By Mudassir Raja
Kummam al-Maadeed, Qatari novelist
She loves to create new worlds, new cultures and new peoples. She then creates new characters for her stories. She has constantly been learning about ancient cultures and civilisations.
For Kummam al-Maadeed, a young Qatari story-teller specialising in English fantasy novels, life is all about finding magic everywhere. The only female Qatari English fantasy writer holds a Master of Business Administration (2018) and a Bachelor of Public Relations and Advertising (2011) from Qatar University.
Kummam has worked in several government and semi-government institutions in Qatar, such as the Doha Film Institute, the Ministry of Communications and Transportation, the Qatar National Library and is currently the Head of Media and Publications at Qatar University.
She started writing novels in 2007 as a hobby, then began her writing career with a blog specialising in film critique. Kummam has so far brought out two fantasy novels; The Lost Rose and Calling Magic — part of a duology.
The Lost Rose is a romance fantasy. Clara has a terrible secret, a sin she won’t reveal, not even to Luca, the man who rescues her from the lake where she has thrown herself, hoping death would silence her pain. While Luca nurses Clara to health and tries to gain her trust, mutiny is brewing in Tharun, their neighbouring kingdom. Luca and Clara travel together to stay out of danger. But little do they know that the usurper Adrian — an evil sorcerer — who is determined to magically enslave Clara into marriage, is already on their heels.
Clara’s sin catches up with her as she and Luca meet the magical Wanderers who reveal her secret. As they stand in the middle of a battle against Adrian, can Luca forgive Clara’s sin and stay true to his promise of keeping her safe? Will Clara’s own magic and determination prove enough to repel Adrian’s sorcery? And even with the help of unexpected allies, will the couple be able to save the kingdom they have lost to darkness?
Calling Magic can be described as a fantasy, romance and steampunk novel. Tia, the most powerful witch of her time, leaves her position at the Court of Wizards and, with a scarf hiding her purple locks, passes through the ancient walls of Paiza. As an assistant to the court magician, Tia spends her days brewing trickster potions, gossiping with Anna and navigating her way through the inventions and mechanics of Paiza and, most importantly, hiding her identity.
Tia’s dream of a calm, simple life starts to become a reality, until the day she meets Rhein, the king of Paiza, with his captivating gray eyes and cherished pocket watch, and the whispers of war reach her. Will Tia be forced to reveal her true identity in order to protect her new home? Or will her power erupt and shatter her life once more?
In an interview with Community, Kummam speaks about her writing experience and future plans at length.
She has always been making up stories since her childhood. “When I was at school, I always asked my fellow students what would happen if aliens come to us or if something extraordinary happens. They always applauded my imagination. I have also been reading classical fantasy books translated in Arabic. However, I didn’t start writing until I got to the university. It was in 2007 when I started writing a small book that I never published. Then I joined an online community of writers. I learnt a lot from different aspiring writers about the style, different points of view as a narrator, and many technical things.”
After completing her first book, she kept it aside and did not publish it. She got busy with her PR job but later she decided that she had to return to her origin — writing fantasies!
“I found a freelance editor and worked with her for almost two years. The editor was from the US and she taught me so many things. With her help, I moved my book from 23,000 words to 70,000 words making it a 300-page novel.”
Reading a great deal of fantasy stories in English made Kummam write in English. “I got used to the language. I really love English as a language. For me, it is easier than Arabic. There are lots of English readers in Qatar. Doha has a diverse community and a wide range of English readers. I have been receiving pretty good response. People reach out to me through social media and wait for my books.
“Besides fantasy stories, I have read classic English writers such as Charles Dickens, Jane Austin, Charlotte Brontë etc. It was necessary to advance my language and writing style. Jane Eyre is my favourite classic English novel.”
For her, fantasy is like creating a new world. “There is magic or no magic. It is just creating new cultures, new peoples, new traditions and new ideologies. So, for me it is creating by going into details and learning about the new culture that I create. Normally, fantasy writers get inspired by ancient cultures. I want to learn and diversify my cultures in my new books. I am interested in learning more about ancient Arab and Egyptian cultures.
“There is some magic and different creatures in fantasy stories. For me, it is all about finding magic everywhere. Being with books is also a magic for me. My magic is creating stories — something I and other people are amazed by. Suddenly, a story comes to me and I write it down. A huge world opens up to me and different characters are developed. This is my daily magic.”
The writer likes Tia as one of her favourite characters that she has created so far. “I think I like Tia, the witch. My friends tell me that the character is like me (laughs).
“As far as the favourite character by my readers is concerned, people like Luca from The Lost Rose because he is a hero without having superpowers.”
The fantasy story-teller is excited about the prospects of the genre in Qatar. “I am excited because so many girls have come to me saying that I have opened the door. Some of them were too shy and afraid of the community response. I hope there are going to be more writers. I hope this genre flourish in Qatar. Two women from Qatar University have already translated The Lost Rose in Arabic.
“I am working on my third book called Dwindling Magic. I am also doing a new project of writing 30 stories in 30 days — a kind of flash fiction. I am also working on a comic book.”
Kumam suggests aspiring writers to stick to their plans. “It is going to take some time. It took me 10 years to bring out a book. I would say work with your process and work with your time and do not give up. Be committed — that is all I will say.
“Building a story and imagining a character is a bit of both inspiration and perspiration. First the idea comes to me. But building it takes time and a lot of effort. I have to learn new things to build my story. Someone said that fiction is a lie that people believe. You have to make them believe that through the details and building a world.”
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