Ng’s (it’s pronounced -ing) first book Everything I Never Told You was a New York Times bestseller and Amazon’s #1 Best Book of 2014.
Little Fires Everywhere has scaled similar heights; It’s a NYT bestseller, and has been named best book of the year by more than 25 publications. I read it and loved it.
What’s the best piece of writing advice that you have been given?
One of my professors in graduate school, the writer Nancy Reisman, told me that often writing happens when we least feel like we’re writing. What she meant was that sometimes you have to give yourself space—to daydream, to woolgather, to read or experience things that don’t seem immediately relevant to your work—in order for ideas to develop and coalesce. Perhaps I’m rationalizing, but I do find that some of my biggest insights happen when I’m doing something that isn’t related to writing at all. And then of course I scamper to the computer or pull out a notebook to get those ideas down.
If you weren’t a writer what would you like to be?
This will be no surprise to anyone who’s read Little Fires Everywhere, but I’ll always wish I could be a visual artist. I love contemporary art and wish I had the talent for it. If we’re sticking to talents that I actually possess, then I’m in deep trouble, because I have no marketable skills other than writing and am vastly unfit for any kind of practical employment. I think I’d choose to be a librarian, then, because I do think I’m rather good at helping people find the information they need.
Read my full interview with Ng here in 26, a UK writer’s newsletter that I help edit. Ng talks about knowing your characters inside out, how to avoid writers block the second time around and her love for crochet.