Debut Author Spotlight: Natalie C. Anderson

Natalie C. Anderson, photo by Oh, Karina PhotographyOh, Karina Photography

When we read a great new book by a debut author, we are compelled to tell you about it. Imagine us texting you in all caps. That is what we want to do. So today we’re so happy to introduce you to Natalie C. Anderson, whose amazing YA, City of Saints Thieves, will be out this month. 

Name: Natalie C. Anderson 

Book: City of Saints Thieves 

Genre: YA, contemporary thriller/mystery 

Current Home: Geneva, Switzerland (but I’m American) 

Author Icon: In YA: tie between Sabaa Tahir and Leigh Bardugo. In adult fiction: Michael Ondaatje 

Favorite Word: Cup (It’s the most perfect word for what it describes, and lovely to say out loud.) 

Was this the first full-length novel you ever wrote? No, I wrote a million-page long middle grade novel that will hopefully never see the light of day (in it’s current form, anyway).

How did you start writing? I’ve always loved writing, but didn’t get serious until I started working with refugees in Africa. Writing kid-lit where I had control of the outcomes was a way to relax and clear my brain after a 9-5 of listening to and recording refugee histories that were incredibly intense and often didn’t end very happily.   

Tell us about your day job — we are so interested in your NGO and refugee work. For about three years my job was 

City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

to travel around Africa and record the persecution histories of refugees who were under consideration for resettlement to the US. It was an amazing job, and I met and talked with some of the most incredible people who had been through unimaginable things — discrimination, torture, seeing family members killed, having their homes taken away, being separated from children/parents/siblings — and yet, they were still just normal people living their lives like anyone else. They had hopes, dreams, annoyances, fears. They were so much more than the horrible things they had experienced. That’s what I was trying to put into (my main character) Tina, not just her history, but everything else she was, every skill or trait she would want you to know about her first. 

What’s your best advice for readers on how to make a difference in the world these days? There are a million different ways to do good. If you want to financially support people, please don’t try to give actual physical stuff (it’s not efficient, and messes with local markets), but instead donate to reputable agencies working on causes you believe in. I, personally, like to support small start-up businesses — especially those of refugees — because I’ve seen first-hand how life changing it can be for someone to start working for themselves and taking care of their families without relying on hand-outs. And I don’t just mean financial benefits. There’s a huge psychological benefit to feeling self-reliant as well. Kiva.org is great for this, or RefugePoint.org (disclaimer: I used to work there). I also think just being an advocate for refugees and migrants (especially now) is so important. That doesn’t mean you have to take to the streets if that’s not your thing, but volunteering with a refugee resettlement agency in the US is fun and eye-opening. And just talking one-on-one with friends, neighbors, family about why people migrate actually has a big impact. Most people don’t want to leave their homes (can you imagine?) but feel they have no other choice. It’s a scary time right now — there’s so much hate and violence in the world. But hate often comes from fear of the unknown, so putting a human face on the “global migration crisis” can go a long way. I really truly believe that from the bottom of my soul. 

What’s one thing you’d like for Americans who have never lived abroad to know about Africa? That it isn’t all wars and doom and gloom like the media often portrays it. Yes, there are problems. No one is in denial of that. But at the same time there are people who are doing amazing things in tech, engineering, the arts, and more that deserve just as much attention and support. Nairobi especially is such a hub of creativity and entrepreneurial spirit. One way to see the other side of modern Africa is through some of the incredible literature that comes out of the continent. Check out the Caine Prize for African Writing if you want to get started somewhere, or with geniuses Chimamande Adichie or NoViolet Bulawayo. 

You’ve lived many places, what’s the best thing about your three favorite former addresses? Ah, I love this question! Okay, undoubtedly my favorite is my childhood home in the mountains of Western North Carolina. It’s the most beautiful place on earth (in my entirely unbiased opinion) and most of my family and best friends are still there. Second, of course, would have to be the tiny cottage in Nairobi where I spent three amazing years. Maybe the best part of that address was all the travel I got to do with my job (Ethiopia, Djibouti, Sudan, South Africa, Tanzania …). And now I live in Geneva, Switzerland. It’s very, very different from Appalachia or Africa, but it’s growing on me. Abundant chocolate helps!

City of Saints Thieves will be available in stores and online January 24. Digital copies start at $10.99, you can grab yours here: Amazon | BN | iTunes | Kobo | Google Play. To meet more debut authors, click here. 

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