Could you be the next N.K Jemison?

Have you got a book bursting out of you? Let superstar author Hafsah Faizal guide you from idea to publishing your novel.

Culture

It seems we’re not the only ones dreaming of penning the next big blockbuster. Over lockdown, more manuscripts than ever were written and more authors were made. Dreaming of the same? Then ask yourself this: do you have what it takes to write the next bestseller? If fantastical novels are your goal, and you’re honing your skills to follow in the footsteps of the success of Binti or Children of Blood and Bone, which are part of the boom in young adult (YA) fantasy fiction from black authors, then let us introduce you to Hafsah Faizal.

She’s the author of the New York Times bestselling fantasy duology, We Free the Stars and the original We Hunt the Flame which Buzzfeed guaranteed would leave you “at the edge of your seat”. An American Muslim, she’s got a whole list of sparkling credentials on her CV. From brand designer and founder of IceyDesigns, where she creates website for authors, to a recent accolade as a 2021 honoree in Forbes magazine’s 30 under 30 list.

So, ready to hear what Hafsah has to say about bringing your book to life? Read on.

What are your key writing tips?

“Have fun. Write first and edit later. Write for yourself and then come back and implement the rules after the fact, so you have a fresh, original story that you can chop and hack into what YA fiction asks for. But don't be afraid to break barriers and step outside the bounds. That's where the magic really happens.”

How do you find inspiration for your books?

“When I go looking for inspiration, it's a sure-fire way not to find any. So I've stopped. Instead, I consume stories with the knowledge that my muse will greedily pull pieces off everything to cobble together into little ideas it will drop in moments when I least expect it to. Stories, walks, breaks in which we allow ourselves to breathe: this is when the muse works best.”

In writing fantasy, what’s toughest to get right?

“Pacing. YA fantasy is a category in which stories must move at a quicker pace, and where something might be appreciated and lauded adult fiction, it might falter in YA because of it. Keeping readers hooked while also laying the foundation for a vast new world and the many players who will wreak havoc across it is certainly a challenging thing!”

Hall of fame

Add these sci-fi and fantasy authors to your reading list

Octavia E. Butler

Octavia E. Butler

Octavia is recognised as one of the original women writers of the genre. Her most famous book, Kindred, is a time-travelling sci-fi, taking us from 1960s California to a slavery plantation in the early 1800s. Blisteringly smart and wild in equal measure.

Namina Forna

Namina Forna

Discovered on Twitter during a pitching session by authors to agents, Namina is touted as one of the hottest novelists around. Her trilogy, The Gilded Ones, is set in a world inspired by West Africa where women literally bleed gold. It’s already being turned into a film, so there’s plenty more Namina coming your way.

Tomi Adeyemi

Tomi Adeyemi

She’s penned probably the most talked-about fantasy novel by a black woman of recent years. Tomi’s Children of Blood and Bone adds Afro-Caribbean Orisha spirituality to a rip-roaring tale about family, magic and power. The book is being turned into a film by none other than Disney. Go Tomi!

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