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Advice from IR Approved Author Ndirangu Githaiga: “A clearly defined sense of why you’re writing will be your guiding light…”

Place of Cool Waters received a 4+ star review, making it an IndieReader Approved title.

Following find an interview with author Ndirangu Githaiga.

What is the name of the book and when was it published?

Place of Cool Waters, published 8/9/2022

What’s the book’s first line?

“Even in the fog of inebriation, Rita thought there was something going on in the shadows, close to the burned-out streetlight that the city was supposed to have fixed two weeks ago.”

What’s the book about? Give us the “pitch”.

The book is about identity and how it is redefined when context changes. Jude and Qadir—the main characters—have very different backgrounds, one living in the Pacific Northwest and the other in one of Nairobi’s gritty neighborhoods. Jude’s once-in-a-lifetime trip to Kenya to visit the graves of his Boy Scout heroes brings him in contact with perspectives that rattle some of his long-held assumptions. At the same time, he discovers truths about himself that might never have become apparent if he hadn’t made the trip.

What inspired you to write the book? A particular person? An event?

Over more than two decades in the United States, I’ve been asked questions about the city and country I grew up in and found that many people—often through no fault of their own—have a limited understanding of what life is really like in Africa, with most of their information based on simplistic narratives that are often barely recognizable to locals. I felt that a “guided tour” of my native country, starting from a Pacific Northwestern perspective would be informative, and hopefully entertaining as well.

What’s the main reason someone should really read this book?

To expand one’s cultural horizons while appreciating that human beings are more alike than they are different.

What’s the most distinctive thing about the main character?  Who-real or fictional-would you say the character reminds you of?

Jude is clueless but somehow manages to get by, even in a bustling, chaotic city like Nairobi, which is unlike any place he has ever been. I see a bit of Forrest Gump in him.

When did you first decide to become an author?

In my early years of medical school. Unfortunately, due to the demands of the career I was getting into, I had to set my dreams aside for a couple of decades.

Is this the first book you’ve written?

No, this is my third.

What do you do for work when you’re not writing?

I am a pulmonary and critical care physician.

How much time do you generally spend on your writing? About 4 – 6 hours a week (zero if it is a rough week in the ICU).

What’s the best and the hardest part of being an indie?

The best part is I can write about what interests me without feeling the need to conform to a specific genre, cultural mold, or prevailing sentiment. I enjoy being able to make production decisions about book cover design, editing, choosing audiobook narrators etc. and learning new things like how to format word documents, embed fonts, put in headers, footers etc. I love learning new things! The hardest part is that indie authors are still mostly treated as second-class citizens by many in the book industry, and marketing your books is a difficult, labor-intensive process where you learn painful and sometimes expensive lessons about what doesn’t work. Getting a bad review isn’t fun either, and the subjectivity of art is something I, with a background in science, have had to get used to.

What’s a great piece of advice that you can share with fellow indie authors?

Figure out why you’re writing in the first place! Is it for fame, money (good luck with that!), the love of the craft or a particular message that needs to be told. A clearly defined sense of why you’re writing will be your guiding light in those long dry periods when the world forgets about you or when you get bashed by a reviewer who didn’t quite understand your book the way you hoped they would.

Would you go traditional if a publisher came calling?  If so, why?

I suspect not. I enjoy the creativity, growth and freedom that comes with being an indie author, all the challenges notwithstanding.

Is there something in particular that motivates you (fame? fortune?)

I believe that stories matter. Everything in world history, good or bad, was based on a story, true or untrue. As a Black person from Africa, I have encountered people who had strongly held assumptions about me that were based on stereotypical, unidimensional stories passed on to them by someone who might not have known better. My writing allows me to express the richness of my cultural heritage from a perspective that is often lacking in the public space.

Which writer, living or dead, do you most admire?

Charles Dickens.

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