I asked my Instagram followers about some blog post ideas and this topic was the one that came up the most. So, here goes!
Rumaysa: A Fairytale is my first published novel but it’s not the first book I’ve written. I’ve been writing from a young age and finished my first ‘manuscript’ around age 13. I wrote several more shoddy manuscripts after that over the years, went to university to study English Language and Literature and tried to get into the publishing industry. I figured I loved books and wanted it to be my job so it seemed like the best place to go.
Some time after I got my first role in publishing, I started an anon blog called The Good Assistant about being Muslim in the office. It was a banterous take on all the wild stuff white people say to anyone who . . . isn’t white. The blog got the interest of some agents and publishers and it was through this that I met my agent (Alice Sutherland-Hawes @ ASH Literary) and got representation. Traditionally, people have to send their polished manuscript out with a query letter and synopsis to various agents and then representation is offered. I was really lucky to skip this part (though hilariously I did query agents after I finished university with something Not So Great but I thought it was amazing back then. I miss that confidence).
Anyway, Rumaysa came around when I was at work one day. I was temping at another job (after leaving publishing) and thoroughly bored. The idea of hijabi Rapunzel or Muslim retellings of classic stories has always been a part of my writing, independently and with friends. (At uni, I was in a writing group that did Muslim versions of Shakespeare’s plays and can I just say . . . Macbeth retold as Maktoob featuring a murderous race for the presidency of the Islamic Society? Genius.) Stories have so many universal themes regardless of who they’re written by and when, and being able to imagine yourself in a story is one of the gifts of reading I love the most.
So I started writing about a lonely girl trapped in a tower, and began wondering what other fairytales I could rework with someone like me in them. I pitched the idea to my agent who always supports my half-baked ideas with absolute enthusiasm and I spent a bit of time fleshing the ideas out. It got sent to a few publishers and from there, I got offered to sign a two-book deal with publishing house Macmillan Children’s Books.
And there is my condensed journey to publication! 🙂