Ingrid Nayame is an award-winning Zambian novelist and self-published author of three books titled The Last Laugh, The Coloured Vine and Cupid’s Arrow printed in 2017, 2018 and 2020 respectively. Her first novel was nominated in the Author Category of the Stanbic Bank sponsored 2017 Zambian Women of the Year Award. Nominated in the same category in 2018, her second novel scooped the award. She subsequently had a double nomination in the University of Zambia Radio’s 2018 Tell Your Own Story categories: Fiction of the year and Best Fiction, being awarded for the latter. She was at Rhodes University, South Africa, for a Writer-In-Residency from September 3 to November 30, 2018, in the English Department, under the Urban Connections in African Popular Imaginaries project. She was awarded the 2019 Mwape Peer Awards for author excellence. She was one of the Zambian women writers selected to attend the 2019 African Women Writers Workshop in Accra, Ghana from October 20 to October 30. She is also a Fellow of the 2020 African Writers Trust. Makewana’ s Daughters caught up with Nayame to find out more about how she regards writing and publishing.


MD: How would you describe the point when you decided to become a writer?

IN: Growing up, I was a day dreamer. My day dreams were full of people talking and doing things. It felt strange at first but later on I decided to write things people were doing in my head. I think I was a storyteller before I even knew that I would one day self-publish 3 novels.

MD: You have written short stories and novels, but of late, the focus has been more on the novels. Was this a conscious choice, or are you likely to continue writing in both genres?

IN: I think I’m at my best when I write novels. Even if I write short stories, I really struggle finding a balance between when to hit the climax and when to put “the end” to it.
I will continue writing both genres but writing novels is more exciting and interesting.

MD: What would you say are some of the challenges of being a writer?

IN: I’m a self-published author and already that’s a huge challenge because when you write, you have to find money to pay someone to do the editing and design the book cover. You need to market your work and sell books on your own. If you have a traditional publisher, they do all that for you.
So the challenge is always having available funds to pay for the services you need to produce a good book which has acceptable standards.

MD: You are known for self-publishing. What led you to publish your own work as opposed to submitting to publishers?

IN: Simple! We don’t have traditional publishers in Zambia. My hope is one day to find a publisher that will accept my works.

MD: Your novel, The Coloured Vine, focuses on the search for identity, whereas The Last Laugh covers, among other issues, the theme of infidelity. What influences your choice of themes?

IN: The influence usually comes from simple conversations that I usually have with people or conversations I eavesdrop on. As a writer, I watch people around me a lot. I listen and take note of what is being said and why. I think most writers like me are usually influenced by the daily events of life. Humans are complex creatures and The Last Laugh came out of the failures of the so-called role models of the society. The Coloured Vine was born out of a conversation I had with a friend who is of mixed race.
My current novel, Cupid’s Arrow, is full of conversations and inspiring stories I have come across for the past years.

MD: How long did it take you to complete writing each novel?

IN: Writing for me is easy. It’s the process of research, plotting, creating characters, and the usual thing of watching people around me that usually takes time. Once I’m done with all that, I would sit down and take months to write down all the information I have on my story.
The Last Laugh was first conceived in 2014 but I started writing it in 2016 after I was done with my little research and it took me six months to complete. My current novel Cupid’s Arrow was conceived in the same year as The Last Laugh but I decided to write it in 2018.

MD: You have accomplished a lot through your writing. What moment stands out as the one that you are most proud of as a writer?

IN: Accomplishment for me is when I finish writing the book. When I look at the final results of what was a dumb story. Writing is a long process and so seeing your final work─ this is after fighting with your editor─ just brings me joy.

MD: A disclaimer in most novels, including yours, is how the work is purely fiction, and how the characters are drawn from the author’ s imagination. Having said that, to what extent can you identify with any of your characters?

IN: Oh my goodness! I don’t want to be sued.
Let me just say, yes, most of my characters are drawn from people I have met before. One character I created in The Last Laugh is a mixture of three people I have met before. The Coloured Vine was easy because I had to profile someone I know that was after I got permission from them.

MD: If someone asked you what keeps you writing, what would you say?

IN: I love writing. It’s my happy place and when I take a short break from writing, I feel like something is missing. They’re times when I’m not writing but I would sit down and just look at my laptop. Writing gives me something to hope for even when I’m down.

MD: What do you think literature contributes to society?

IN: Without literature, I wouldn’t be here. I fell in love with books at a tender age all because someone decided to write a book.
Literature teaches us to read and broaden our understanding and minds to something we never thought existed. It takes us places we will never visit and brings us closer to people we will never meet.

MD: Thank you very much for your time, Ingrid. We look forward to reading your next novel.

You are most welcome and thank you for the opportunity.
My current novel, Cupid’s Arrow is now available on Amazon both in e-book and paperback. I hope you read it soon.


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