Q&A with Featured Contributor Hafsah Faizal
It’s that time again! Specifically, the time to introduce you all to Hafsah Faizal, an incredible Featured Contributor who you’ll have the opportunity to hear speak during the panel Rising Stars: Q&A and Book Recs from Publishing’s Most Exciting Newcomers, and meet at not one but two meet and greets over the course of the weekend. (For full details, click here.)
Not only is Hafsah is the author of the New York Times bestselling fantasy novel We Hunt the Flame, but as the founder of Icey Designs she is a website and brand designer. (Ever checked out the websites of V.E. Schwab, G. Willow Wilson, and Catherynne Valente? All Hafsah’s work!)
Visit Hafsah at www.hafsahfaizal.com and www.wehunttheflame.com, and at Instagram and Twitter @hafsahfaizal, and read on to learn more about her creative process, upcoming projects, and love of Assassin’s Creed.
What are your pronouns?
Tell us a little about your story. Where are you from?
I was born in Florida, raised in California, and I now live in Dallas, TX with my family!
What are your favorite communities to be a part of (identities, fandoms, hobbies, etc.)?
Reading, of course! The bookish community changed my life. I love gaming. I’m a huge Assassin’s Creed fan, but I also love Uncharted, The Last of Us, Shadow of Mordor—anything with a great storyline! I’m also a pinmaker, and love seeing the gorgeous and adorable pieces other pinmakers come up with!
Which stories/characters were important to you growing up?
I wasn’t a huge reader when I was younger, but it was a copy of Graceling by Kristin Cashore that changed my life. The epic fantasy novel was my re-entry back into reading and my introduction into YA, which led to the start of blog, business, and writing ventures!
How about now?
Back then, fantasy was almost always centered around white casts, and it wasn’t until the We Need Diverse Books movement that change began to trickle in. Authors like Roshani Chokshi, Ellen Oh, and Sabaa Tahir were making headlines, and I felt more confident about my own writing and stories.
What do you wish you had more time for?
Gaming! Reading! It’s so funny that after I signed my contract to write books, I’ve had less time for reading. The irony!
How did you get started designing websites (and logos and enamel pins and all the things)? Can you tell us about the process of creating IceyDesigns?
I started my book blog in late 2010, designing myself a layout and tinkering around until I got it just right… until I changed it again and again, and again. It was fun! Each design looked better than its predecessor, and it wasn’t long before a fellow blogger asked if I could design for her, and then an author came along asking the same, and IceyDesigns was born! I opened my Etsy shop five years later when I felt like I needed an outlet from all my online work, and picked up hand-lettering. That led to handmade notebooks, enamel pins, and candles!
What are some of your favorite web design projects you’ve worked on?
Hmm. I think I love the darker, more magical designs. There are a few high-profile clients I’ve worked for—within publishing, of course—and I’m quite proud of them! V.E. Schwab, G. Willow Wilson, and Catherynne Valente are a few that come to mind.
Do you any have dream projects you would like to work on?
I don’t have any dream projects, per se, but the dream is to continue designing websites for authors because I love it so!
What was the process of writing your first novel, We Hunt the Flame, like?
We Hunt the Flame was my fifth manuscript, and after my previous manuscript made it so close to being picked up by an agent, I decided I’d give publishing one last try before I stopped. And so the manuscript itself took me four years to write because I wasn’t giving it the focus I should have!
What surprised you the most about the process? What was the most challenging?
What I found most surprising about publishing is just how much control I had to give up, and just how much I had to suddenly believe in others to help me—after homeschooling from the 7th grade and then immediately starting my business soon after, I’d been doing everything myself and wasn’t experienced in that department!
What do you hope readers take away from your work?
The kingdom of Arawiya was inspired by that of ancient Arabia—a region so often demonized in the media, and sometimes exoticized in terrible ways. With We Hunt the Flame, my hope is that readers will find that it’s not so different than they think.
You post so much incredible fanart on your Instagram. How does it feel to have readers engage with your work in this way?
I’ve always dreamed of readers feeling inspired by my words enough to create off of it, and the fact that it’s happening is a dream come true! I’m honored!
You’ve spoken about the concept of zumra, both as an existing Arabic word and as an important element in We Hunt the Flame. Can you explain what this word means both to you and within the novel?
Found family is one of my favorite tropes, because of all it entails, and I knew from the very start that We Hunt the Flame would have them. “Zumra” means squad in Arabic, and I wanted to explore what it would be like for someone who has a preexisting family/support group and for someone who has nothing and no one—Zafira and Nasir, respectively. There’s something very poignant about people from different backgrounds coming together and relying on one another in more ways than one.
Do you have an upcoming writing project that you’re working on (aka a sequel to We Hunt the Flame, perhaps 😉)?
YES! I’m currently working on the sequel to We Hunt the Flame! It’s called We Free the Stars and will be out in 2020.