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Ella December is a 20-year old writer of Nigerian-British descent living in London. A lifelong writer, she recently switched from writing music reviews to writing original works of fiction. Her writing delves into serious issues like interpersonal relationships, the cost of fame, and how to live life as it should be lived. Her pieces ‘Blame Game,’ ‘Nostalgia,’ and ‘The Mimi Memoirs,’ have over 21,000 reads among them. We got in touch with her to talk to her about her inspirations, goals and – of course – her writing.
WHO GOT NEXT: When did you first begin writing?
Ella December: I’ve been writing all my life, since I was about 6 or 7, but recently I decided to go for creative writing. I’ve been a journalist since I was 18. I started the creative writing recently and began about last year.
WGN: You cite musicians as some of your biggest inspirations – who are your favorites and what aspects of their music do you incorporate into your writing?
December: Drake, he is so similar to me as a person; he’s very open with his emotions. I’m also inspired by my Nina Simone, my favourite singer of all time, because she’s so raw and emotional. She goes all out, and I want to do the same thing with my writing.
WGN: What messages do you hope to convey through your writing, if any?
December: I’m really passionate about making people think about the way they live their lives, especially women. I want them to think about what they put up with, what they tolerate from men, and I want men to think about how they treat women and why they think they can get away with so much.
WGN: So, would you call yourself a feminist?
December: Feminism to me is about women doing what makes them happy. I don’t believe that if a woman’s wearing a tight dress she’s not being feminine, I think it’s just what makes you happy or makes you strong.
WGN: Writing seems to be an unpredictable profession. How do you find the courage to stay with it?
December: I just tell myself that all this hard work will pay off because what I’m doing now is showing me that ultimately the future, my plans and goals are set out. I just try to stay positive.
WGN: How much of your writing draws from personal experience?
December: I would say it’s 70% myself, and 30% imagination. You might see the characters and think they have nothing to do with me, like in Blame Game, which is about a fashion designer and a stripper. But for me to get those words out and those emotions, I have to find myself in the character. That’s where you become a great writer – you find that connection, no matter different they are from you, and you pull it out in your words. What I write for my characters are sometimes things I would never say myself!
WGN: What’s your plan for your latest script, ‘Blame Game’?
December: I would really like it to get turned into a film or a play, and I’m thinking about sending it to some theatre companies in London. What I’d really like, because I’m like a film person, would be to put it in a short film. I’m hoping that somebody will notice the work I’ve been putting in and someone will invest in me and put money towards a short film.
WGN: Do you have any writers you look up to?
December: Zadie Smith. I love the way she writes – she’s the queen of metaphors, and I want my writing to be that good. She’s the only one I really look up to.
WGN: What do you think makes a great writer?
December: I think it’s someone who communicates their point effectively. To me, in every single book, you’re trying to sell your idea or your views on something through your characters. I think what makes a great writer beyond the obvious point of having a great grasp of language is, I think it’s about communicating your point and making people enjoy reading. I think if you can do that, that’s to me a great writer.
WGN: Have you gone to anyone for support during your writing career, emotional or otherwise?
December: My best friend, Mikey Espinosa, does all of the artwork for my works, I come to him all the time and he always looks over my writing. Tt was him that told me when I was writing the Blame Game that as I was writing it there was no emotion, no connection, and it was because of him that I went inside myself to my experiences and I just poured it all out, and I just gave it myself completely, so he – because of him, he’s actually made me a better writer and shown me how to express myself through my words.
WGN: What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?
December: Nothing. Writing is the only thing I’ve ever done, that I’ve ever wanted to do. I think it’s really just my vocation to be a writer – I don’t want to do anything else but write.
WGN: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
December: First of all, I think too many authors are too shy about their work. You’re never going to get a lot of things going if you don’t put them out there. Even if you get harsh criticism, you have to go out there, and you have to have a body of work – you need complete projects to show people. You just have to go out and do it; just do it.
WGN: What was the most discouraging moment in your journey to become a writer, and how did you get past it?
December: There were times in my life when a lot of people were negative towards me and really horrible to me. A lot of people were just against me, but I told myself that these people aren’t important and they’re not going to be in my life forever. What I do isn’t to prove people wrong, it’s to prove the people who had my back right, to make them proud. I just told myself that I have a future, I’m going to create a future and just put the work in and ignore the negative people.
WGN: Your last script focuses on a fashion designer. How much of a fashionista are you?
December: Not really – like, I’ll happily go to the High Street, I like to look good, but fashion is not my greatest concern. I like my leopard print, and I like to wear certain things but I’m not a big fashionista – yet.
WGN: If you had to define creativity in three words, which would you choose?
December: Rawness, pain, and emotion.
WGN: You deal with a lot of dark themes in ‘Blame Game.’ What made you want to write this story?
December: I was listening to Kanye West’s album and I love it so much, it’s gorgeous. It was just so different, and so good. Listening to the songs as well, I got a lot of imagery about how women are treated and what we focus on apart from men. The theme kind of came through the main character Oswald, who kills himself at the end because he just didn’t get it and he wasn’t prepared to change his life. I wanted to represent that if you don’t put away your pride, in the place of love, it will eventually destroy you – that was the message.
WGN: How do you think people can live their best lives?
December: I think just do what makes you happy. A lot of people don’t do what makes them happy, they do what makes other people happy, and it’s not being selfish, it’s just making your life what you want it to be. I think that if you have dreams, you’re given dreams for a reason and you just have to go for it.
WGN: Do you do any research for your writing? If so, how?
December: Yeah, I do. A lot of my works are inspired by music. I go to a website called Rap Genius, and look at the lyrics or the music and when it’s based on music than I’ll look at the album, research the album, and go on Wikipedia and just try to get the back story.
WGN: How important would you say pushing yourself beyond your comfort level is?
December: Extremely important. My biggest thing as a writer is being versatile and having a lot of varied content, because my last work was completely different from Blame Game, and the next one will be different again. I don’t want to get stuck writing the same thing over and over again. I wrote a story about two gay black men, and my friend read it, wasn’t homophobic but was a bit wary of gay people, and he said, “I enjoyed that, and I didn’t think I should have.” I really want to open people’s minds and just be constantly pushing myself and doing something different all the time.
WGN: What are your future goals?
December: To write a best-selling book, to write a film script, to have one of my books turned into a film, and just do it all really.
WGN: Our magazine is called All or Nothing. How would you say you embody that idea?
December: I just do that. I’m really determined, and I’ve set myself goals and I’m going to reach them. I’m kind of like – I don’t think it’s really that hard; I think people make it hard for themselves. Just go after your dream, it’s not easy, it is hard, and you have to put your work into everything, but it’s worth it and one day you won’t have to struggle anymore.