Author Hafsah Faizal chats with Culturess about We Free the Stars and offers some sage writing advice.
Warning: This article may contain spoilers for Hafsah Faizal’s We Hunt the Flame.
Hafsah Faizal is probably best known as the author of the best-selling YA fantasy novel We Hunt the Flame, but she’s also the founder of IceyDesigns, where she creates and sells fandom-related merchandise, including candles and notebooks. Faizal has accomplished a lot already and is a Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree. Of course, when the American-Muslim author isn’t writing or designing, you can likely find her playing Assassin’s Creed.
In We Hunt the Flame, readers follow two characters: Zafira the huntress and Nasir, the Prince of Death. There’s a war brewing, and Zafira is looking for a missing artifact. Meanwhile, Nasir has been ordered to kill the hunter. Zafira is kind of like robin hood in the sense that she steals from the rich to help the poor. But, if Zafira is revealed to be a girl, her achievements would be rejected. If Nasir disobeys his father’s command, then he will face brutal consequences at the hands of his father.
And Faizal has a sequel to We Hunt the Flame coming out, which will pick up where the first book left off and conclude the characters’ magical journey. We Free the Stars begins after the battle of Sharr has ended, with Altair being held captive. Zafira, Nasir, and Kifah are headed to the Sultan’s Keep, intent on seeing Altair’s plan to fruition.
Meanwhile, Nasir and Zafira are struggling to overcome their own obstacles as well. Nasir is working on controlling the magical abilities he’s gained, something he’ll likely need to use against the Lion before this series is through. Zafira’s bond with the Jawarat is pushing her between sanity and insanity,
Despite everything that’s been going on, Nasir and Zafira have fallen in love, but time is running out and they’re going to have to make some sacrifices if they want to survive it.
Culturess got the opportunity to interview Faizal about the sequel, We Free the Stars, upcoming writing projects, A Tempest of Tea, and writing advice.
Culturess: Is there anything readers might not be expecting while reading We Free the Stars?
Hafsah: Much, I hope! Particularly one scene towards the end of the book that I feel readers might have already predicted will go an entirely different way. I’m being very vague, I’m aware.
Culturess: What is your writing process like?
Hafsah: I’m a discovery writer, though I’m learning I work best when I have a loose map plotted out in my head. Working with a full outline tends to box me in, and so I prefer to jot down short and random notes, or dream up scenes before I write them. I’m also, unfortunately, a perfectionist. This means drafting times can be prolonged as I usually edit as I go.
Culturess: Who inspires you to write and why?
Hafsah: I’m not sure there’s a who as much as a what! I write to inspire, to prove that you can succeed in an industry where you aren’t the norm, if only you set your mind to it.
Culturess: What can you tell us about A Tempest of Tea?
Hafsah: A Tempest of Tea is, as I like to think of it, my most ambitious project yet. It follows a character dynamic much like the Sands of Arawiya duology — a group of misfits entwined into a family like no other, only this time, there’s a heist, vengeance against colonialism, and vampires!
Culturess: Who was the most painful character death scene to write in We Hunt the Flame?
Hafsah: I don’t want to drop any spoilers, but as painful as the one in Chapter 27 was, it was the one towards the end of the book that tugged at my heartstrings. There’s just something about the loss of life before forgiveness that guts me every time.
Culturess: Which characters do you resonate the most with and why?
Hafsah: I’m constantly drawn to the resilient ones, sometimes quiet, sometimes loud. The ones who have been broken and beaten and know suffering as well as their own name, yet find a way to power through, to stand tall, and to shine despite it all.
Culturess: Do you have any advice for writers who are looking for literary agents?
Hafsah: Take this one step at a time! You are more capable than you believe yourself to be. Do your research and take your time. If this one manuscript doesn’t catch an agent’s interest, don’t fret! Keep at it. Perseverance is a key requirement in this industry.
Culturess: What are you currently working on/planning on working on next (if you’re able to disclose anything)?
Hafsah: I’m finishing up a few short story projects so I can turn my full attention to A Tempest of Tea! I sold the story on the proposal, and so much of the story remains unwritten.
Culturess: Who would win in a fight: Nasir, Yasmine, Altair, or Zafira?
Hafsah: Well. It depends on the fight.
Have you read We Hunt the Flame or are you planning on reading it? If yes, comment below who you’re favorite character is from We Hunt the Flame! You can pre-order We Free the Stars here.