Nayomi Munaweera

How did you become a writer?

I think the writing chose me. I was unhappy in grad school and trying to write a dissertation. At some point I realized that I wanted to write fiction not analyze it. I dropped out and started writing a novel. It was 12 years before my first book was published and I felt comfortable calling myself a writer.

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

Salman Rushdie, Lionel Shriver, Joyce Carol Oates, Michael Ondaatje, Hilary Mantel.

When and where do you write?

In the morning, when I am as close to the dream world as possible. Never at night because I write about dark things and I don't want nightmares.

What are you working on now?

A third novel. It has a very different protagonist from my other two books. He's dangerous and thrilling. I can't say more than that.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

No really, because I write novels--big projects--so if some part of the book isn't working I can work on a different bit. Which is not to say that some days I'd rather do anything else--root canals included--than write. On those days I try to do research or interviews etc :)

What’s your advice to new writers?

This is not a job. This is a calling. If you are called you won't have any choice but to answer. Throw off your clothes, wade into the water, dive deep, deeper, deeper. It will be hard, it will be cold and lonely and sometimes terrifying but if you go deep enough you will be rewarded beyond your wildest dreams by the writing itself.

Nayomi Munaweera’s debut novel, Island of a Thousand Mirrors, was long-listed for the Man Asia Literary Prize and the Dublin IMPAC Prize. It was short-listed for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature and the Northern California Book Prize. It won the Commonwealth Regional Prize for Asia. The Huffington Post raved, “Munaweera’s prose is visceral and indelible, devastatingly beautiful-reminiscent of the glorious writings of Louise Erdrich, Amy Tan and Alice Walker, who also find ways to truth-tell through fiction. The New York Times Book review called the novel, “incandescent.” The book was the Target Book Club selection for January 2016. Nayomi’s second novel, What Lies Between Us was hailed as one of the most exciting literary releases of 2016 from venues ranging from Buzzfeed to Elle magazine. Her non-fiction and short fiction are also widely published.