Imbolo Mbue

How did you become a writer?

I became a writer after first teaching myself to write over the span of almost a decade, then writing a novel, and finding an agent to represent me. Most of my self-education came from reading writers I admire—in their works I found inspiration and saw what excellence looked like. I also read far and wide: thrillers, poems, non-fiction, works by authors from all over the world, anything and everything I could read to see great writing in as many forms as possible.

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).

The long list of writers whose works inspired me include Toni Morrison, Frank McCourt, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Junot Diaz, Jonathan Franzen, Gary Shtenygart, Isabel Allende, Ha Jin, Jhumpa Lahiri, Pablo Neruda, Kazuo Ishiguro…

When and where do you write?

I write sitting at the dining table in my living room, usually early in the morning or late at night.

What are you working on now?

I’m mostly writing essays on topics like dreams, home, and migration.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

Thankfully, no, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it stays at bay. I have, however, decided at many times to step away from my work so I could “spend time” with characters, or see the story more clearly.

What’s your advice to new writers?

My advice is to keep writing—it’s the advice I got from agents who read my earlier work but rejected it because it wasn’t yet ready. Getting rejected repeatedly was far from pleasant, but I’m glad I took the advice and kept writing and pushing myself to get better.

Imbolo Mbue is a native of Limbe, Cameroon. She holds a B.S. from Rutgers University and an M.A. from Columbia University. A resident of the United States for over a decade, she lives in New York City. Behold the Dreamers is her first novel.