Stella Oni (Information Systems and Technology, 2000) knew in her late 20’s that she wanted to write literary fiction, but life events and rejections got in the way. However, a short course at City sparked the idea for her debut crime novel Deadly Sacrifice, which got published last year and was Audible’s Crime Thriller of the month in September.
Stella Oni’s crime novel Deadly Sacrifice (Jacaranda Books, 2020) was inspired by a real-life case in September 2001, when the torso of an African boy was found in the River Thames.
“The police named him Adam and his killers were never found. Although Deadly Sacrifice is not about him, I wanted him and other children like him to be remembered,” says Stella.
It would take several years and a script that didn’t make it to publication before Stella wrote her debut novel Deadly Sacrifice.
“I decided that I wanted to be a writer in my late twenties and chose literary fiction. There were no crime writers of colour that I knew then, but there were many black literary fiction icons. I gave myself five years to write and publish. After many rejections, I decided to give up, although I had interest from an imprint of a major publisher. They are a major powerhouse now but were just starting out then. They wanted me to make many changes, but I was already tired of the manuscript and about to embark on my master’s degree at City, University of London.”
Stella put her writing on hold and completed her postgraduate degree in Information Systems and Technology in 2000, but then returned to her passion for writing. She contributes some of her renewed writing ambitions to the University’s short course in crime writing in 2005, which was taught by author Leslie Grant-Adamson.
“I chose crime fiction because I have always read it and decided to try my hand at writing it,” Stella says. “It was the only course of its kind around, and she [Leslie Grant-Adamson] was a really good and thorough tutor.”
As Stella dedicated her time to family life, it took another 15 years before she saw her first novel published. This turned out to be in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic which affected her publishing company’s plans for the launch.
“It was initially disheartening because Jacaranda Books had planned many physical events,” Stella explains. “The pandemic affected bookshops, who were their main partners. Fortunately, they took everything online, and Audible, one of their main partners and already online, were really supportive.”
Deadly Sacrifice went on to become the Audible Crime & Thriller pick of September 2020. What was it like to hear the story read out loud for the first time?
“I wish you could see me smile as I write this. It was an awesome experience! This is because I was so sick of reading the manuscript after countless edits that I could not face reading it again. Listening to it was a new experience,” Stella says.
Having persevered and rekindled her dream of being a writer, Stella is not going to give it up again.
“I plan to continue the Toks Ade Mystery series and I’m writing the second in the series. I have also written the first of a cosy mystery series set in London. I have ideas for two other series as well. I am also involved in a few anthologies.”
And for those who would like to follow in her footsteps, Stella has some classic but true advice:
“Read a lot. You cannot be a writer without this. Also, if it is your dream, don’t let anyone stop you. Instead, seek out those who have the same aspiration.”
Thank you Stella for sharing your story!