The cover of Sheikha Salama Bint Hazza's 'The Horse, the Saluki and the Falcon.'
Emirati author from Abu Dhabi Sheikha Salama Bint Hazza Al Nahyan is an inspiration to all of us. Her approach towards her craft is rooted in Emirati culture and heritage.
She had started her literary journey in 2014. Within a few years only, she has written four children’s novels and the 5th one, “The Horse, The Saluki & The Falcon,” is now available for readers. It was originally to be launched at the Paris Book Fair. Gulf Today talks to her about her incredible journey:
What was the idea behind your latest book, “The Horse, The Saluki and The Falcon?”
“The Horse, The Saluki and The Falcon” is a book of quotes about life and humanity. The main inspiration behind the book is Charlie Mackesy’s “The Boy, The Mole, The Fox.” His work heavily inspired me to create a book of quotes with UAE’s most treasured animals. Each quote is influenced by the animal’s characteristics and what they would want to express if they could speak to humans. The horse in the book represents beauty, power and wisdom. One of the main characteristics of the animal is the emotional connection with human beings, as horses exude confidence and trust, and I wanted to incorporate the unique qualities of this majestic animal in the book.
The cover of Umm Al Nar.
The saluki on the other hand symbolises intelligence, speed, and loyalty, always putting their master first as a protective instinct and wanting to run wild with every chance they get, making the saluki the perfect fit as I wanted to add an element of intellect and trustworthiness to the story. Finally, the falcon signifies alertness, wisdom, and protectiveness, symbolising success and rising to any challenging situation, a key message that I very much wanted to highlight in the book.
Why did you choose children to tell your stories?
Writing for children wasn’t intentional, but when a story unfolds itself to you, it chooses what it wants to be and at that point I thought that children’s books would be a great place to start, especially when trying to evolve as a writer.
Who was your inspiration while growing up?
My parents and my family were my main inspiration while growing up. They were always by my side and my parents allowed me to discover my passion and as I found it growing up, they supported me and told me to keep going after what I love the most. I also had fantastic female writers that inspired me on my path such as Elif Shafak, Harper Lee, Joyce Carol Oates, J K Rowling & Stephenie Meyer and so much more. Recently, I have really grown to love the work of Eleanor Catton, she’s the author of “The Luminaries,” a recent TV series.
Which author has inspired you to be what you are today?
I wouldn’t say one author inspired me, but many of them like Harper Lee, who is the author of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” was someone who I looked up to throughout my childhood having picked up this book at age 12, and that story never left my mind. In addition, both Stephenie Meyer and JK Rowling’s style of writing inspired me back when I was around 12 and 14 years old. When I got older, I was more fond of reading books that had a bit more depth and meaning to them, this is when I began reading books from authors such as Stephen King, in specific his book “Under the Dome,” and George R.R Martin’s “Game of Thrones” which inspired me to begin incorporating worldly matters. In parallel, Khaled Hosseini’s writing style is one of my favourites, especially within the books “A Thousand Splendid Suns” and “The Kite Runner.”
You have graced Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), how was your experience?
My first experience in SIBF was last year, 2019. The second is scheduled for November this year. It was exciting seeing children with their parents drop by and show support — such a great feeling. I’ve seen many international people at the book fair and was pleased to see so many of them stop by the booth and skim through my books, intrigued by our heritage and culture.
Going through your Instagram posts, we get a feel that you are deeply rooted in Emirati culture and heritage. Tell us something about that.
Our Emirati culture is something that I am very proud of and passionate about. I wanted to incorporate this into my book as I have noticed that not many children’s books are rooted in our culture and heritage. This can be clearly seen in many of my books, and in more specific “The Horse, The Saluki, and The Falcon” — I wanted to create a story that is educational, traditional and celebrates our country.
What piece of advice you would like to give aspiring authors?
My advice is never give up. Writing is challenging in itself and needs months or maybe even years to become inspired and/or finish a specific piece. You need to have consistency and drive to become a successful author, as practice will allow you to reach what you desire. As an author I also found that continuous editing is crucial when it comes to writing a book, you come to notice that there are a few mistakes that need to be corrected and you become inspired with new material that can elevate your book even more.
Tell us something about your collaboration with Olga Byrne?
Illustration is a very important factor in adding richness and expression in books. I have had the privilege of connecting with Olga Byrne in 2015 as an art teacher. Her work and vision mixed very well with my project. We bonded quite quickly when working on my book and she intuitively understood the type of art I was looking for.
We aimed to add a lot of emotion and expression into the illustration and focused on making the words flow with the images, even at times letting the images speak a little louder and other times letting the words stand out more.
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