Author Interview – Aiyven Mbawa

Aiyven Mbawa is 11 years old, from Northampton in England and is the author of Land of the Nurogons – a middle grade fantasy fiction novel published in 2020. If this sounds like something you’d like to find out more about, you can read my review on it by clicking here. As well as writing books and going to school, Kirsten, alongside her sister Aiyven, are the creators of middle grade subscription box Happier Every Chapter. I wrote a blog post about Happier Every Chapter when they first launched, which you can read by clicking here.

You can purchase her book through the Mbawa Books website. *Please note: This is an affiliate link. I earn a small amount of commission from each sale made through this link*

Here’s my interview with Aiyven:

How difficult was it for you to come up with a fantasy universe?

That’s the main reason I love the fantasy – you can make your own world. You create your own ways, your own places. But, as the quote says, with great power comes great responsibility. It was very enjoyable and simple at the same time. I thought, I wrote, and boom, a world was constructed in front of me. But it’s like running a race at the Olympics – the runners are sprinting, and the camera needs to keep up with them to capture the footage. When you’re writing a book, you’re that camera and your imagination is the runner. You need to capture the footage whilst keeping up. You need to be in the perfect position, you don’t want to overtake the runner (your imagination) because then your story will be uninteresting as there’s no footage to record. What I’m trying to say is don’t get too ahead of yourself, it’s a mistake you don’t want to make. Know the boundaries of creating your own world.

Did you ever imagine the Nurogons to look / be different to how they ended up being?

Definitely! I was expecting them to look a bit more alienated than they are, taller and skinnier and a brighter shade of green. But when I saw the initial image of the Nurogons, something clicked and I realised that they would be the habitants of Nurogonia for sure.

Would you switch lives with Hayden for a day and fall down the hole to Nurogonia?

That’s a good question – I have mixed emotions on it. It is to be said that Nurogonia hasn’t been the most peaceful of places for a while now, so it’s probably not in the best state at the minute (maybe all will be resolved in Book 2?), but I’d definitely love to meet the Nurogons and find the staff perfect for me!

Was there one book / film in particular that helped to provide inspiration for Land of the Nurogons?

Without a doubt the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. He’s an awesome author and has written some of my most favourite books of all time. I thought that if I were to be inspired by anyone it ought to be Rick. And the chapter “Just Our Luck” was heavily inspired by Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling!

Can you share any spoilers about the next book in the series?

If you’ve finished Land of the Nurogons, you’d know all is not what was expected … In the next book Hayden, a few of Book 1’s characters and a newbie will try to resolve the issue, but there is another storm brewing, one they don’t know about …

How have you found balancing school, being authors and being the owners of a Happier Every Chapter, your subscription box business?

Online school has been a godsent because we get no homework! This gives Kirsten and I way more time to read, chill and grow Happier Every Chapter! It’s made things so much easier to manage. We used to spend an hour or two on homework (depending on how nice the teacher’s were feeling) but now we have that time to do things business-wise!

At what point did you decide to be an author / publish books?

Probably shortly after the BBC 500-Words competition we entered in 2019. After we heard the results of us not getting through, we came up with the idea of turning our 500 words into tens of thousands! Although it is to be said that we decided we wanted to be linked with writing at around seven-years-old.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

There’s no faking that it’s something nearly every author goes through. I think just trying to write something – even if it’s just one sentence – helps overcome writer’s block. I also think writing with a pen and paper eases your brain from the device you’re on and may even help ideas flow to your head better.

Was there anything you edited out of you book that you later wished you kept in?

Surprisingly, there are not many “deleted scenes” in my books other than cringy quotes that I thought not to include (although there still are many awkward jokes!) Sometimes I restart whole paragraphs because I’m not fond of the way I’d written it.

How do you find the inspiration for new novels and storylines?

I write things that I’d like to read because I find it more enjoyable and what’s the point of writing something yourself wouldn’t like? Most of my inspiration comes from things I read, as expected, but with tweaks that make it stand out from the others.

If you were to give one tip to someone wanting to get into writing, what would it be?

Prepare yourself! Yes, I’m talking from experience. Admittedly, I delved into the writing world without much organisation, and although it may not seem like a big problem at first, it will affect the writing you do in the future, especially if you’re writing a series. For instance, I will now have to reread my book Land of the Nurogons and write down places, names, locations, spells etc when writing the sequel. It’s going to be a pain! Things like post-it notes or a notebook where you can jot things down for every chapter will help a lot with this.

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