I love this story so much! I see a lot of fairy tale retellings, but this take on Pinocchio might be my favorite. Such a great twist with the wooden boy looking for his mother, not to be “real.” Can you explain how this story came about?
Thank you, I’m glad you love it! I’m a visual writer, and writing for me is typically recording what I see in my mind’s eye. With this story, the opening scene is actually what came first; I found the image of an old man made of wood sitting on a balcony quite striking. I knew right away that he was waiting for something, for someone. But the reason he had traveled so far, his backstory, everything that had brought him up to that moment eluded me.
I didn’t set out to write a Pinocchio retelling, but as I drafted I realized I was writing one. But where Pinocchio wanted to be a real boy, all this protagonist wants is to be loved. We know that the love of a sane parent is unconditional, a mother’s love doubly so, and it just made perfect sense that after the death of his father, the wooden boy would seek out his mother if only to feel love one more time. But of course, things aren’t what they seem.
How did you get into writing genre fiction?
Growing up in Nigeria, I constantly heard tales which would ordinarily seem too far-fetched to be true. But they were true. And this helped shape my understanding of the world, in that the lens through which you view life affects how you experience it. This, coupled with the fact that as a teen I read so much Stephen King and Harry Potter, I guess it was inevitable that when I finally decided to put pen to paper, to craft my own stories, the stories that came were fantastic in nature. The realization that what I wrote was genre only came later.
The ending with the magnificent tree was perfect, but also . . . I just love trees. Do you have a favorite tree, or any that have been important to you?
I love trees too! I’m not sure that I have a favourite tree. I’m just obsessed with all of them. Few things inspire the level of awe in me that really old trees do. I’ve been in the deep forest a couple of times, where the trees are so old you can’t help but feel that they’re sentient. Indeed trees play a huge part in Yoruba cosmology, and it’s something I always try to infuse in my work.
What have you been working on lately? Where can readers look for more of your work?
I’ve been juggling a couple of tantalising projects, chief among them being a retelling which I can’t speak about just yet, but keep your ears peeled. Readers can find links to my other published work on my site: tobiogundiran.com.
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