Noak admitted to PEOPLE that both his father and Kaling gave him confidence to be a writer

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May 17, 2016 09:35 AM

In the past, Mindy Kaling has spoken about how her “weird” friendship with B.J. Novak has imbued her with confidence. Well, it turns out the feeling is definitely mutual.

“I think when someone at that level of talent thinks you’re great, you actually believe it,” Novak, 36, told PEOPLE at the 2016 PEN America Literary Gala in New York on Monday night.

Kaling, 36, said something similar in an interview with The Guardian in 2015.

“The gift he [Novak] has given me is the utter and total belief that I am one of the greats,” The Mindy Project creator and star told The Guardian. “And, it is an intoxicating feeling.”

Kaling and Novak, who starred on The Office together, are also writing a book together. However, Kaling has said that it won’t be a tell-all about their relationship.

The Office
Chris Haston/NBC

Novak, 36, also credits his father William Novak, who was Nancy Reagan‘s ghostwriter, for inspiring him to pursue writing as a career.

“The most inspiring thing was just seeing him do it,” he told PEOPLE. “He inspired me to simply think it was possible. I think a lot of writers spend years just getting up the courage to write because it seems like such a fantasy of a profession. My dad saved me all that time by making me think, ‘Oh, anyone can be a writer. It’s like being a fire fighter or a lawyer.’ ”

The PEN America Literary Gala is a gathering of the literary community that honors those who “embody PEN’s mission to advocate for and defend freedom of expression,” per the event’s program. The 2016 honorees included J.K. Rowling, Lee-Anne Walter, jailed Egyptian novelist Ahmed Najl and Dr. Mna Hannah-Attisha, who exposed the lead-poisoned water in Flint, Michigan.

As an author and comedian, freedom of expression is very important to Novak when it comes to his children’s book The Book with No Pictures, as well as his mobile list-creating app Li.St (which he co-created), he wants to encourage people to express themselves.

“They all come from my love of expression and finding a way to express that,” he said.

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