Author Interview: ‘Nairobi Ndoto’ by Mahua Cavanagh

About the Book:

Set in Nairobi, Kenya, Nairobi Ndoto follows three expatriate women whose ndoto—the Swahili word for dreams—become a nightmare when their world is thrown into turmoil by murder.

Tilly, Pauline, and Zara each dreamed of a life abroad in Kenya filled with adventure, opportunities, and new beginnings. Reality didn’t match the dream. Tilly thought her move to Kenya would be temporary, but nearly ten years and three kids later, she no longer knows what home is. Dealing with an increasingly strained marriage and the unexpected downsides of life abroad, Pauline struggles to establish herself as more than a trailing spouse. Zara, tired of shuttling between Nairobi and Mogadishu and sleeping in borrowed shipping containers, longs for stability. When someone in their expat circle engages in illicit activity, the women become entangled in a murder. Lines are crossed and friendships tested as they sift through the shock and tragedy.

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Purchase Links:

Amazon – UK / US

Author Interview:

1: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you in to writing?

I’m a third culture kid from New York. In 2015, my husband and I moved to Nairobi, Kenya, where my latest novel is set. We currently live in Vienna, Austria with our two dogs. 

Reading is what got me into writing. I’ve always loved books and am a voracious reader. At some point, I started to create stories of my own. They were mostly short stories that I wrote for my own enjoyment.

As an adult, my writing took a different turn. I started out as a financial journalist. From there, I moved into professional writing and then into user experience design, where I spent the bulk of my career. As a UX designer and strategist, much of my work is about creating the user journey and making sure that journey is a good one. It’s as much about storytelling as it is about design. In that sense, even when I wasn’t the person writing the copy, I was the one drafting the story.

I’m excited to be at a point in my life where I can focus again on creative writing.

2: Do you have a favourite time and place where you write?

I have a home office that I’ve set up to be writing conducive. There’s plenty of light, a comfortable desk and chair, and few distractions. I like to spend my afternoons in there writing. 

3: Where do your ideas come from?

I get ideas all the time and from a variety of sources: conversations, things I see around me, and random thoughts as I go about my day. I carry a small notebook with me to jot down each idea. When I don’t have my notebook, I’ll scramble to find something to record that thought.

From a broader standpoint, I’ve gotten ideas from locations. For Nairobi Ndoto, I got inspiration from my life in Nairobi. Living in Vienna gave me the idea for the novel I’m working on now.

4: Do you have a plan in your head of where the story is going before you start writing or do you let it carry you along as you go?

I am a planner. I can’t start writing until I have an outline.

5: What genre are your books and what drew you to that genre?

Nairobi Ndoto is women’s fiction. The book I’m working on now is crime fiction. Both are female-centered and have strong female characters. I think for me, it’s less about the genre and more about how women are portrayed. I like a strong woman in the mix, even if she’s the villain.

6: What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book?

It’s too scary to dream this one out loud, but I do dream it.

7: Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?

I read a lot and I have many favorites. Lately, the authors I have been reading the most are Kevin Hearne, Gigi Pandian, Deanna Raybourn, Victoria Laurie, Patricia Briggs, and Michael Stanley. 

8: What book/s are you reading at present?

I’m reading A Deadly Covenant by Michael Stanley and I just finished Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn.

9: What is your favourite book and why?

Just one? I can’t come up with just one. I have rankings though—favorite historical fiction: The Winemaker’s Wife, favorite paranormal: A Discovery of Witches, favorite nonfiction: The Lady in Gold, most immersive: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, etc.

10: What advice would you give for someone thinking about becoming a writer?

Finish the book, or story, or novella. Whatever it is, finish it. Don’t leave your story untold.

11: What are the best Social Media Sites for people to find out about you and your work?



Twitter: @mahua_cavanagh


About the Author:

I’m a third culture kid from New York. Nairobi Ndoto, my debut novel, was inspired by the four years I spent living in Nairobi, Kenya. These days, I’m living in Vienna, Austria. When I’m not working on my next novel, I’m having fun diving into Viennese life, exploring the city, and learning German.



Filed under Author Interview, Reading Nook Blog Posts

3 responses to “Author Interview: ‘Nairobi Ndoto’ by Mahua Cavanagh

  1. MC

    Thank you so much for interviewing me and featuring my book!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: Mahua Cavanagh : Author Interview: ‘Nairobi Ndoto’ by Mahua Cavanagh

  3. That’s a good interview, I am glad I discovered Mahua. Hoping that one day I’ll get to read that book.


    Liked by 1 person

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