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Q&A with Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé - Where Sleeping Girls Lie

By Cariad Wooster

We are thrilled to welcome Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé to The Reading Corner to talk about her new release, Where Sleeping Girls Lie, released on the 19th March 2024.

It’s like I keep stumbling into a dark room, searching for the switch to make things bright again. To make me remember. But the switch isn’t there. Was it there before?

Sade Hussein is starting her third year of high school, this time at the prestigious Alfred Nobel Academy boarding school. After being home-schooled all her life and feeling like a magnet for misfortune, she’s not sure what will happen. What she doesn’t expect though is for her roommate Elizabeth to disappear after Sade’s first night. Or for people to think she had something to do with it.

With rumours swirling around her, Sade catches the attention of the most popular girls in school – collectively known as the ‘Unholy Trinity’ – and they bring her into their fold. Between learning more about them - especially Persephone, who Sade finds herself drawn to - playing catch-up in class, and trying to figure out what happened to Elizabeth, Sade has a lot on her plate. It doesn’t help that she’s already dealing with grief from the many tragedies in her family.

And then a student is found dead.

The more Sade investigates, the more she realizes there’s more to Alfred Nobel Academy and its students than she realized. Secrets lurk around every corner and beneath every surface…secrets that rival even her own.

Hi Faridah! Firstly, thanks so much for speaking to me. I loved Where Sleeping Girls Lie, especially the setting. With the majority of the story contained to a boarding school, I never once felt like it was restrictive - I loved exploring it alongside Sade. How did you come up with the setting of Alfred Nobel Academy? Did you draw inspiration from anywhere?

Thank you so much! I was very inspired by all of the contemporary boarding school shows I

loved growing up, such as Zoey 101 and House of Anubis. I really wanted to create my own

boarding school that felt so rich with its own history and lore and would be fun for readers

to sink their teeth into.

I found Sade and her past incredibly gripping - there were plenty of hints dropped about her to keep you curious without giving everything away. Where did you start with creating a character like her?

I knew that for this kind of story I needed the protagonist to be an outsider in some way. We

see a lot of stories featuring outsiders, because the main character is often the lens through

which readers will understand the story and learn more about the world. I also wanted to

create a main character who is, in many ways, imperfect. Sade is a very traumatised person,

who is just in survival mode trying to get through each day. So many stories feature bold

and brave MCs who are up to any challenge, tackling them with seemingly little harm

caused to their psyche. Sade is a character with trauma who just happens to have ended up

in a murder mystery…or so we think at first anyway.

The rest of the cast of the novel are extremely varied and individual characters, each incredibly distinct from each other despite all being in the same place. How did you flesh out that many characters and keep them all distinct?

I love doing character work more than anything, and so I spend a lot of time developing my

cast of characters. I don’t set out having certain characters in mind or even knowing the

number of characters who will feature in the story, I just start writing and develop

characters who serve the story/ make the story more interesting, rather than the story

serving the characters.

Your previous novel Ace of Spades was also a thriller set in a school. How did you set Where

Sleeping Girls Lie apart from it? Inversely, was there anything you found worked well before and utilised here?

Ace of Spades is a thriller that discusses a different set of social issues – though the themes are definitely connected and still relevant to Where Sleeping Girls Lie. Like Ace of Spades, Where Sleeping Girls Lie is also a setting-less book, in the sense that the story is meant to be one that could take place anywhere. The lack of specificity really worked well for Ace of Spades, but with this story I wanted to be specific and build the world in a richer way so that readers could really feel immersed in the setting as much as the plot and characters. I also found that having moments of levity in Ace of Spades worked so well with the darker elements and wanted to carry that through to Where Sleeping Girls Lie.

What draws you to the thriller genre? 

I think thrillers are a very honest genre, and often reflect real world / human fears in a really

interesting way. I’m drawn to telling the truth through an entertaining medium.

What advice do you have for writers who are looking to publish their work? Are there any tips

you’d like to share?

I would advise writers looking to publish their work to pretend that no one is watching or

expecting anything from them while writing, because the truth is, no one is expecting

anything. When you’re working, it can sometimes feel like there are these judgemental pair

of eyes settling over your shoulder, but I think reminding yourself that no one can see you

or what you’re doing can be really freeing and allow you to write really brave and daring


You’ve already written a short story for World Book Day this year, but do you have anything else coming up that readers can look forward to?

I have a book coming out on June 6th called Four Eids and a Funeral and it is a rom com that I wrote with my friend Adiba Jaigirdar who is also a YA author!

Which other novels or authors would you recommend to fans of this book?

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, Truly Devious and Firekeeper’s Daughter.

And finally, where can our readers buy your book?

My book is available really anywhere books are sold, in shops and online! So, local indie bookstores, Waterstones, The Works, Amazon.

Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé is the instant New York Times, International bestselling & Award-winning author of Ace of Spades, billed as ‘Get Out meets Gossip Girl’, Entertainment Weekly has called it “this summer’s hottest YA debut”. Born and raised in Croydon, South London, Faridah moved to the Scottish Highlands for her undergraduate degree where she completed a BA in English Literature. She is currently pursuing an MA in Shakespeare Studies from Kings College London.

Faridah is a Morris Award 2022 Finalist, the winner of the Books Are My Bag 2021 Reader’s Award for Young Adult Fiction, and the winner of the 53rd NAACP Image Awards in the Outstanding Literary Work for Youth/Teens.

She has also written for The New York Times, NME, The Bookseller, Readers Digest and gal-dem.


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