I had the pleasure to read an early draft of Sahira Javiad's manuscript, Crowning Soul, and quickly went on to check out her collection of poetry, Crack of Dawn. Sahira has a strong and optimistic voice in her work, which offers a fresh perspective to the more gritty epic fantasies that attempt to emulate Game of Thrones.
But how do you craft your unique voice? Sahira graciously agreed to answer a few questions about her experiences in writing, publishing, and her biggest influences. Read on to learn more about this emerging writer.
Fantasy and Poetry With Sahira Javaid
You are currently working on your YA fantasy manuscript, and you have three books of poetry out on Amazon. Did you start with poetry and move on to fiction? Or have you always been working with both in tandem?
I had started out writing this story when I was ten. It wasn’t until I was around 15 when I began writing poetry.
You have revised your current manuscript, Crowning Soul, several times. What is one thing you've learned from this process that you can use for your next work?
That I should have others read it and consider their feedback. When I was younger I assumed this would be a lonely journey. After meeting so many people who share my love and passion for writing, I know I can share ideas and my next work with their points of views to enrich my story.
In your poetry, you write about struggle and overcoming obstacles. There’s a lot of positivity in Crack of Dawn. What poets have inspired you most?
I know it might be strange for me to say at first, I didn’t read many works from other poets when I was writing. My poetry was my outlet for emotions and so I never thought of wanting to read any others. It wasn’t until much later when it became much more than that, that I started to read poetry books. I think one of the first books I read was Daisy Goodwin’s 101 Poems That Could Save Your Life. She would use rhyming and her poems were meant to be an ‘emotional first aid’ and I really loved that. I also began reading Rumi and loving the way he spoke about spiritual healing. I still have one of his books and I love it dearly.
You’ve said Inuyasha is a big inspiration for your YA fantasy novel. And thousands of readers in the US are familiar with it today. In the past, anime-related would not have been recognized as much...or taken seriously. Do you think that has changed in the last decade?
Absolutely. With Hollywood trying to remake anime with their own live action versions, I think they realized the value of the love many have for anime and tried to recreate the nostalgia. The shows many grew up with had valuable lessons and heroes whose resolves influenced many a generation.
We’ve seen some fantasy by Muslim authors in the last few years. Ausma Zehanat Khan’s Bloodprint, and We Hunt The Flame by Hafsah Faizal are two examples. As these books become more successful, do you think they will help publishers recognize the value of #OwnVoice narratives?
Yes, it will show them they are missing out on representing readers who have a different religion, skin colour etc. than what has been generally thought of as the ‘standard,’ so to speak and uproot harmful stereotypes. Seeing authors like Hafsah Faizal’s book garnering attention, I really do hope publishers are taking note that seeing ourselves in stories as protagonists can influence readers’ lives and in doing so, we’d want to be represented more in books.
You’ve very active on Twitter. What is your experience in using this platform as a writer?
For one, It can get addictive. Haha. Since you can post small bursts of information it has this instant feel to it. Also, I like that there are hashtags (#) where you can connect with people that are like-minded. That’s how I was able to meet other writers and participate in writing contests. Since you can block, unfollow people and mute conversations you aren’t interested in, there’s ways to build and follow a community of people.
What does literary success look like to you?
Having books in stores, being able to see them on the shelves is one. I think the most important one is knowing there are people out there who are reading my books. Even if that number was 10 let alone 100 or more, that there are people who love my stories and can be inspired by them. And then there is a part of me that also thinks literary success also means my books would be talked about in various media, which the traditional route does entail: magazines, newspapers, reviews.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
That you’re not alone. I felt like I had no support outside of family or friends. Back then I never tried to reach out to other writers. Another writer would understand we place our heart and soul onto the page and how naked that feeling can be. I also hope I would have known that people will criticize my work. That it’s okay to not make emends to my work if it doesn’t feel right to me.
If you could gift an acquaintance one book, what would it be?
I would give them How to be a Bawse by Lilly Singh. The way Lilly describes conquering your life gave words to how I felt and how I tried to handle struggles and overcome hardships in my own life. And I’d want that person to know they don’t have to simply suffer through life and can find a balance.
Want to try out her poetry? You can find her books on Amazon and her website.
If you are an agent or publisher interested in her amazing YA fantasy munscript, you can easily reach her on Twitter. And if you don't have a Twitter, you can find her on GoodReads, or her website.