This week I met with a trio of authors I know to discuss book marketing and publishing. Some of us are indie authors and others have traditional publishers. We each talked about the different book marketing methods we have tried, what works, what doesn’t, plus our wins and frustrations. One thing became clear to me, book publishing and especially marketing are definitely “learn as you go” propositions. What works for one author may not work for others, and what works one month may not work the next. There is so much to learn, which is why I love doing these author interview. There is always something new, interesting, and inspiring—not to mention some great book recommendations.

This week I’m talking with Mahua Cavanagh, the author of Nairobi Ndoto, a novel inspired by her time living as an expat in Kenya. Enjoy the interview!

About the Author

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

To learn more, check out her website:


Who or what inspires you to write?

I’m inspired by my experiences and by what I see around me. My debut novel was inspired by my years living in Kenya as an expat. The novel I’m working on now is inspired by a combination of life in Austria as well as my background in banking and fin-tech.

Every now and then I’ll also get a story idea from a random moment. It could be while traveling or doing something exciting. It can also be from an everyday occurrence. I do my best to jot down the thought as it happens so that I can save it for further exploration later.

Travel is the best source of inspiration, and has led to some of the best books and movies. What is the best thing that has happened because of your writing?

I found a community. My search began as the specific need to find a writing community. Writing can be solitary as well as overwhelming when you are a new author. It’s even more so when you’re an expat living in a country where the language is not native to you. I found Sisters in Crime and Crime Writers of Color. Both are proving to be excellent writing communities—but they are so much more than that to me. They are a steady source of human interaction, even if only online.

As an expat, I know I’ll need to move again at some point. I’ll need to start over with my entire life. Even when I’m in one place for a while, other people move. Making friends and building a social circle are constant efforts. It helps to know that no matter where I move to next or where I am in the cycle of expat friendships, I will always have Sisters in Crime and Crime Writers of Color. I have a community that I can take with me no matter where I go next.

Having a community of authors is so important, and can make those hard days of writing and marketing so much easier. What is the most difficult thing you have experienced about writing or publishing?

Marketing and promoting my book is the most difficult thing for me. In itself, I have no problem looking at my work as a product and marketing it. However, I had no idea how much it would entail or that it would be an ongoing task. I’m still figuring out how to balance my time between writing and book promotion. I’m also still figuring out what methods and platforms work best for me.

Book marketing is such a tough nut to crack and can be really overwhelming. Was there anything you didn’t do during your writing or publishing journey that you wish you had?

I did not do enough to get advance readers and reviews. I wish I had known more about all the options available for doing this. I know better now for next time.

Book marketing does start long before the publication date. I wish I had known more about this also. Do you have a publisher and/or agent, or are you an indie (self-published) or hybrid author?

I am self-published. I plan to query agents and submit to small presses for my next book. My thought is that I will eventually be hybrid. To be honest, I’ll have to see how the publishing industry evolves.

The publishing industry does keep evolving, and some options are more important to consider for certain genres. Which genre(s) do you like to write in, and why?

While writing my first novel—which is women’s fiction with an element of crime—I found that I really enjoyed the crime aspect of the book. My next book is crime fiction and most of my ideas for additional work fall into that genre as well. I’m not sure why I find it so appealing. It’s just a lot of fun to plot fictional crime.

Crime fiction is a very popular genre. Do you outline your books before you write them?

I can’t write without an outline. I’ll go through several rounds of outlines before I feel comfortable enough to sit down and write.

It sounds like outlining works very well for you. How do you define success as a writer?

For me, success was when my book launched. When my next book launches, that will be another success. I don’t have any metric set as a success milestone. My goal as a writer is to keep writing and publishing. As far as I’m concerned, any writer who has completed and published a book or short story is a success.

Writing and publishing a book or story is a huge accomplishment. It’s not as easy as it seems to write a good story that people want to read. If you could have lunch with any author, who would it be?

This is a hard one. I would chose Jeneva Rose. I love her work, of course. More than that, she seems like such a genuine, smart, nice and fun person. I know that lunch with her would be a blast.

I just finished listening to a Jeneva Rose book on Audible and it had a great surprise. I’ll be reading more of her books. Tell us about a great adventure you’ve had.

I am a very lucky woman who has had the opportunity to travel the world. I’ve taken so many great adventure trips. Even with all that, the greatest adventure I’ve had is the one I’m still experiencing: expat life.

Living abroad has required me to drive in crazy Nairobi traffic, go through the hurdles of getting an Austrian driver’s license, learn new languages, learn the metric system, become fluent in both temperature scales, protect my food from monkeys, and communicate with a village pharmacist through a mixture of German and interpretive dance. Every day I learn something new about where I live. Every day I also learn something about myself.

It sounds like you’ve had some fantastic adventures. Mahua, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us!

Readers, you can find out more about Mahua and her book at her website,

Nairobi Ndoto

Three expatriate women find their ndoto—the Swahili word for dreams—have 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, 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 one of their husbands 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.

Readers, have you ever lived in another country? If so, let us know in the comments!

3 thoughts on “Author Interview—Mahua Cavanagh

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