Namwali Serpell, short-story writer: 'Writers don't have heroes; we write about them'

Serpell won the Caine Prize for African Writing this month for her short story "The Sack" in the anthology, 'Lusaka Punk and Other Stories'

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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

On an aeroplane from London to New York; the bulkhead in front of me, and if I crane my head slightly, a piece of white wing, a piece of blue sky.

What are you currently reading?

If you mean a novel, After Birth, by Elisa Albert. Two very smart readers recommended it to me as one of the best contemporary feminist novels out there.

Choose a favourite author and say why you admire her/him

Toni Morrison, because her sense of self has been complete, seemingly since birth, and you can feel that almost literal integrity and mastery in her writing.

Describe the room where you usually write

I'm too nomadic to have a fixed room of my own. The most recent room where I wrote was a small cottage at a writing residency called Sangam House, 40km outside Bangalore. The floor of my room was smooth, grey concrete, as was the desk built into one of the white walls; the slanted ceiling was supported by enormous, dark, wooden beams. One window looked out on to a mango tree, another sat directly under the highest peak of the slanted roof.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

Physically, Micah Wilkins from Justine Larbalestier's Liar; emotionally, Marianne Dashwood from Jane Austen's Sense And Sensibility; spiritually, the eponymous heroine of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre; and also, unfortunately, Briony Tallis from Ian McEwan's Atonement.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

Writers don't have heroes; we write about them.

Namwali Serpell won the Caine Prize for African Writing this month for her short story "The Sack" in the anthology, 'Lusaka Punk and Other Stories'