment they need each other most. Nelo’s entire world is morphing into something she hates, and she must figure out how to get things back on track or risk losing everything—and everyone—she loves.
Let’s talk to this awesome author about her amazing book!
This is Louisa. Everyone say, “Hi, Louisa!”
Welcome to Kick-Butt Kidlit, Louisa! Why don’t we start with some introductions – tell us about yourself!
Hey! I’m Louisa Onome, and I’m a writer based in the Toronto area. My debut young adult contemporary, Like Home, is all about friendship, family, and what it really means to change. When I’m not writing, I moonlight as a therapist (I know, the shock!) and can usually be found hanging with friends (pre-pandemic, anyway) or glued to my PlayStation.
What was the inspiration behind LIKE HOME?
Like Home was inspired by a slew of things, but first and foremost, I had really wanted to write a story that depicted the kind of childhood closeness I had with friends growing up. I was fortunate enough to live on a street where the kids on my street were all close friends. Each of us were kids of immigrants, so our experiences differed based on where our parents were from, but we had so many similarities trying to navigate our environments. And then, of course, the catalyst for me actually writing the book was this Korean drama I watched called ‘Reply 1988’. It broke me! The relationships on that show reminded me so much of my own upbringing and it made me want to try my hand at writing a story like that.
What were you doing when you found out there was an offer on your book? (We always love these stories!)
Ha! I am notoriously always frying plantain or trying to cook something oily whenever important publishing news comes out. I distinctly remember tweeting something ridiculous (as I normally do) and then, immediately after, my editor emails me with the announcement and I had to tweet that. So both tweets back to back definitely looked like they belonged to different people, but I’m cool with that because it just proves we all contain multitudes!
What were three interesting things you discovered while working on LIKE HOME?
Oh I love this question! The main thing that I discovered while writing Like Home is that I can tell a story that is authentic to my own experience, to a world I am familiar with, and people will still connect with it. Prior to Like Home, I wrote four other manuscripts, none of which anyone will ever see because they just weren’t very good. But something that stuck out to me in those old attempts is that I wasn’t being myself. I was writing protagonists I had no business writing, and I was writing about things I didn’t even truly care about. Once I got rid of the idea of what was acceptable for me to write, and once I really tapped into things that matter to me, it became so much easier to write this story. I also discovered that I enjoy writing friend fights and I swear a lot more than I thought I did.
What an invaluable discovery! (But also laughing about the swearing thing. 😂)
If you could transport your characters across book dimensions, which book would you most like them to end up in and why?
I would love to put them in a fantasy setting, so maybe the world that Roseanne A. Brown created in A Song of Wraiths and Ruin! It’s so rich and the folklore feels so real.
Why were you drawn to writing YA?
I love YA because of its freshness. Personally, when I was that age, it was the last time anything was new. You could conceptualize and experience firsts in a way that is hard for me to do the older I get. I think a part of me wants to always remember what that feels like, and reading and writing YA is such a thorough way of reliving those emotions. On another level, I just love how creative YA can be and how we can explore so many difficult themes in a variety of ways.
Any hints about your next book project?
Yes! My next project is also a YA contemporary, currently titled Model Minority. It’s about a Nigerian-Canadian girl who is caught between both aspects of her culture, the Nigerian culture she is born into and the Western culture she was raised in. At its core, it’s a story about identity and how we put these labels on ourselves that may hurt us more than help us. There is also a love triangle, which I’m having a lot of fun writing. It’s scheduled to come out spring 2022 and I’m so excited for readers to experience aspects of my personal culture.
Looking forward to it!
What has been the most surprising part of your publishing journey?
I shouldn’t be surprised, but I still am every time I meet a new, supportive writer. The community is so cool and I’ve found that there’s always someone willing to help when you need it.
What are you reading right now?
Right now, I have the immense pleasure of reading Courtney Gould’s The Dead and the Dark. It comes out August 3 and it’s so haunting! Literally hooks you from the first page.
What’s your favourite piece of kick-butt advice?
My favourite piece of advice is pretty simple: Keep going. I know that can mean a lot of things to different people, and truly it all depends on your perspective as well, but when I say keep going, I mean continue writing, continue learning, and continue growing. The journey only stops if you do!
One hundred percent! So true!
Thank you for joining us, Louisa!
Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out LIKE HOME!
It hits shelves on February 23rd!
Add LIKE HOME on Goodreads!
Click here to enter to win a copy of LIKE HOME!
Contest ends Saturday February 20th at 11:59 pm EST
Thanks for reading!