Author Nayomi Munaweera won the Commonwealth Regional Prize for Asia for her first novel, Island of a Thousand Mirrors, so it was with great anticipation that were able to ask her about her followup, What Lies Between Us, out last week from St. Martin’s Press.
What book would you consider an ancestor of What Lies Between Us?
What’s the last book that made you cry?
Books often make me cry. The last one to do this was Hanya Yanagihara’s masterpiece A Little Life. It’s such a cliché but I really didn’t want to say goodbye to the characters at the end of that book.
Who sees your first drafts?
My husband who is an incredible editor. I trust that he will give me exactly the advice needed. He’s careful and ruthless. Both of which are necessary in an editor.
What’s your favorite indie bookstore? What’s the most recent book you’ve purchased?
I love Walden Pond in the Lake Merritt area of Oakland. Also City Lights in San Francisco. The Last Bookstore and Vroman’s in LA. Mrs Dalloways and Pegasus in Oakland. The mothership is of course, Shakespeare and Co in Paris.
Can you tell us what you’re reading now?
Fates and Furies. I adore it. I’m going to be sad when it’s over. It’s a huge reeling tale of a marriage seen up close and under the microscope by both parties. It’s brilliant.
What is the first book you ever remember reading (or having read to you)?
I read a lot before this but my favorite book of childhood was Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals. A book quite unknown in America—poor Americans! It’s a gorgeous retelling of the author’s childhood on the island of Corfu. It’s funny, insightful and full of nature, animals, color, characters. A book brimming with life. I read it again recently and loved it all over again. It’s the 50th anniversary of the book so it’s getting some press. Also Gerald was the brother of famous novelist Lawrence Durrell—clearly the writing gene ran in the family.
Is there a piece of writer’s advice that has stuck with you?
“Read much, much more than you write.” Sherman Alexie said this recently but it’s also something writers know instinctively. It’s good to be reminded that reading is a necessary thing to do since there can be a lot of guilt anytime I’m not writing for any reason.
Nayomi Munaweera was born in Sri Lanka, and grew up in Nigeria. She emigrated with her family to the United States in her early teens, and now lives in Oakland, CA. Her first novel Island of a Thousand Mirrors won the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize for the Asian Region and was longlisted for the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize.
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What Lies Between Us was published by St. Martin’s Press on February 16, 2016.